The widespread distribution of large editions of photographic prints was the promise of Talbot’s negative-positive process and its principal advantage over the contemporaneous French daguerreotype. In early 1844, in an effort to encourage the mass production of paper photographs, Talbot supported Nicolaas Henneman, his former valet, in the creation of the first photographic printing firm, situated in the town of Reading. It was there that prints for ‘The Pencil of Nature’ were produced.
The activities of the Reading establishment are shown in this image: Talbot, operating the camera at the center, makes a portrait, while at the right Henneman photographs a sculpture of the Three Graces. Other employees copy an engraving, stand attentively with a second camera back-loaded with sensitized paper, attend the racks of glass frames in which negatives and photographic paper are sandwiched for printing in sunlight, and adjust a device likely intended to aid focusing.
Image courtesy: Metropolitan Museum of Art