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Portrait from 1861
|Born||(1799-03-16)16 March 1799
|Died||9 June 1871(1871-06-09) (aged 72)
|Cause of death||paralysis, rheumatism and exhaustion|
|Known for||Very early botanical photographs, 1843 book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1st book illustrated with photographic images)|
|Spouse(s)||John Pelly Atkins|
Anna Atkins (née Children; 16 March 1799 – 9 June 1871) was an English botanist and photographer. She is often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. Some sources claim that she was the first woman to create a photograph.
Atkins was born in Tunbridge, Kent, England in 1799. Her mother Hester Anne Children "didn't recover from the effects of childbirth" and died in 1800. Anna became close to her father John George Children. Anna "received an unusually scientific education for a woman of her time." Her detailed engravings of shells were used to illustrate her father's translation of Lamarck's Genera of Shells.
In 1825 she married John Pelly Atkins, a London West India merchant, and they moved to Halstead Place, the Atkins family home in Halstead, near Sevenoaks, Kent. They had no children. Atkins pursued her interests in botany, for example by collecting dried plants. These were probably used as photograms later. She was elected a member of the London Botanical Society in 1839.
John George Children and John Pelly Atkins were friends of William Henry Fox Talbot. Anna Atkins learned directly from Talbot about two of his inventions related to photography: the "photogenic drawing" technique (in which an object is placed on light-sensitized paper which is exposed to the sun to produce an image) and calotypes.
Atkins was known to have had access to a camera by 1841. Some sources claim that Atkins was the first female photographer. Other sources name Constance Fox Talbot as the first female photographer. As no camera-based photographs by Anna Atkins nor any photographs by Constance Talbot survive, the issue may never be resolved.
Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions
Sir John Herschel, a friend of Atkins and Children, invented the cyanotype photographic process in 1842. Within a year, Atkins applied the process to algae (specifically, seaweed) by making cyanotype photograms that were contact printed "by placing the unmounted dried-algae original directly on the cyanotype paper".
Atkins self-published her photograms in the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843. Although privately published, with a limited number of copies, and with handwritten text, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions is considered the first book illustrated with photographic images.
Eight months later, in June 1844, the first fascicle of William Henry Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature was released; that book was the "first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published" or "the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs".
Atkins produced a total of three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions between 1843 and 1853. Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist, in various states of completeness. Copies are now held by the following institutions, among others:
- British Library, London, which provides scans of 429 pages of its copy (which has extra plates) online. She presented these volumes to the British Museum via J. E. Gray between 1843 and 1853.
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- New York Public Library, which provides scans of 285 pages of its copy online.
- The Royal Society, London, whose copy with 403 pages and 389 plates is thought to be the only existing copy of the book as Atkins intended.
- The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, holds a number of original works in their library.
- The Linnean Society of London, whose copy lacks part 7 of volume 1.
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
- Université de Montréal, Montreal
Because of the book's rarity and historical importance, it is quite expensive. One copy of the book with 411 plates in three volumes sold for £133,500 at auction in 1996. Another copy with 382 prints in two volumes which was owned by scientist Robert Hunt (1807–1887) sold for £229,250 at auction in 2004.
Later life and work
In the 1850s, Atkins collaborated with Anne Dixon (1799–1864), who was "like a sister" to her, to produce at least three presentation albums of cyanotype photograms:
- Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns (1853), now in the J. Paul Getty Museum;
- Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns (1854), disassembled pages of which are held by various museums and collectors;
- An album inscribed to "Captain Henry Dixon," Anne Dixon's nephew (1861).
Atkins retained the algae, ferns and other plants that she used in her work and in 1865 donated the collection to the British Museum.
She died at Halstead Place in 1871 of "paralysis, rheumatism, and exhaustion" at the age of 72.
In popular culture
On 16 March 2015, Internet search engine Google commemorated Atkins's 216th birthday by placing a Google Doodle image of bluish leaf shapes on a darker background on its search page to represent her cyanoprint work.
- Atkins, Anna (2013) . The Perils of Fashion. London: Colburn and Co. ISBN 9781230431840. OCLC 220806058.
- Atkins, Anna (1853). The Colonel: a story of fashionable life. By the author of "The Perils of Fashion". London: Hurst & Blackett. OCLC 264999460.
- Atkins, Anna (1853). Memoir of J. C. Children, including some unpublished poetry by his father and himself. London: John Bowye Nichols and Sons. OCLC 54191950, 556415937.
- Atkins, Anna (1859). Murder will Out: a story of real life. By the author of "The Colonel", etc. London: Routledge, Warne, & Routledge. OCLC 855529436, 23919904.
- Atkins, Anna (1863). A Page from the Peerage. By the author of "The Colonel". London: T. Cautley Newby. OCLC 23919986, 557432962, 156090327.
