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Photograph (Experimental Photogenic Drawing), by Sir John Herschel, February 15, 1839

preview image for Photograph (Experimental Photogenic Drawing), by Sir John Herschel, February 15, 1839
Inventory Number: 16953
Object Type:
Persons: Sir John Frederick William Herschel (Photographer)
Date Created: 1839
Accession Number: 1928-71
Brief Description: Experimental photogenic drawing by Sir John Herschel, February 15, 1839, made as a fixing experiment during the earliest phase of his photographic researches. The very distinct line between the two colours suggests a deliberate test of the contrasting effects of potassium ferrocyanide as a fixative, though Herschel's inscription indicates there was also originally an image present. This is the earliest dated use of the word 'photograph' (abbreviated) among Herschel's experiments.

Subject: no visible image
Technique: not apparent
Format: inscription horizontal
Polarity: not apparent
Orientation: not apparent
Quality: no visible image in either segment
Colour: pale blue and yellow, divided approximately in half horizontally by a distinct line, grey stain
Chemistry: silver based, fixed with potassium ferrocyanide
Coating: none
Inscription: signature, date, chemical note
Paper: thin
Condition: good
Purpose: a fixing experiment using potassium ferrocyanide; the two colours achieved and the distinct line between them suggests a deliberate test.

For fuller descriptive and historical commentary see narratives.
Primary Inscriptions: 'J.F.W.H. Photogr. Feb. 15/39. F.P.' [ferrocyanate of potash; in Herschel's hand].
Provenance: Presented by Miss Herschel and Lady Lubbock in 1928. They were the two surviving and youngest children of Sir John Herschel (Francisca and Constance).
Collection Group: Herschel's Photographic Experiments
Material(s): Paper
Height Width Depth Diameter Unit
78 112 mm


Image with multimedia irn 18442Image with multimedia irn 18996

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