Poetry News

You Can See a New Dickinson Daguerreotype

By Harriet Staff

Yes, yes, you can. All you have to do is visit The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections to view "a daguerreotype copy of the image shown during the August, 2012 Emily Dickinson International Society conference and proposed to be Emily Dickinson and her friend Kate Scott Turner."

From the Archives website:

The original daguerreotype of the two women is thought to have been taken around 1859 during one of Kate's visits to Amherst. Our daguerreotype, a sixth plate (2.75 x 3.25 inches), was commissioned for us by the owner of the original and photographed by Canadian daguerreotypist Mike Robinson (www.centurydarkroom.com) in 2009. The Emily Dickinson Museum owns a second copy made at the same time.

The evidence for identifying this image as Dickinson is very good so far; in fact, all of the current evidence is in its favor, including computer work with detailed scans of the original daguerreotypes (1847 and 1859) and an opthamological report facilitated by Polly Longsworth in March, 2010. Certainly the addition of a second sitter of whom there are multiple images in existence helps the case: if one can show that it's Kate Turner, a known friend of Dickinson, then it increases the chance that the other sitter who looks like Dickinson is Dickinson. One sure point of contention is the clothing: people will note that the dress "Dickinson" wears seems to be out of date for a late 1850s photograph. However, that evidence may be of less significance when one considers the 23-year-old Dickinson's comment to friend Abiah Root in 1854, "I'm so old fashioned, Darling, that all your friends would stare" (Johnson letter 166).

Perhaps you can even help:

We're glad the image has been released to the public and hope that anyone with information about the photograph will come forward. We want to hear the evidence, whether it's favorable or unfavorable to the proposed identification of the image as Emily Dickinson and Kate Scott Turner. Perhaps someone in the Springfield, Massachusetts area, where the daguerreotype was purchased, will remember something about the provenance of the piece and let us know.

More here!

Originally Published: August 16th, 2012