Fac-simile of a Photogenic Drawing Bird, Dr. Golding  (British, 1814-1854)

On April 20, 1839, this London magazine featured as its cover the first published reproduction of a photograph "Facsimile of a Photogenic Drawing." It is a picture —in negative—of three stalks of leaves. The original was made by Golding Bird, "a distinguished botanist" by following William Henry Fox Talbot’s newly invented process, the details of which were made public at the Royal Society on February 21. The facsimile which was presented to its readers was the work of a draftsman, who made a drawing of the photograph, and a wood engraver, who cut the block..” (Eastman House – Image volume 11/2, 1962) The woodcut is much larger than usual for The Mirror, and was printed in a unique color that simulated the color of Talbot’s first calotypes.

Dr. Bird displayed his chemical prowess as a child, regularly lecturing and demonstrating on chemistry to his fellow schoolmates. He became an exceptional physician and invented the flexible stethoscope still familiar today. In 1836 Bird was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy at Guy’s Hospital, London. It was in a letter dated March 25, 1839, and published in the Magazine of Natural History, ‘Observations on the Application of Heliographic or Photogenic Drawing to Botanical Purposes,’ that Bird revealed his insight into the new art. A month later, in the Mirror, his text was illustrated by this icons of early photography, Bird had displayed interest in the action of light in the 1839 edition of his popular Elements of Natural Philosophy, written before the announcement of photography. In the second edition of 1844, he devoted an entire chapter to photography, expanding this in subsequent editions. Although he never exhibited and none of his own photographs are known to have survived, Puttick and Simpson’s 1856 auction of Bird’s library included not only photographic equipment but also many photographs “by artists of the first eminence,” including Roger Fenton, James D. Robertson, Pilip Henry Delamotte, and Hugh Owen.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Gernsheim, Helmut. Creative Photography. Aesthetic Trends 1839-1960. [with Illustrations.]. London: Faber & Faber, 1962. p. 291
Foster, Sheila J, Manfred Heiting, and Rachel Stuhlman.
Imagining Paradise: The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House, Rochester. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007 p. 162
Talbot, William H. F.
Specimens and Marvels. New York: Aperture, 2000. p. 74
Stevenson, Sara, and John O’Neil.
Printed Light: The Scientific Art of William Henry Fox Talbot and David Octavius Hill with Robert Adamson. Edinburgh: Scottish National portrait gallery, 1986. p. 14.
Schaaf, Larry J, and Talbot.
Sun Pictures, ‘Talbot and Photogravure’. New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc, 2003. no. 3.
Hanson, David A.
Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing, 1825-1910. , 2017. p. 105.
Impressed by Light, British Photographs from Paper Negatives by Roger Taylor, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pg 291
Salts of Silver, Toned With Gold by Anne Anninger and Julie Melby, The Houghton Library, Harvard University, 1999, pg 12
Beaumont Newhall,
On Photography, A Source Book of Photo History In Facsimile, Century House, Watkins Glen, 1956, pg 72


Golding Bird, “Observations on the Application of Heliographic or Photogenic Drawing to Botanical Purposes,” Magazine of Natural History, n.s., 3 (April 1839), pp. 188-92; “Fac-Simile of a Photogenic Drawing,” Mirror, April 20, 1839, p. 241 (with reprint of Bird’s article in Magazine of Natural History); Golding Bird, Elements of Natural Philosophy: Being an Experimental Introduction to the Study of the Physical Sciences, 2nd ed. (London: John Churchill, 1844) (and later editions); Frederic Bird, “The Late Dr. Golding Bird,” Association Medical Journal, January 5, 1855, pp. 1-6

P. 292 Taylor, Roger, and Larry J. Schaaf. Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 : Accompanies the Exhibition ‘impressed by Light – British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860’ Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 24 – December 30, 2007 ; at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.c., February 3 – May 4, 2008 ; and at the Musée D’orsay, Paris, May 26 – September 7, 2008. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007. Print.