Beyond Photography: An Introduction to William Henry Fox Talbotís Notebooks in the Talbot Collection at the British Library
Mirjam Brusius (notes)
William Henry Fox Talbot is now primarily remembered as the pioneer of photography. This was reinforced by the disposition of his papers, notably the separation of photographs and the few notebooks which document his photographic innovations from the rest of his archive mostly concerned with other scholarly activities beyond photography. Talbot’s interest was vast, ranging across the natural sciences, classical scholarship and Assyriology. The aim of this article is to explore his interest beyond photography by examining his scholarly notebooks that have been donated to the British Library by the family of Talbot’s descendents in 2006 as part of a larger archive.
Using examples from various of Talbot’s notebooks, the article furthermore explores his way of taking notes in the context of more general nineteenth-century notetaking practices and investigates the relationship between notetaking and photography as two different and yet comparable methods of recording. Ultimately, the article claims that studying the notebooks and future access to the collection will foster research that gives a better account of Talbot as a creative individual, taking the idea of the intellectual mindset into account.