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Library bids to snap up archive of photo pioneer Fox Talbot
THE historic archive of pioneering Victorian photographer William Henry Fox Talbot could be bought by Oxford’s Bodleian Library after it received a grant of £1.2m.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund has awarded the Oxford University library the funding to help it secure the photographer’s personal archive.
The private collection is being sold for £2.2m and the library has until the end of next month to raise the remaining funds through other grants.
Mr Fox Talbot (1800-1877), was one of the greatest all-rounders of the Victorian age, and is regarded as the founder of photography.
There is a strong connection with Oxford, as the archive includes some of the first pictures ever taken of the city.
The collection also includes glassware and art that Talbot photographed for the ground-breaking publication The Pencil of Nature, the first book illustrated with photographs.
The archive sheds light on Talbot’s family life, his role managing his estate at Lacock, Wiltshire, his life as an MP, and his range of interests, from science to ancient languages.
Richard Ovenden, the deputy to Bodley’s librarian said: “The archive is an essential resource for scholars on the history of photography, the history of science, and a range of other disciplines.
“The Bodleian is anxious to ensure that the collection is made available to students, and to the general public, to allow the legacy of this extraordinary innovator and pioneer in photography to continue to inspire new generations of researchers, innovators and photographers.”
Carole Souter, chief executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “Considered by many as the ‘father of photography’, the impact of William Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering work is felt daily by all of us, whether we are snapping our holidays with a camera or capturing outings on our mobile phones.
“This collection offers fascinating new insights into Fox Talbot’s family life, particularly the wonderful contribution made by the women of his family.”
The Fox Talbot archive includes original manuscripts, letters, family diaries, watercolour albums and sketchbooks, and early photographic images made by the photographer.
Two renowned photographers, Martin Parr and Hiroshi Sugimoto, are supporting the Bodleian’s fundraising campaign, together with Royal Society president Sir Paul Nurse, Royal Photographic Society president Michael Pritchard and Prof Martin Kemp, former Professor of Art History at Oxford University. A series of public events is planned to support access to the archive, including a major exhibition in 2017.
Oxford’s best known Victorian photographer was Henry Taunt, who took thousands of photos, using glass plates. He died in 1922.
Another Oxford photography pioneer was Sarah Acland, who took up photography in 1891. Some of her photos are stored in the Bodleian.
WILLIAM Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was a British scientist and inventor, best known for his invention of photography.
His 1839 announcement of the negative, which could produce multiple prints on paper, defined photography right down to the digital age.
Talbot came from a family with strong diplomatic, social and royal connections and sat briefly as an MP.
He guided his estate of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire through the social uprisings of the 1830s and the expansion of the
railways in the 1840s.
Married with two daughters, he died aged 77 at Lacock in 1877.