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© 2000 ISAST LEONARDO REVIEWS LEONARDO, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 145–158, 2000 145 Leonardo Digital Reviews Editor-in-Chief: Michael Punt Coordinating Editor: Kasey Rios Asberry Reviews Panel: Fred Andersson, Rudolf Arnheim, Wilfred Arnold, Eva Belik Firebaugh, Andreas Broeckmann, Sean Cubitt, Shawn Decker, Tim Druckrey, Michele Emmer, Josh Firebaugh, George Gessert, Thom Gillespie, Tony Green, István Hargittai, Paul Hertz, Rahma Khazam, Richard Kade, Douglas Kahn, Nathalie Lafforgue, Patrick Lambelet, Michael Leggett, Michael Mosher, Axel Mulder, Kevin Murray, Frieder Nake, Jack Ox, Robert Pepperell, René van Peer, Clifford Pickover, Harry Rand, Sonya Rapoport, Kasey Rios Asberry, Edward Shanken, Rhonda Roland Shearer, Yvonne Spielmann, Barbara Lee Williams, Stephen Wilson, Arthur Woods. Advisors: Roy Ascott, Annick Bureaud, Marc Battier, Curtis E.A. Karnow, David Topper, Nic Collins. Corresponding Editors: Roy Behrens, Molly Hankwitz, Bulat M. Galeyev. BOOKS AMERICA AND THE DAGUERREOTYPE edited by John Wood. Univ. of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA, U.S.A., 1991; reprint 1999. 274 pp., illus. Paper, $37.95. ISBN: 0-87745-675-5. Reviewed by Wilfred Niels Arnold, Biochemistry Department, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 661607421 , U.S.A. E-mail: . Louis-Jacques-Mandré Daguerre was born near Paris in 1789 and enjoyed rewarding activities as painter, physicist, showman and public servant during his 62 years. But it was the invention of the first practical method for photography, the daguerreotype, that was to make his a household name. The new process was announced on his behalf by the distinguished astronomer-physicist D.-F.-J. Argo, at the Academy of Sciences, the second week of January 1839. Shortly thereafter, in a salutary gesture of goodwill , the technique was published “free to the world” by the French Government . In the meantime, Daguerre and an heir to Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce (who had collaborated on the initial research ) were awarded lifetime annuities of Fr. 6,000 and Fr. 4,000, respectively. By the end of that year, pictures of monuments, housed in characteristic protective cases, were being brought home as treasures by international travelers . It was the time of Edgar Allan Poe, who reported in Alexander’s Weekly of 15 January 1840 that the daguerreotype was “perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of modern science.” The best-known image of the inventor himself , with pensive head resting on hand (a favorite pose for the requisite steadiness of long photographic exposure), was taken by J.E. Mayall in 1848; the original is part of the Gernsheim Collection , University of Texas at Austin. The process started with a silverplated sheet of copper that was polished to a mirror finish. That side was then treated with iodine vapor (to form lightsensitive silver iodide) to a golden endpoint . The prepared plate was exposed in a box with a focusable lens; elemental silver formed on the plate’s surface in proportion to the incident light. The plate was then subjected to heated mercury fumes to trap the nascent silver as a permanent amalgam. Washing in sodium thiosulfate removed any remaining unaffected silver iodide and fixed the resultant direct-positive image. The earliest daguerreotypes tended towards bluish or slate-gray tones; a brown-toning process called “gilding” came into widespread use after 1840. A daguerreotype image has remarkable longevity, but the surface is so fragile and easily abraded that it requires protection behind a glass sheet and a mat. Cumulative physical and chemical innovations lowered typical exposure times from the original 20–30 minutes to 20–40 seconds, and by the late 1840s daguerrian portrait artists had set up shops in every American city. The United States would lead the world in the production of daguerreotypes. The calotype process, with its paperbased negative and option of multiple positive copies, gradually improved in quality and became more competitive. However, within 20 years both daguerreotype and calotype processes were essentially replaced by the collodion glass negative and the albumin print. In America and the Daguerreotype, editor John Wood and seven independent essayists suggest that the daguerreotype provides a visual and social picture of America between 1840 and 1860. According to the authors, the images in this book were selected for historical, documentary and social commentary concerns rather than for artistic significance . Many of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 145-146
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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