Larry Schaaf on William Henry Fox Talbot & the Invention of Photography

On October 6, professor dr. Larry J. Schaaf will give a lecture about one of the inventors of photography: William Henry Fox Talbot. The lecture also includes the unique opportunity for the public to view vintage prints by Talbot.

Schaaf is director of the William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné Project (2014-2018) at Oxford University. Aim of this project is to make Talbot’s complete oeuvre accessible online through the internet. In October, supported by a Scaliger Fellowship of Leiden University, Schaaf will visit photo collections in several European countries, to study original works by Talbot. In the Netherlands, vintage prints and documents by Talbot are part of the collections of Leiden University Library and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Nearby, in Belgium, the FoMu (Photo Museum) Antwerp has some in its collection. Normally, salt prints from the times of the invention of photography are not offered on view to the public because they are still sensitive to light. Very exceptionally, visitors of the lecture on 6 October in Leiden University Library also get the opportunity to hold and study original calotypes (salt prints) from Leiden University’s photo collection. Among them are some of Talbot’s famous ‘photogenic drawings’: images obtained by placing objects on photosensitized paper and exposing it to sunlight, a process we now know as the photogram technique. Beside prints, the Leiden photo collection contains some handwritten notes and very rare objects like a fragile album with photographic experiments on paper by the pioneers Hyppolyte Bayard, John Herschel and William Henry Fox Talbot. This album was assembled in the spring of 1839, still the prehistory of photography, six months before its official invention was acclaimed in Paris.

Entrance fee for the lecture is 9 euros (free for members of Scherptediepte and Friends of Leiden University Library), reservation can be made on

7:30 – 9:30, Leiden University Library, Witte Singel 27, Leiden