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Inscription and Dating of the Photograph of Farrants

Inscription and Dating of the Photograph of Farrants

A later pencil inscription in an unknown hand at the bottom of the mount of the original albumen print (69566) reads: (left) 'Masterman, Peters, Mildred & Co / Bankers Nicholas Lane Lombard St'; (right) 'R. J. Farrants / president of Microscopical Society / taken about 1855 with machine for / microscopical writing invented by a / Mr Peters - The machine is believed to be in / the S Kensington Museum'.

The suggested date of 1855 is derived from the fact that Farrants gave a talk on the machine in April 1855, published in the RMS transactions. This date has been accepted by Gerard Turner (Great Age p.336, God Bless p.35). At that stage (1855) the machine still belonged to its inventor, William Peters; presumably he was a friend of Farrants. Peters subsequently gave it to the RMS during Farrants's presidency, 1861-62; indeed it was given on the very day of his presidental address in 1862, being mentioned in the address and exhibited on the occasion.

It is intrinsically more likely that such a photograph would have been taken then, in 1862; while a large formal portrait of this nature is surely Farrants's presidential photograph anyway. It would have been immodest for him to be photographed with such formality in 1855, when he was merely giving a talk on an apparatus that did not belong to the society. But in 1862 he was evidently instrumental in its acquisition and proud of it, and made it the centre-piece of his presidential address. His appearance in the photograph also better suits a man in his 50s (he was 45 in 1855).

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