- "Art encyclopedia. The concise Grove dictionary of art. Anna Atkins". Oxford University Press. 2002. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
- Parr, Martin; Gerry Badger (2004). The photobook, a history, Volume I. London: Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-4285-0.
- James, Christopher (2009). The book of alternative photographic processes, 2nd edition (PDF). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-4180-7372-5. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- New York Public Library (23 October 1999 – 19 February 2000). "Seeing is believing. 700 years of scientific and medical illustration. Photography. Cyanotype photograph. Anna Atkins (1799–1871)". Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Atkins, Anna; Larry J. Schaaf; Hans P. Kraus Jr. (1985). Sun gardens: Victorian photograms. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-203-X.
- Clarke, Graham (1997). The photograph. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-284248-X.
- Ware, Mike (1999). Cyanotype: the future, science and art of photographic printing in Prussian blue. National Museum of Photography, Film & Television.
- Halstead Parish Council. "Parish history: Anna Atkins". Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Historic figures. Anna Atkins (1799–1871)". BBC. Archived from the original on 22 December 2005. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "John Pelly Atkins". Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. University College London. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- Hannavy, John (16 December 2013). Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Routledge. ISBN 9781135873271.
- "Ocean flowers: Anna Atkins's cyanotypes of British algae". New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Roger Taylor (2007). Impressed by the Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860. NY, Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 287.
- Cumming, Laura (10 March 2002). "Things aren't what they seem. The V&A's exhibition of its vast photo archive shows how the camera can transform even the humblest object". The Observer. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Glauber, Carole (April – June 2001). "Book review. Seizing the light: a history of photography". F2 eZine. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Smith, Vivienne. "Talbot, Constance: Woman at forefront of photography". Derby Evening Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Gover, C Jane (1988). The positive image: women photographers in turn of the century America. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-88706-533-3. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Peres, Michael R. (2007). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: Digital Imaging, Theory and Applications, History, and Science (4th ed.). Amsterdam and Boston: Elsevier/Focal Press. ISBN 978-0-240-80740-9.
- Glasgow University Library, Special Collections Department (February 2007). "Book of the month. William Henry Fox Talbot. The Pencil of Nature". Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "William Henry Fox Talbot: The Pencil of Nature (1994.197.1-.6)". Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Rare book by woman pioneer goes to auction". The Guardian (London). 19 June 1996.
- "Anna Atkins (1799–1871), Photographs of British Algæ. Cyanotype Impressions., Robert Hunt's copy". Christie's Inc. 19 May 2004. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- "Catalogue of photographically illustrated books. Atkins, Anna. Photographs of British algae. Cyanotype impressions.". British Library. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Genocchio, Benjamin (4 July 2004). "Art review; Where art and botany coupled, photography evolved". New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Works of art. Photographs. Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Catalog entry for Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions". New York Public Library. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "NYPL digital gallery. Browse source titles. Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions". New York Public Library. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Still life". Royal Society. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Catalog entry for Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions". The Linnean Society of London. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "Rijksmuseum acquires PHOTO Book by First Female Photographer". Rijksmuseum. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions". Université de Montréal Library. Université de Montréal. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- "Blue Prints: The Pioneering Photographs of Anna Atkins". New York Public Library. New York Public Library. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- Farago, Jason (15 November 2018). "She Needed No Camera to Make the First Book of Photographs". New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- Boase, Frederic (1908). "Atkins, Anna". Modern English biography. Volume IV. Truro, England: Netherton and Worth. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "New general catalog of old books and authors. Author names starting with At". Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Moorhead, Joanna (23 June 2017). "Blooming marvellous: the world's first female photographer – and her botanical beauties". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
- "Anna Atkins: Google Doodle celebrates 216th birthday of botanist who produced first photographic book". The Independent. London: Independent Digital News and Media Ltd. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- "Anna Atkins' 216th Birthday". Google Doodle Archive. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- "New Realities. Photography in the Nineteenth Century". Retrieved 24 June 2017.
- Schaarf, Larry (1985). Sun gardens : Victorian photograms. New York: Aperture. ISBN 089381203X.
- Armstrong, Carol; Catherine de Zegher (2004). Ocean flowers: impressions from nature. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11948-1.
- Schaarf, Larry (2018). Sun gardens : cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. New York: New York Public Library. ISBN 9783791357980.
- "Anna Atkins". J. Paul Getty Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- "Anna Atkins' 216th Birthday". Google Doodles Archive. Google. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- "Exploring photography. Photographers. Anna Atkins". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Rudnick, Les. "The photogram – a history. Photographic adventures in the creation of photogram images in the early 1800s". Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Scans of Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions at New York Public Library (public domain). Retrieved 6 January 2016.
- Anna Atkins Collection Items  at Victoria and Albert Museum
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