The First Photographically Illustrated Book on Art

The First Photographically Illustrated Book on Art

The Talbotype Illustrations to Stirling’s Annals of the Artists of Spain

In the first strand of the Project, the volume of Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain was studied, including its significance and context.

Only fifty copies of this remarkable experimental volume of early photographic illustrations were produced in 1847-8 to accompany the three text volumes of William Stirling’s Annals of the Artists of Spain, for presentation by the author to friends and family, scholars and libraries.

These were the first photographic images representing Spanish art, architecture and design, and were taken by Nicholaas Henneman, assistant to the inventor of the process William Henry Fox Talbot, in London and Reading. Some photographs were also commissioned from the Edinburgh partnership of D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson but were not used in the final volume.

Only small, portable artworks could be photographed, and original oil paintings had to be reproduced via prints or painted copies. The chemical process, involving light-sensitive silver compounds, was also unstable, and the photographs suffered severe fading soon after they were mounted in the books. Nevertheless, as the first photographically illustrated book on art, it represented a landmark in the recent invention of photography and the emerging discipline of art history, and pointed the way towards the use of photography as an essential tool in the study of art, and to much wider accessibility of art through illustrated books.

 

Colour photograph of Circle of Juan Martínez Montañés, Infant Christ and Infant St John the Baptist, polychromed relief sculpture, c. 1620-50, Ford Collection, London

Nicolaas Henneman, Christ Child and Infant St John the Baptist, 1847. Salted paper print from a calotype negative of a polychromed relief sculpture, Circle of Juan Martínez Montañés, c. 1620-50, in the Ford Collection, London. Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain, no. 13, © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The Annals Talbotypes included the first photographs of Spanish sculpture. The colour and the shadows made them difficult to capture at this early date. Left: Circle of Juan Martínez Montañés, Infant Christ and Infant St John the Baptist, polychromed relief sculpture, c. 1620-50, Ford Collection, London. Right: Nicolaas Henneman, salt paper print from a paper negative, 1847, no. 13 in the Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain. © Museo del Prado

Publication

Copied by the Sun: Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain

Sir William Stirling Maxwell, Facsimile and Critical Edition.

Edited by Hilary Macartney (University of Glasgow) and José Manuel Matilla (Museo Nacional del Prado).
2 vols, Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado/ Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2016.

We have produced an “ideal facsimile” of Stirling Maxwell’s landmark volume of Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain, based on the best examples of each illustration. It uses modern technology and production methods to evoke the appearance of the original edition. The digital reconstruction of the photographs by Henneman was carried out by the Photographic Archive at the Prado Museum, using high-resolution images specially commissioned for our Project.

In the accompanying interpretive volume, Stirling and Henneman’s remarkable achievement is contextualised. The essays chart the challenges of taking the photographs and producing the volume at that early date, and discuss the relationship to the text of the Annals, and to Stirling’s scholarship, his collecting and his other interests. Also included are a full catalogue raisonné of the Talbotype illustrations, a census of the copies in the bound edition, and an outline of the results of the scientific analysis.

Digital reconstruction of the Talbotype of Las Meninas. © Museo del Prado

Image of Las Menians by Velázquez, demonstrating the digital restoration process

Photograph by Nicolaas Henneman of the engraving by Pierre Audouin after the painting by Velázquez.

Digital Restoration Process

Based on the example in the Annals Talbotypes volume at the Museo Nacional del Prado and a proof from Henneman’s studio in the National Media Museum, Bradford.

Digital reconstruction of the Talbotype of Las Meninas. © Museo del Prado

Image of Las Menians by Velázquez, demonstrating the digital restoration process

Photograph by Nicolaas Henneman of the engraving by Pierre Audouin after the painting by Velázquez.

Digital Restoration Process

Based on the example in the Annals Talbotypes volume at the Museo Nacional del Prado and a proof from Henneman’s studio in the National Media Museum, Bradford.

Digital reconstruction of the Talbotype of Las Meninas. © Museo del Prado

Image of Las Menians by Velázquez, demonstrating the digital restoration process

Photograph by Nicolaas Henneman of the engraving by Pierre Audouin after the painting by Velázquez.

Digital Restoration Process

Based on the example in the Annals Talbotypes volume at the Museo Nacional del Prado and a proof from Henneman’s studio in the National Media Museum, Bradford.

 

Digital reconstruction of the Talbotype of Las Meninas. © Museo del Prado

Image of Las Menians by Velázquez, demonstrating the digital restoration process

Photograph by Nicolaas Henneman of the engraving by Pierre Audouin after the painting by Velázquez.

Digital Restoration Process

Based on the example in the Annals Talbotypes volume at the Museo Nacional del Prado and a proof from Henneman’s studio in the National Media Museum, Bradford.

Video: The Conservation of the 'Annals of the Artists of Spain'

This video from the National Library of Scotland details the painstaking conservation of William Stirling's 'Talbotype Illustrations to the Annals of the Artists of Spain' ahead of its display in the exhibition at the Prado in Madrid, Spain. 

Project team and partners

The Annals Talbotypes Project was an international collaboration between:

  • University of Glasgow 
  • National Media Museum (NMeM), Bradford
  • Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado), Madrid
  • Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica (CEEH), Madrid.

Led by Hilary Macartney (University of Glasgow) and José Manuel Matilla (Museo Nacional del Prado), it enabled invaluable knowledge exchange between art historians, photographic historians, museum curators, librarians, conservators, conservation scientists and digital imaging specialists.

Our team also included:

  • Professor Larry J Schaaf (University of Oxford), international authority on early photography and the technique invented by William Henry Fox Talbot
  • Dr Jim Tate (National Museums of Scotland), who undertook the first ever scientific analysis of the Annals Talbotypes.

Funders

Core Funder: Santander Universities

Additional funding:

  • Santander Shareholders
  • The Kress Foundation
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • University of Glasgow Chancellor’s Fund
  • Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin