ANNA ATKINS (English 1799-1871) was the earliest female photographer and the first person to print and publish a photographically illustrated book.

Atkins and her friend Anne Dixon printed and distributed British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in parts between 1843 and 1853.  The book was intended as a companion to  William Harvey's 1841 Manual of British Algae.  

Atkins and Dixon completed an edition of at least 12 - each containing 389 photographic plates and 14 pages of text which were photographic facsimiles of Atkin's handwriting. 

In addition to seaweed, Atkins created cyanotypes representing ferns, flowers, grasses, feathers, and lace. Instead of describing highlights and shadows, lights and darks in cyanotypes describe variations in density - how much or how little light passes through translucent and opaque parts of a subject positioned directly on light-sensitive paper during exposure. 

Atkins, only child of a widowed scientist, was said to have had "a great fondness for botany."  
Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms by Anna Atkins
Text by Larry J. Schaaf
Aperature 1985
Back to Top