On a hot and sunny August day in 1835 Henry Fox-Talbot carefully treated a small piece of paper no bigger than a postage stamp with a solution of sodium chloride. That’s simple table salt. When the paper was dry he added a coat of silver nitrate and this combined with the earlier coating to make silver chloride.
He placed the paper inside a little wooden box made for him by a local carpenter (His wife called it his Mousetrap) .
Using a microscope eyepiece to focus the light he placed the camera in front of a window of his home Lacock Abbey .
The exact timing of the exposure was uncharacteristically not recorded but estimates are everything from 15 mins to an hour.
He had produced a perfect paper negative (The worlds first) of the lattice window and the tress outside. However instead of celebrating and shouting to the world about his discovery he said nothing. He didn’t even mention it in his diaries.
Like all lords of the manor he had other things to do and many distractions like writing a paper for the Royal Society.
Imagine his face when in January 1839 in Paris Francois Arago announced Louis Daguuerres processes Dauerreotype to the world.
The rest as they say is history.
I have posted earlier this year about the book Capturing the Light I read while on my holidays in England. Having read it I found that Lacock Abbey was only a two and a half hour drive from where I was staying. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a visit to the birthplace of photography in the UK.
Lacock Abbey and village are no strangers to film and television. Harry Potter and Cranford have been filmed there to name two. However I have to say that the village itself is a beautiful disappointment. It’s so full of resident’s cars that it’s impossible to get any meaningful images. The Abbey on the other hand is much better and you are allowed to take photos inside the abbey and are in fact encouraged to do so.
There is a small photographic museum and a gallery at the entrance and you can wander freely in the grounds and the house.
All-in-all a great day out for a photography buff and his family.
Here is a link to Lacocks site.
PS. I forgot to add that the book I mentioned is co-authoured by the curator of the museum at Lacock Roger Watson.
All images are taken by me and can be enlarged by clicking on them :0)