There is no one true inventor of photography, but, as the eminent historian Beaumont Newhall put it, it was Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre "who launched" photography in 1839. Years earlier, the Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot developed the calotype, a negative image from which multiple positives could be reproduced on paper (the foundation of modern analog photography), but a patent restricted its widespread use. By contrast, the French government published the daguerreotype process for public distribution. Within days of the invention's announcement, the streets and rooftops of Paris were filled with cameras. To meet the high demand for materials and instruction, Daguerre wrote a best-selling pamphlet on the process, manufactured official equipment, and gave public demonstrations. This contemporary lithograph parodies the mania for the new technique of "drawing with light," as well as the difficulties that many experienced when trying to replicate the process.


  • Title: La Daguerreotypomanie (Daguerreotypomania)
  • Creator: Théodore Maurisset
  • Date Created: 1839
  • Provenance: Loan courtesy of Barbara and Peter Schultz to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
  • Medium: Lithograph

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