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Picture Caption 2007

Experimental photogenic drawing by Sir John Herschel, autumn 1839: the superstructure of his father Sir William Herschel's famous 40-foot telescope at Slough. The telescope was already an icon, having been adopted as the logo of the Royal Astronomical Society; but the giant telescope tube had been lowered and the mounting structure is about to be dismantled. The series of photographs Herschel took of it in 1839 are thus the first record photographs of a building about to be demolished. They were also the only 'camera' images he ever took, and in fact were probably made in a small telescope tube adapted as a camera obscura, hence the unusual circular format (97 mm - just under 4 inches - diameter). Like the rest of Herschel's experimental images (which his daughters donated to the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, in 1928), they were chiefly made as chemical experiments. This one is not inscribed, but represents a conventional silver process fixed with hypo. Museum of the History of Science (inv. no. 85037).

[Picture caption from The PhotoHistorian, no.149, January 2007, back cover.]

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