Her botanist father, John George Children, and Sir John Herschel were friends — the Atkins and Herschel families resided only 30 miles apart in Kent, England.
Atkins’ father was also a member of the Royal Society. When Herschel announced his discovery of the cyanotype in 1842, John Children quickly passed the news on to his daughter Anna. Although there is no conclusive evidence that Herschel was Atkins’s mentor, it is more than probable that she learned the cyanotype process in the Herschel household.
Anna Atkins made thirteen known versions of her work entitled Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843–1853). In October 1843 Atkins began issuing published folios of her photograms. In 1850, she began to publish more comprehensive collections of her work, completing a three-volume anthology in 1853.
These books, containing hundreds of handmade images, were the very first published works to utilize a photographic system for purposes of scientific investigation and illustration. Most notable, they were initiated and created prior to Talbot’s Pencil of Nature (1844–1846), a published work that is generally given credit by historians as the first photographic work to have achieved this important milestone.
It is believed that Talbot was given an edition of Anna Atkins’ work. It’s also believed Herschel’s personal copy resides in the New York Public Library. There are examples of Atkins’s work in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, the Getty Museum, as well as public and private collections in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Photographs of British Algae:
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