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Daguerrotype
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A daguerreotype (original French: daguerréotype) is an early type of photograph, developed by Louis Daguerre, in which the image is exposed directly onto a mirror-polished surface of silver bearing a coating of silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor. In later developments bromine and chlorine vapors were also used, resulting in shorter exposure times. The daguerreotype is a negative image, but the mirrored surface of the metal plate reflects the image and makes it appear positive in the proper light. Thus, daguerreotype is a direct photographic process without the capacity for duplication.

While the daguerreotype was not the first photographic process to be invented, earlier processes required hours for successful exposure, which made daguerreotype the first commercially viable photographic process and the first to permanently record and fix an image with exposure time compatible with portrait photography.

The daguerreotype is named after one of its inventors, French artist and chemist Louis J.M. Daguerre, who announced its perfection in 1839 after years of research and collaboration with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, applying and extending the 1724 discovery by Johann Heinrich Schultz that a silver and chalk mixture darkens when exposed to light. The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process on January 9 of that year. The announcement of the daguerreotype process in 1839, along with William Fox Talbot's in the same year, marks the date used as the invention of photography.

Instead of Daguerre obtaining a French patent, the French government provided a pension for him. In Britain, Miles Berry, acting on Daguerre's behalf, obtained a patent for the daguerreotype process on August 14, 1839. Almost simultaneously, on August 19, 1839, the French government announced the invention as a gift "Free to the World."

The daguerreotype is a unique photographic image allowing no reproduction of the picture. Preparation of the plate prior to image exposure resulted in the formation of a layer of photo-sensitive silver halide, and exposure to a scene or image through a focusing lens formed a latent image. The latent image was made visible, or "developed", by placing the exposed plate over a slightly heated (about 75 °C) cup of mercury.

The mercury vapour condensed on those places where the exposure light was most intense, in proportion with the areas of highest density in the image. This produced a picture in an amalgam, the mercury vapour attaching itself to the altered silver iodide. Removal of the mercury image by heat validates this chemistry. The developing box was constructed to allow inspection of the image through a yellow glass window while it was being developed.

The next operation was to "fix" the photographic image permanently on the plate by dipping in a solution of hyposulphite of soda often known as "fixer" or "hypo". The image produced by this method is so delicate it will not bear the slightest handling. Practically all daguerreotypes are protected from accidental damage by a glass-fronted case. It was discovered by experiment that treating the plate with heated gold chloride both tones and strengthens the image, although it remains quite delicate and requires a well-sealed case to protect against touch as well as oxidation of the fine silver deposits forming the blacks in the image. The best-preserved daguerreotypes dating from the nineteenth century are sealed in robust glass cases evacuated of air and filled with a chemically inert gas, typically nitrogen.

 
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