The English illustrator Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was in every respect a modern woman. For the publication of her plant collections she used the latest technology, the recently invented cyanotype. In 1843 she used the process to create the first photo book in history, with images of breathtaking beauty and originality which often look like modern art.
At first Anna Atkins worked for and with her father, the zoologist John George Children; later she chose the objects for her scientific compositions herself: algae and ferns. Atkins placed them on light-sensitive paper that turned dark blue in water after being developed, with the exception of the places that had been covered by the plants. Initially alone, and then with her friend Anne Dixon, she produced well over 10,000 copies of her photograms and assembled them in several books like albums. Today these rare copies are regarded as treasures and are preserved in museums and libraries.