Today in 1839, William Henry Fox Talbot showed his five-year old pictures at the Royal Society, 18 days after the Daguerreotype process was presented before the French Academy. In 1844, Talbot published the first book with photographic illustrations, The Pencil of Nature (the very same title of the 1839 article heralding the daguerreotype in The Corsair), saying “The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation.”
Talbot’s negative/positive process eventually became, with modifications, the basis for almost all 19th and 20th century photography. In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer invented the collodion process which incorporated the best of the Daguerreotype process (clear images) and Talbot’s calotype process (unlimited reproduction).The Daguerreotype, initially immensely popular, was rarely used by photographers after 1860, and had died as a commercial process by 1865.
Given the abhorrent character of Mr. Fairlie in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, (1860), I guess he ignored the new processes and insisted on still using Daguerreotypes when his “last caprice has led him to keep two photographers incessantly employed in producing sun-pictures of all the treasures and curiosities in his possession. One complete copy of the collection of the photographs is to be presented to the Mechanics’ Institution of Carlisle, mounted on the finest cardboard, with ostentatious red-letter inscriptions underneath…. with this new interest to occupy him, Mr. Fairlie will be a happy man for months and months to come; and the two unfortunate photographers will share the social martyrdom which he has hitherto inflicted on his valet alone.”