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A: Sevenoaks, England, United Kingdom

Anna Atkins Issues the First Book Illustrated with Photographs

10/1843 to 1853
nypl.digitalcollections.510d47d9 4b40 a3d9 e040 e00a18064a99.001.q

Atkins, Illustrations of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.  New York Public Library Digital Collections Image ID 419696.

In October 1843 Anna Atkins, an English amateur botanist and the first woman phtographer, published the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Atkins published this work privately with a handwritten text from her home in Sevenoaks, Kent, England. She issued a very small number of copies from cyanotypes contact printed by placing specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a sillhouette effect. Photographs of British Algae was the first book illustrated with photographs, and the first serious application of photography to a scientific subject. The paper Atklns used for the first volume contains a watermark reading "Whatman Turkey Mill 1843." Atkins extended the work into three volumes, with the last part appearing in 1853. 

In May 2011 only seventeen copies of Atkins's book were recorded, in various states of completeness. Only the copy in the Royal Society seems to be complete as Atkins intended, with 389 plates.  Robert Hunt's copy, with 382 plates was sold at Christie's, London for £229,250 ($406,460) in May 2004.

♦ In December 2013 further background information and digital facsimiles were available from the NYPL Digital Gallery.

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 5.

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2014.)

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