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Wrapper from the Photographic Experiments of Sir John Herschel, 1839

Inventory Number: 94276
Object Type:
Persons: Sir John Frederick William Herschel
Date Created: 1839
Accession Number: 1928-71
Brief Description: Large sheet of heavy brown paper loosely folded. Purple stains. The wrapper (packet 15 in the Museum's numbering) contains the largest group of papers among Herschel's original packets, altogether 102 pieces of paper, consisting of 69 prepared (sensitised) papers treated with numbered chemical preparations, and 33 pieces of scrap paper used merely as spacers or separators between some of the photographic papers. The sequence has been disturbed, and the spacers are now separated. The prepared papers were deliberately put away in this wrapper in September 1839 as an ageing test, an experiment in the darkening or discolouring of the sensitising chemicals over time when not exposed to light. Herschel notes in one case that a paper changed colour within 12 hours, indicating that he monitored the experiment for a while. Most (but not all) the prepared papers are very darkened now (in 2010) after the first 170 years of the experiment, and were so when Schultze examined them in 1963-64, though they exhibit a range of colours from (predominantly) mauve and purplish and brown, to greenish and pale lilac; none of them are black.

For fuller descriptive and historical commentary see narratives.
Primary Inscriptions: 'Numbered Specimens. Reserved | for trying effect of time --[long dash] in darkness.' [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


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