Google Doodle honours Anna Atkins, the first person to illustrate a book with photos

16 Mar 2015

Botanist and photographer Anna Atkins has been honoured with a Google Doodle today. Atkins is believed to have been the first person to illustrate a book with photographic images.

Atkins, who was born in Tonbridge, Kent, in 1799, is also believed to have been the first woman to create a photograph.

Today’s doodle is done in the style of the cyanotype processes that Atkins would have used to capture impressions of seaweed and leaves.

Atkins pursued her interest in botany by collecting dried plants.

A friend of photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, the creator of the calotype process – a precursor to photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries  – Atkins was known to have access to a camera by 1841.

It is still a matter of debate as to whether Atkins or Talbot’s wife Constance was the first female photographer.

Just one year after Sir John Herschel, another friend of Atkins, invented the cyanotype photographic process in 1842 Atkins published her first photos in the book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist in various states of completeness.

One copy of the book with 411 plates in three volumes sold for stg£133,500 at auction in 1996. Another copy with 382 prints sold for stg£229,250 at auction in 2004.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years