The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs

by Fiona Robinson

Growing up in early 19th-century England, Anna Atkins was fascinated by seashells,... read more

Growing up in early 19th-century England, Anna Atkins was fascinated by seashells, plants, and insects. Her father nurtured her curiosity, taking her on outings and teaching her the scientific names and classifications of the natural world. Anna also drew what she saw, making precise images she labeled with their Latin names. She grew up to become a botanist, following her passion in the world of science dominated by men. She was already experimenting with photography when she learned about cyanotypes—images created from chemicals and sunlight on paper. Excited by the possibility of perfectly capturing nature, she created cyanotypes of her entire seaweed collection, more than 10,000 images. Their publication in three volumes beginning in 1843 became the first book of photographs. Cyanotypes are always blue because of the chemical compounds used, and the mixed-media illustrations, all in hues of blue, incorporate some of Anna’s cyanotype images as well as some the author/illustrator created in this inspired, inspiring tribute that includes an informative note on Anna’s life, as well as “how to make cyanotypes.” (Ages 6-9)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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