British photographic history

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W.J. Harrison (A History of Photography, 1897, Percy Lund Country Press, London) in 1895, wrote this in his article: 

Anthony's Photographic Bulletin 1896, pg 57

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SOME FORGOTTEN PAGES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY.

W. J. Harrison

He says at the very end of the article:

"Before taking leave of my subject for the present, it may be well to remark that the publication of Daguerre's delicate results temporarily threw the other photographic processes of the time into the shade, for the early paper photographs were doubtless coarse enough. Still, the first man to turn out fixed photographs upon paper was Mungo Ponton, in 1838, as published in The Philosophical Magazine of that year. His act of publication was before those of Daguerre, Fox Talbot, Niepce and Bayard. " 

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Doubtless this has been debunked, but I still want to see his source. I have been able to find the July-December volume of the Philosophical Magazine of 1838 but not the January to June.  Does anyone here have access to that volume which does not seem to be online. (I could have missed it.) 

If anybody knows why Harrison was mistaken or if the Philosophical Magazine had it wrong I would be pleased to know the reasons.

Harrison had also written a book on photographic chemistry as well so he is credible.

--Dick Sullivan

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I would have thought Niepce. Once the unhardened Bitumen of Judea had been removed after exposure, surely the image would have been permanent, that is to say fixed? First monobath?

I was curious as to whether Harrison, the other one, not you John, may have been referring to an article in 1838 referring to an earlier invention. Dates about, 1822, for a first printing plate destroyed in printing by Niepce, and other is 1826, etc.  

My edition, 1888 of Harrison is not ocr'd but I am doing that now. I want to see what he says about Niepce. 

Of course,  all of this "Who's on first," is a bit silly. It's all in how you define it. 

I also believe that more than one person was working on the same ideas and Niepce was working off others as they were of him. I would not be at all surprised if Ponton was there first. 

First monobath! I like that.

--Dick

Hi, I think this is a great article! Anyone who enjoys the old photos will be interested in this article too - gear you need to start retouch old photographs https://damagedphotorestoration.com/blog/how-to-guide/retouch-old-p...

Mungo Ponton was a fascinating and complex character and Henry Talbot freely gave him credit 25 years later for discovering the properties of potassium bichromate, the basis for Talbot's early work in photogravure.  Unfortunately, the 1838 story is an old one, I think started by a typo by the normally careful worker Robert Hunt in one of his early compilations and then periodically echoed by historians ever since.  Ponton's "Notice of a cheap and simple method of preparing Paper for Photographic Drawing" was read before the Scottish Society of Arts on 29 May 1839.  It was officially published in their Proceedings in 1841 but also in Jameson's Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal in July 1839.  Numerous people commented on it at the time.  The original manuscript copy of the paper, annotated as was usual by the Society's secretary, survives in the National Library of Scotland (Acc 4534 Box 104).  I recall a letter from Beaumont Newhall to Helmut Gernsheim when it appeared that there was another 1838 claimant.  Newhall said something along the lines that he wasn't about to change the timeline of history based on the dating of a microfilm and of course he was right, the volume numbers were mixed up.  

Some decades ago I worked on having a beard as splendid as Mungo's but I fear that I fell far short.  

Larry,

Thanks, it's not my area of expertise. What you say about Mungo, (what a moniker!)  is interesting as is much about the early "enablers"  of photography. I have had a number of interns who have shown some interest in going in the direction of photographic history instead of an MFA. I hope some of the next gen will focus on some of the folks in the technological realm such as Abney, Pizzighelli, Duchochoise, and others, and there are many!

Oh, yes, I know that Mr.Talbot is being studied and being "first," whatever that means, does focus attention, though perhaps being second, is perhaps often more significant.

Nonetheless, now seeing more attention focused on the technological innovators in photography is encouraging.

--D

This may be helpful I found a reference in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal of 1840 "

  • "Page 395  - 1 matching term 
    • …MUNgo Ponton, Esq., W.S., F.R.S.E., Foreign Sec. S.A., for his “ Notice of a cheap and simple method of preparing Paper for Photographic Drawing, in which the use of any …"(Full text on word attachment ) it mentions that it was exhibited in MAy 1839 and published in Transactions ref 654

Roger Mead

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Roger Mead said:

This may be helpful I found a reference in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal of 1840 "

  • "Page 395  - 1 matching term 
    • …MUNgo Ponton, Esq., W.S., F.R.S.E., Foreign Sec. S.A., for his “ Notice of a cheap and simple method of preparing Paper for Photographic Drawing, in which the use of any …"(Full text on word attachment ) it mentions that it was exhibited in MAy 1839 and published in Transactions ref 654

Roger Mead

Thanks Roger,

The issue got me thinking all about "firsts." 

Then I got to thinking about why. Sure a first is interesting but perhaps that's where the meat and potatoes are. Then there is no real "first," or at least until you define it in very restrictive way. Then you have interesting "firsts."  The first person to climb Mt Everest on a pogo stick --or whatever.

The "first permanent" photo process being the carbon print had a lot of firsts before the real first.

Thanks again Roger.

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