This photogenic drawing of a plant specimen shows the stems of the plant species in various stages of growth, from an almost-solid staff to a spidery, blossoming branch. It is a page from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns, an album of one hundred botanical illustrations with hand-written titles now in the Getty Museum. Anne Dixon originally gave the album to her nephew, who was interested in photographically illustrated volumes.
Dixon and Anna Atkins created each image, or photogenic drawing, by carefully placing the specimen onto a sheet of paper that had been made light-sensitive by a coating of a combination of chemicals. The resulting print is called a cyanotype because of the blue color produced by the chemicals. Securing the specimens to the paper with a sheet of glass, the glass and paper were then placed in the sun; after sufficient exposure to light, the paper was washed in water, which caused the image to appear in its final form. Because the specimens were solid objects that light could not pass through, they appear as negative images.