Lacock Abbey & the Birth of Photography!

William Henry Fox Talbot’s ambition changed the way we see the world forever!

Talbot (1800-1877) was a scientist, polymath and inventor and moved to Lacock Abbey in 1827, where he created the earliest surviving photographic negative in 1835.

220px-William_Henry_Fox_Talbot,_by_John_Moffat,_1864
William Henry Fox Talbot.

Talbot, frustrated by his inability to paint, wanted to find a way to ‘fix images’. In his notes he wrote:

‘How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself’.

From an early age, he began optical researches, which later bore fruit in connection with photography. Talbot’s early “salted paper” or “photogenic drawing” process used writing paper bathed in a weak solution of ordinary table salt dried, then brushed on one side with a strong solution of silver nitrate, which created a tenacious coating of very light-sensitive silver chloride that darkened where it was exposed to light.

Talbot devised several ways of chemically stabilizing his results, making them sufficiently insensitive to further exposure that direct sunlight could be used to print the negative image produced in the camera onto another sheet of salted paper, creating a positive.

Latticed_window_at_lacock_abbey_1835
The 1835 image.

The image he created in 1835 is of the view out of a small window in Lacock Abbey’s south gallery, it is not much bigger than a stamp and is the world’s earliest surviving photographic negative.

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