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Originally published as a serial between 1844 and 1846, The Pencil of Nature was the first book to be illustrated entirely with photographs. Early enthusiast William Henry Fox Talbot hoped to spur public interest in photography—but was forced to cease publication after just six installments. In its time, The Pencil of Nature was not a commercial success. However, as with some other great works of art, it has been required to undergo the test of time in order to be duly recognized and appreciated.
More than 165 years later, Talbot’s Pencil is recognized as a major contribution to both the history of photography and the development of the book. Indeed, it has been said that the importance of The Pencil of Nature in the history of photography is comparable to that of the Gutenberg Bible in the history of printing. Talbot invented the Calotype process—the precursor to film cameras; his photographs transformed everyday subjects into works of art. Architectural studies and local landscapes, still-lifes, close-ups, and even a single, carefully executed portrait—Talbot’s twenty-four prints remain strikingly modern and quietly beautiful.
The Pencil of Nature has been published in several different incarnations; this KWS edition is the only edition to have been reproduced from the original plates held in England’s National Media Museum, and each page of the original work is published here as Talbot had intended. Indeed, this edition has been painstakingly reproduced to the standards that we feel would have made Talbot proud. A 35-page illustrated introduction by Colin Harding, Curator of Photographic Technology at the Museum, gives shape to Talbot’s life and times, how Talbot became interested in the notion of a “photogenic drawing” process (placing photographic images on paper), how he invented the Calotype (the process by which photographic images could be developed on paper) in 1840, how he used the Calotype process to take photographs, and finally, how he conceived of The Pencil of Nature—the means by which he could show, for the first time in a book, the art of photography to the world.
The Pencil of Nature is an essential volume for historians, photographers, and anyone interested in the development of photography and of the modern book.
In addition to its historical value, The Pencil of Nature is a very beautiful object. The photographs are…exquisite. The publishers have produced a book that gives a reasonable sense of what Pencil must have looked like when it came out…
It’s been 42 years since this valuable—and extremely rare—work was made available to the public…so it’s high time that it was reissued. Fortunately…that is happening right now…
With the republication of The Pencil of Nature, readers can see for themselves just how many of today’s achievements in the art of photography were…present at the creation.—Art & Antiques
About the Author
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) is widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of photography.
10-¼ x 12-½; 164 pages; illustrated (facsimile edition)
February 2011: $149.95