Top of Sharington's Tower, Lacock Abbey, Taken from the Roof above the South Gallery

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock)
October 14, 1840
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 5 13/16 × 7 1/16 in. (14.7 × 17.9 cm), irregularly trimmed
Sheet: 7 5/16 × 8 7/8 in. (18.6 × 22.6 cm), irregularly trimmed
Credit Line:
The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, and Anonymous Gifts, 1997
Accession Number:
Not on view
Talbot's earliest camera images required exposures of an hour or more, but on September 23, 1840, he made a startling discovery that dramatically increased the medium's potential. He found that an exposure of mere seconds, leaving no visible trace on the chemically treated paper, nonetheless left a latent image that would appear when immersed in a solution of gallic acid. This discovery opened up a whole new world of possible subjects for photography. In the days that followed, Talbot trained his camera on various features of Lacock Abbey and its grounds. Made only a few weeks after his September discovery, this photograph reveals Talbot's newly found ability to render the tones and textures of masonry and glass and the myriad architectural details of the sixteenth-century corner tower, built by the Abbey's first lay owner.
Inscription: Dated indistinctly in the negative "Oct. 14/40"; "x" in pencil, right margin

Marking: Watermark on sheet: "J. Whatman 1841"
Lacock Abbey; Mathilde Talbot; Harold White; [Sean Thackrey]; Rubel Collection; [Hans P. Kraus, Jr.]

Crocker Art Museum. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 9, 1982–February 21, 1982.

Achenbach Graphic Arts Council. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 1, 1984–February 1, 1984.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from the Rubel Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1, 1999–September 19, 1999.

Thackrey, Sean. Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 1982. pl. 4.

Daniel, Malcolm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin: Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from the Rubel Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art 56, no. 4 (Spring 1999). p. 8.

Schaaf, Larry J. William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné Oxford: Bodleian Libraries, 2017.