The Pencil of Nature cover

photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Pencil of Nature


The Pencil of Nature is a book by William Henry Fox Talbot which was the first commercially published book to be illustrated with photographs. Published by Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans in six fascicles between 1844 and 1846, the book detailed Talbot's development of the calotype photographic process and included 24 calotype prints, each one pasted in by hand, illustrating some of the possible applications of the new technology. It is regarded as an important and influential work in the history of photography and was described by the Metropolitan Museum of Art as "a milestone in the art of the book greater than any since Gutenberg's invention of moveable type."At the time The Pencil of Nature was published, photography was still an unfamiliar concept for most people—the Athenaeum magazine described Talbot's work as "modern necromancy"—and the book was the first opportunity for the general public to see what photographs looked like. To avoid any confusion, Talbot inserted the following notice into the book: The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist's pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation. The cover page for The Pencil of Nature clashed designs, which was characteristic of the Victorian era, with styles inspired by baroque, Celtic, and medieval elements. Its symmetrical design, letterforms, and intricate carpet pages are similar to and a pastiche of the Book of Kells. The Pencil of Nature was published and sold one section at a time, without any binding (as with many books of the time, purchasers were expected to have it bound themselves once all the installments had been released). Talbot planned a large number of installments; however, the book was not a commercial success and he was forced to terminate the project after completing only six.
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original title: The Pencil of Nature
language: English
date of publication: 1844
genre: photo-book


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