A Talbotype Illustration for the Art-Union

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) began production of his first photographically illustrated book, The Pencil of Nature, in 1844. The following year Talbot made a deal with Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889), the editor of the Art Union Monthly Journal, to include one of his paper photographs in every copy of volume 8 (1846). The Art-Union was particularly known for its illustrations (including lithography, etching, engraving, and wood engraving) and Talbot was anxious for paper photography to be seen as equal to these graphic mediums.

To make the approximately 6,000 calotypes for the Art-Union edition, Talbot’s printer, Nicolaas Henneman, used every negative he could find in the shop. More than half of the twenty-four images that are published in Pencil of Nature also turn up in copies of the Art-Union. Unfortunately, Henneman’s print shop was not yet capable of such mass production and poor workmanship resulted. The paper was not properly exposed, not well fixed or washed, and badly pasted onto the magazine leaves. The images faded almost as soon as they were created and the publicity Talbot received was all negative (the image here was Photoshopped so it could be seen). Pencil of Nature ceased production that same year after only six fascicles.

Marquand Library has a complete set of Art-Union, but the talbotype was cut out and taken to the Princeton University Art Museum many years ago (a common practice). We have recently acquired another copy of the 1846 Art-Union with a photograph intact, offering the print as it was originally meant to be seen.

For more, see the wonderful Glasgow Library page: http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Feb2007.html