The very first photo book: Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions


It’s often claimed that William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature is the first photo book in history. As we now know that it is the first commercially published photo book, not the first in general. The very first photo book in history (according to current knowledge) is Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins, daughter of famous British scientist John George Children. The botanist and photographer self-published the photo book in October 1843 – eight months before Talbot’s “The Pencil of Nature”. The photo book was printed in three editions between 1843 and 1853. Hardly any of the 17 existing copies are complete. It is believed that the copy owned by the Royal Society of London is the final edition of the book as intended by Atkins. As suggested by the title, the book is about a subject a lot more interesting to botanists than to photographers. Still, as you can see in the video embedded below, the cyanotypes emit a certain minimalist beauty.

Speaking of photography history: Those interested in the beginnings and milestones of photography will enjoy this video series by George Eastman House about the most important photographic processes.

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