Yes yes yes! This book of the months is very special one. It’s ‘Pencil of Nature’, giving gratitude for the photography work and service to Henry Fox Talbot. The edition I am exploring was produced in 1968, however the first edition was created in 1844-1846.
This photo book is almost a biography, giving details of his life and how he pursued photography. It gives us basic understanding to his photography and the meaning them as well as what they physically are, ‘Its importance in the history of photography is comparable to that of the Gutenberg bible in printing’. Talbot is the accidental creator of photography. He discovered in whilst skiing in Italy by creating a small box (almost like a reflex camera) and discovered camera obscura. He nearly gave up on the whole idea of it until he started to question why this was happening and if there was any way in which he could record it. In 1834 he created light sensitive paper (by bathing it in light sodium chloride first and then in silver nitrate). By 1835 he had learnt how to fix images. However, it was Louis Daguerre who had told the world that he had done this and that he was the true inventor of photography. You can imagine how annoyed Talbot was, so he then created ‘The Pencils of Nature’, once again, but this time directly explains how he was doing this. In the end there are six plates that Talbot “stuck in time”, which finally made him appreciated and understood.
One thing I really like about this photo book is the way it describes each frame. You have the time it was taken, for example “The Morning”, as well as effectors like position, atmosphere and the weather. You can really picture Talbot creating these six plates and being underestimated with the invention that he is apart of. You can also understand the scientific way it was talked about and created, rather than the artistic freedom we consider photography to be in our modern lives. It makes me think about whether or not I would have enjoyed photography within that era, as I do today?
My favourite plate is ‘PLATE VII. LEAF OF A PLANT’. It is unbelievably accurate, even with it being the actual life size of the leaf, and you can also see the detail within the plant, the wear and tear, the lines. Talbot says he created this plate by, ‘laid flat upon a sheet of prepared paper which is moderately sensitive’.
Another aspect that I, as a viewer, understand is the idea of copying the image to make multiple photographs. Talbot, unlike most “inventors of photography”, understood the process, ‘The number of copies which can be taken from a single original photographic picture appears to be almost unlimited’.
The book itself is made out of really nice materials and constructed in such a beautiful way, that you do honestly consider this to be like a bible. There is also gold engraved lettering with a Tudor; wealthy styled typography used on the biography pages at the start of the book. Each page is made out of thick white card, and there is also a thin, tissue paper like, insert over each image. You really do feel honoured to be looking at this book.
If you love to explore photography’s history, particularly its inventors, then this is the book for you!