The chroniclers of History often have a bad habit of doing injustice to the people whose story they tell, whether by design, omission, prejudice, accident or even worse - incompetence. The Roman Politician and Orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC -54 BC), once set down a set of rules for the writing of history, which sadly are sometimes never applied:
“It is the first and fundamental law of history that it should neither dare to say anything that is false, nor fear to say anything that is true, nor give any just suspicion either of favour or disaffection; that, in the relation of things, the Writer should observe the order of time, and add also the description of places; that in all great and memorable transactions he should first explain the counsels, then the acts, lastly the events; that in the counsels he should interpose his own judgment on the merit of them; in the acts he should relate not only what was done, but how it was done; in the events he should show what share chance, or rashness, or prudence had in them; that in regard to persons he should describe not only their particular actions, but the lives and characters of all those who bear an eminent part in the story.”
The story of Frederick Scott Archer (1814-1857), the ‘Collodion Man from Hertford', is such a case - where Cicero’s rules of history were completely ignored to the point of both indifference and blatant falsehoods. Not only have historians got the date and place of his birth totally wrong, but his parental background is at best inaccurately documented, furthermore his work is poorly chronicled and most serious of all - his place as one of the great Pioneers of early Photography improperly neglected.
Copyright Sean MacKenna
He may not be have been as inventive as Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, or as charismatic as Louis Daguerre or as controversial as William Henry Fox Talbot, but nevertheless still deserves to stand in the same Photographic Hall of Fame as they do. This biography of his life has been written to coincide with the true bicentennial of his birth, which takes place in the year 2014. It is hoped that in the years to come, his story will be told in the way that Cicero would have approved.
Not every village, town, city or even country can boast a famous citizen who in their life tried to give something useful to the world without any thought for financial gain or personal advancement. The small market town of Hertford in the English county of Hertfordshire is such a place. For it was here that Frederick Scott Archer was born two centuries ago. He is now a much neglected pioneer of early photography, who history has passed by, and for whom the spoils of victory have gone to other much lesser deserving figures. The people of Hertford have erected no ‘blue plaque’ to his memory, simply because they do not know he even existed. I hope this little book can rectify this most unfair treatment of a man who made the fortunes of many and where for him - time stood back and few did little to preserve his name for posterity.
This is the story of Frederick Scott Archer - the 'Collodion Chemist from Hertford'.
An extract can be downloaded from here: Collodion Chemist Extract
No. Pages: 104 A4
No. Photographs/Illustrations: 95
No. Notes/References: 75
Index: 4 Pages