WILLIAM HENRY FOX TALBOT'The Pencil of Nature'
- William Henry Fox Talbot
- 'The Pencil of Nature'
- 23 salt prints in a book
- Various sizes to 6 1/4 by 8 1/2 in. (15.9 by 21.6 cm.)
By descent to Miss Matilda Talbot, the photographer's granddaughter
Gift to Herbert Lambert, 1921
Collection of N. D. Larkin, 1959
Sotheby's Belgravia, 21 December 1971, Lot 315
This set of The Pencil of Nature comes originally from the collection of Miss Matilda Theresa Talbot (1871-1958), the photographer’s granddaughter. As steward of the legacy for both Talbot and his residence, Lacock Abbey, Matilda went to great lengths to ensure that her grandfather’s lifework was preserved and distributed examples to institutions worldwide. The present copy is inscribed from Matilda to her longtime friend Herbert Lambert (1881-1936), a member of the Royal Photographic Society based in Bath. Lambert was instrumental in securing a copy for donation from Matilda to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Unlike Talbot’s Sun Pictures in Scotland which was sold by subscription, the fascicles of The Pencil of Nature were publically available through booksellers and thus it is impossible to determine an exact number of copies produced. The uneven tonality of the plates in most issues of The Pencil of Nature has long been discussed and many prints likely started deteriorating immediately. Most extant fascicles are in institutional collections and there is no one ‘ideal’ copy. According to the most recent census by Talbot scholar Larry J. Schaaf (to whom this entry is indebted), only 4 other complete (or nearly complete) sets are believed to be in private collections. The present copy is listed in his census. Only a handful of fascicles have appeared at auction since 1970.