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Collection of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877); and thence by descent to the present owner.
AN EARLY 19TH CENTURY COLLECTION OF EGYPTIAN PAPYRI
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) is most famously known as the inventor of the negative/positive photographic process, the idea coming from using a camera lucida as a drawing aid, whilst visiting Lake Como in 1833. In 1834 he was successfully producing photographs and, in 1835, the earliest known negative made in a camera which depicted a latticed window at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire. His methods were to be the precursor of the majority of photographic methods of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was also a major contributor in the development of photography and photogravure as an artistic medium. As well as pursuing his photographic interests, the polymath W. H. Fox Talbot was keenly interested in Assyriology and produced a number of related publications. Additionally, he shares the accolade of being one of the first decipherers of the cuneiform inscriptions of Nineveh. In 1857 he was, along with Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, Dr Edward Hincks and Jules Oppert, presented by the Royal Asiatic Society with an un-translated text from Ashur. Each, independently, produced virtually identical translations, thus confirming the decipherment of the Akkadian language. Fox Talbot was a prolific correspondent and a number of letters received by him refer to his interest in ancient languages, which included the study and acquisition of Egyptian papyri, cf. The Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot, www.foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk:
1 September 1826, letter from Fox Talbot's cousin, Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (document no. 1307): "I received your letter and when I go to Egypt I will look out for curiosities, manuscripts and antiquities for you, but I intend to buy as many as I can get for myself; I hope Egypt will furnish enough for us both ..."
26 July 1827, letter from the Egyptologist Jules de St Quintin (5334): "Yesterday, I encouraged you to unroll your precious demotic papyrus on Silver paper; I am now afraid that I gave you bad advice ... It is possible that this type of paper has too much sizing ..."
4 October 1837, letter from Payne and Foss, London dealers in second-hand books (5703): "The Papyrus which I understand you are desirous of having, you will find mentioned in our Catalogue No. 6814. It is a very fine one, we could not reduce the price to less than 23£. You can, if you please, send us the Papyrus you wish to part with and we will let you know what we can allow for it in exchange."
16 January 1846, letter from photographer and traveller, George Wilson Bridges (5529): "Do let me add to your collection of copied Papyri this, if you have it not already: and I shall make use of the liberty you have kindly given me to forward to you from Egypt any originals I may meet with."
2 February 1846, letter from the photographer and traveller, Rev. George Wilson Bridges, refering to the American poet and traveller, Richard K. Haight (5551): "Let me add that Mr Haight is a great Egyptian traveller - and will be able to furnish you with some curious information and specimens of Papyri ..."