The Hatton fern collection is a mid-19th century homage to an era when fern collecting became a national pastime. The album originally contained an unusual combination of nature prints (direct or indirect impressions of plants), cyanotypes and the ferns themselves which were used to make many of the cyanotypes. The album belonged to John Hatton (1882-1872), who was first the curator of a popular spa in Buxton, Derbyshire before moving to the prestigious Spa in Bath.
Despite considerable research, the author of the album remains a mystery. The album has been variously attributed to the 'Circle of Anna Atkins' and was originally mistaken for Atkins' own work. The careful and delicate manner in which the ferns are hand-sewn onto the pages, rather than glued does suggest the possibility of another female cyanotypist. there is no evidence, however, of any comparable collection of early cyanotypes other than those produced by Atkins and her small circle (listed in Schaaf, Sun Gardens, Victorian Photograms by Anna Atkins, Aperture, 1985). The cyanotypes themselves, although primitive, are very innovative; early examples of photograms made without the camera. In some cases, such as this lot, the image remains united with the simplest of 'negatives' - the original plant template.
With thanks to Ken Jacobson for his informative note on the subject of the album.