JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post An installment in the History of Dots series.
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was among the earliest of the photographic pioneers, or pre-pioneers, as he asserted priority of his photographic method for 1835 when Daguerre revealed his own (very different) method in 1839. Talbot (or Fox Talbot) was also a practitioner of the art, publishing a stone-cold and revolutionary work of photographically illustrated books, The Pencil of Nature. The work I am interested in for the moment though is this interesting observation he made in the Philosophical Magazine (third series, vol 8) for 1836, when he unexpectedly turns somewhat poetic in the start of his paper:
I don't know about the history of likening some collections of objects to a starry night of deep space--certainly it has been going on for a long time, with people finding similarities (and perhaps corollaries!) between collections of stuff (dust, moles, sand, so on) and the night sky. (There are several such observations on this blog, the most recent one, on deterioration of paper in a book and the negative of a deep space image, appears here: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2016/08/page-in-a-book-or-stellar-field.html ) Funny thing here is that there is some small connection between my paper-damage-night-sky and the Talbot's sulphur--some part of this 'foxing", those reddish discolored "dots" on the page of the book, is a product of the interaction of the paper and sulphur oxides, like sulphur dioxide, produced in the burning of coal. So: coal and the cosmos.
Here's the image from that earlier not-Talbot piece on the blog--one is a close-up of paper deterioration in a book from 1820, and the other is an ultraviolet photograph of the Pleiades made in 2009:
Unfortunately Mr. Talbot only provided a thinking-image of his experiment...