The introduction and acceptance of new mechanically based devices and processes of visual representation began to alter the viewing content and expectations of imagemakers and the public. Lithography, mezzotint,1 and wood engraving fueled the economic market for the mass production of prints. Daguerre’s high-resolution direct-positive imagemaking method was an ideal ﬁt for these visual conceptions. The possibility that Talbot’s two-step, negative/positive print system was a more advantageous process was not at ﬁrst seriously considered. The daguerreotype’s wizardry had mesmerized viewers with its detailed, miniature, monochrome reﬂections of the world. Even Talbot’s friend Herschel said of daguerreotypes that, “Certainly they surpass anything I could have conceived as within the bounds of reasonable expectation.”2 Daguerre also held the economic and political advantage, as the British government offered Talbot neither a pension nor honors for his discovery. Talbot had to advocate his own cause, patenting his process in February 1841 and demanding a high license fee, which added to its production cost. His patents not only proved unproﬁtable, but they also had the deleterious side effect of inhibiting the growth of photography in England by conﬁning its commercial use to those few with capital to invest.3 Later in 1841, Talbot contracted with Antoine Claudet, who had
opened a London daguerreotype studio in June, to offer calotype portraits, but his success was negligible. The calotype process was extremely slow, impure chemicals gave uncertain results, prints often faded, and the highly visible paper ﬁbers produced a soft and grainy look that many people found undesirable. As a result, the process was considered unreliable, and few wanted calotype portraits. Nevertheless, the limitations of the daguerreotype, especially in terms of reproducibility, started to become apparent. Upon reconsideration, people realized that Talbot’s linkage of light and paper furnished a conceptual and technical elegance that united printmaking and science. This in turn provided a new mechanism for mass-produced pictures that fed Europeans’ growing desire for making art more “accurate,” accessible, and affordable, which would lead to the daguerreotype’s downfall.