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Soft Shield-Fern (Polystichum angulare)
P.12392-R (left) and P.12391-R (right)

SECTION SIX
CONCLUSION

Working in many different media during the 1850s, Cecilia Glaisher created a beautiful and unique body of work. Her images of ferns, made using William Henry Fox Talbot's 1839 photogenic drawing process, form a record of fern species growing in mid-Victorian Britain which can now, with twenty-first century digital technology, be explored in new ways.

For example, the two photogenic drawings above appear to show the top and bottom halves of the same frond of a soft-shield fern.

Combined in Photoshop (below) they re-become a very old giant fern!

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Soft Shield-Fern (Polystichum angulare)
P.12392-R and P.12391-R combined in Photoshop

Never having been glued onto mounts or pasted into albums her photogenic drawings and salted paper prints hold valuable information for research purposes. The retouching and overworking she carried out on the images provides insights into early photographic printing problems and the ways found to overcome them.

Digital copies mean the images can be studied closely and safely for long periods of time, which is not advisable with the light-sensitive originals. The technology makes it feasible to zoom in on details and convert negatives into positives or vice-versa, possibilities which would surely have interested - and greatly intrigued - the Glaishers.

And it gives us now, some 160 years after Cecilia Glaisher made them, a sense of what The British Ferns: Represented in a Series of Photographs from Nature by Mrs Glaisher might have shown had it been completed. 14


14. For more information on Cecilia Glaisher's ferns, see Photographed from Nature by Mrs Glaisher by Caroline Marten (MA dissertation, University of the Arts, London, 2002).

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The Fitzwilliam Museum : Ferns

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