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Photograph (Experimental Photogenic Drawing), by Sir John Herschel, February 17, 1839

Inventory Number: 42550
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 17, 1839, made during the earliest phase of his photographic researches either as a hypo fixing experiment or possibly (in view of the extensive retouching) as a negative for 're-reversal' (positive printing) experiments. The photographic image has disappeared, leaving only the ink and pencil retouching marks and ink border on paper that seems completely clean of image chemistry. It is one of 5 specimens among Herschel's experiments that show this peculiar characteristic. Schultze believed (incorrectly) that it was a real camera image. An experimental positive from it is 70469, and as well as illustrating that the negative did originally carry a good detailed image it also includes (within the image) Herschel's inscription from this negative.

Subject: engraving 56241, woodland glade with mountains
Technique: contact copy
Format: horizontal, larger than usual
Polarity: negative
Orientation: laterally reversed
Quality: photographic image completely disappeared
Colour: completely faded to the natural paper colour except for retouching
Chemistry: silver based, hypo fixed,
Coating: ink and pencil retouching
Inscription: signature, date, chemical note
Paper: thin
Condition: good
Purpose: it would be presumed to be a failed hypo fixing experiment but for the extensive retouching; perhaps it was made deliberately for use as a negative in experiments with making positive copies (prints), and at least two such copies do exist from it (19329 and 70469).

For fuller descriptive and historical commentary see narratives.
Primary Inscriptions: 'J.F.W.H. Photog. Feb 17/39 | H.S.' [hyposulphite of soda].
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
111 169 mm


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