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Botanical Blue

Photo-Blue : A display of historic cyanotypes


Early experimenters with photography often made contact copies of pieces of lace to test or illustrate the primitive processes that began with Fox Talbot's invention of the 'photogenic drawing' in 1839. The botanist Anna Atkins, learning of the cyanotype process directly from Herschel, immediately saw its potential for recording delicate botanical specimens. The first part of her compendium of 'cyanotype impressions' of seaweeds was issued in 1843, and was the first book to be illustrated with photographs, and indeed the first attempt to produce a whole book photographically - the title and introduction are copied from her own handwriting.

· Cyanotype of lace contained in the Hartwell House commonplace book, 1840s; from the R. T. Gunther collection

· Modern copies from Anna Atkins, Photographs of British Algae, 1843; original from Oriel College, Oxford

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