William Henry Fox Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot, scientist, mathematician and landowner, was one of the inventors of photography. In the 1830s, frustrated by his poor drawing skills, and captivated by the fleeting “fairy pictures” produced by the camera lucida and camera obscura drawing aids of the time, he experimented with a method of making images using only chemistry and sunlight. He wrote, “... the idea occurred to me... how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper!” (Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844.)

Announced publicly in 1839, it took Talbot several years to perfect his invention. The negative-positive system still used in photography today derives directly from his discoveries. Between 1844 and 1846, Talbot published installments of The Pencil of Nature. This was the first book in the world to be fully illustrated with photographs.  

© By kind permission of the Talbot Trust and the National Trust Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock United Kingdom.