Sotheby's to sell world's first-ever photography book in Paris

Manuscript Man

Manuscript Man

2016-11-01 14:56:56

A rare copy of the world's first photography book is set to auction at Sotheby's in Paris.

The historic book is part of a major European private collection heading for sale at Sotheby's in Paris, with 79 lots spanning the earliest days of photography to the works of Andy Warhol in the mid-20th century.

The book in question is British Algae by Anna Atkins (1799-1871), a pioneering English botanist and photographer.

Having received an unusually scientific upbringing for a woman of the time, Atkins later moved in the same circles as William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel, both of whom developed processes which led to the birth of modern photography.

In 1843, Atkins used the newly-invented cyanotype photographic process developed by Herschel to create images of her botanical specimens, by placing her dried algae samples directly on the cyanotype paper to create a series of 'photograms'.

Atkins used the photographs to illustrate her self-published 'Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions' in October 1843, which is now regarded as the first photographic book ever published. 

Anna Atkins, and an original photograph from her 1843 book.

Anna Atkins, and an original photograph from her 1843 book.

Featuring handwritten text the groundbreaking images, just 19 copies of the book are believed to have survived to this day.

The most complete and original version of her book is owned by the Royal Society, London, and further copies of the album reside in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the British Museum in London, the New York Public Library and the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.

Only a handful remain in private hands, including the copy offered at Sotheby's, which is now expected to sell for €120,000-€180,000 ($132,325-$198,490).

Further highlights from the sale include a collection of 74 original postcard prints by Rudolf Koppitz, dating from 1920 to 1930, estimated at €50,000-€70,000; a vintage print of Edward Weston's 1921 photograph 'The Marion Morgan Dancers', estimated at €30,000-€40,000; and Alfred Stieglitz's iconic 1907 image 'The Steerage', estimated at €15,000-€20,000.

'Photographs from Atkins to Warhol' takes place at Sotheby's in Paris on Friday November 11.

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