Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We Honor Anna Atkins

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was trained as a botanist, botanical illustrator and naturalist. She learned the cyanotype process from Sir John Hershel, a family friend, who invented it in 1842. Atkins printed and published Part I of the 12 part British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843 which contains over 400 images. Her efforts established photography as a medium -- useful, accurate and beautiful -- for scientific documentation.
Atkin's subsequent presentation botanical albums include Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns (1853) and Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns (1854).

Cover - British Algae - 1843

Furcellaria fastigiata. Atkins, Anna -- Photographer. 1843-53.
Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions.
Part IV, version 2. The New York Public Library. Spencer Collection.

The process of cyanotype involves exposing paper coated with a light-sensitive iron salt solution to UV light. Any barrier to exposure will be recorded as a white shadow - (negative image) on the prussian blue surface.
For a more complete discussion of Atkins life and work:
For more on the cyanotype process and it's history:

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