Inventing Photography: William Henry Fox Talbot in the Bodleian Library

SKU: BODS-101488

William Henry Fox Talbot is celebrated today as the English inventor of photography. He made early photographic experiments in the 1830s, released the details of his photogenic drawing process in January 1839, and introduced important innovations to the medium in the 1840s and 1850s.

Drawing on archive material in the Bodleian Library, including three albums given by Talbot to his sister, Horatia Feilding, as well as his illustrated books, Sun Pictures in Scotland and The Pencil of Nature, this volume shows how Talbot was continually inventing photography anew. A selection of eighty full-page plates provides a thematic survey of Talbot’s work, reproducing images that document his travels, his home and his family, as well as his intellectual interests, from science to literature to ancient languages.

An illustrated introduction places Talbot’s work within the context of a modernising Britain, as well as within his own social and intellectual milieu, and explores how the competing daguerreotype process spurred Talbot to improve his own techniques and seek new functions and uses for paper-based photographs.

This evocative selection is testament to Talbot’s constant quest for new photographic advances, offering a compelling window into the archives of an extraordinarily determined and creative man.


GEOFFREY BATCHEN is Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford.

  • Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781851245963
  • 240 pages 234 x 156 mm
  • 70 colour illustrations
  • Published March 2023

Visit the Exhibition:

A New Power: Photography in Britain 1800-1850 is a free exhibition in the Weston Library, running until the 7th May, 2023 . This exhibition explores the early history of photography and its impact on British life. It examines the invention of the medium in its earliest incarnation, and how the broad range of uses had an unequivocal impact on British culture. From the invention of celebrity to the very first 'travel photography' and how this helped to consolidate colonial sensibilities.

By showing how photography intersected with all aspects of a nascent modernity, A New Power reveals photography’s crucial role in making Britain the society it is today.

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