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Part science, part art, part craft, the daguerrotype was the hottest invention of 1839, and enjoyed its heyday until 1860. In Secrets of the Dark Chamber: The Art of the American Daguerrotype (Smithsonian Institution Press), an exquisite hardcover that accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the National Museum of American Art, curator Merry Foresta presents 152 daguerrotypes from public and private collections. The subjects are wide-ranging, from domestic scenes and portraits to urban landscapes and the American frontier; subtle tints of pink and blue hand-coloring sometimes appear amid the metallic tones. In an essay that follows these glossy illustrations, co-author John Wood sums up reactions by 19th-century journalists, who were quick to predict all the uses and abuses of the technology; they imagined that it would kill off portraiture, but that it could be used to catch criminals in the act, à la convenience stores’ security cameras.