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Culpepper Microscope, owned by William Henry Fox Talbot

  • Object:

    microscope

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1770-1810 (manufactured)

  • Credit Line:

    The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    RPS.3036:1-2017

  • Gallery location:

    Photography Centre, Room 100, The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery, case ARCH1 []

Talbot was the British inventor of photography. In 1834 he discovered how to make and fix images through the action of light and chemistry on paper. These ‘negatives’ could be used to make multiple prints. This revolutionised image making.

Talbot excelled in many fields, including mathematics, optics, botany and chemistry. However, it was his inability to master drawing outdoors that prompted him to experiment with capturing images inside a camera. He published his photographic discoveries and ideas, illustrated with original photographs, in his book The Pencil of Nature. Talbot patented his negative photographic process, which he called the ‘calotype’, in 1841. Later, he pioneered photographic engraving – printing photographs in ink. His processes became the basis of virtually all subsequent photography.

Physical description

Culpepper microscope in a wooden case with a box of accessories in a compartment within the case. The rear panel of the case is loose and detachable from the case. The microscope is brass with sliding tube coarse focus adjustment and rack and pinion fine adjustment, the coarse adjustment was added at a later date. The box of accessories is made of paper covered card with various accessories including two extra objective lenses, green pillbox containing objective lens, hand forceps, key with paper tag attached with string and inscribed with 'microscope [?] [?] used by H. Fox Talbot &(?) given by his granddaughter to [?] . Rodman in 1921' in faded ink.

Place of Origin

Britain (manufactured)

Date

1770-1810 (manufactured)

Marks and inscriptions

'microscope [?] [?] used by H. Fox Talbot &(?) given by his granddaughter to [?]. Rodman in 1921'
In ink on a paper label attached to key within the accessories box, heavily faded.

Dimensions

Height: 260 mm microscope, Diameter: 85 mm microscope base, Height: 330 mm case, Width: 129 mm base of case, Depth: 126 mm base of case, Width: 50 mm top of case, Depth: 45 mm top of case, Height: 33 mm accessories box, Width: 92 mm accessories box, Depth: 92 mm accessories box

Descriptive line

Culpepper microscope, owned by William Henry Fox Talbot. Brass microscope in a wooden case with a box of assorted accessories, ca. 1780 with early 19th century focusing modifications

Labels and date

Photography Centre 2018-20:

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–77)

Talbot was the British inventor of photography. In 1834 he discovered how to make and fix images through the action of light and chemistry on paper. These ‘negatives’ could be used to make multiple prints. This revolutionised image making.

Talbot excelled in many fields, including mathematics, optics, botany and chemistry. However, it was his inability to master drawing outdoors that prompted him to experiment with capturing images inside a camera. He published his photographic discoveries and ideas, illustrated with original photographs, in his book The Pencil of Nature. Talbot patented his negative photographic process, which he called the ‘calotype’, in 1841. Later, he pioneered photographic engraving – printing photographs in ink. His processes became the basis of virtually all subsequent photography.

You can see how calotypes are made in the ‘Dark Tent’ film room in Room 99.

The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund
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Materials

Brass; Wood; Cardboard; Paper; Material; Optical glass; Metal

Subjects depicted

Microscope

Categories

Science; Photographs; Cameras; The Royal Photographic Society

Collection

Royal Photographic Society Collection

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