AFTER setting their sights on the archive of pioneering Victorian photographer William Henry Fox Talbot, three years ago, staff at the Bodleian Library have snapped it up after raising £2.2m.
Mr Talbot, who lived from 1800 to 1877, was one of the greatest all-rounders of the Victorian age, and is considered by many to be the father of photography.
Some of the first photos taken of Oxford feature in the archive, including one of The Queen’s College in High Street.
Now, library staff have launched an online resource, bringing together the complete works of the pioneer, at foxtalbot.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
For the first time, members of the public can search through annotated digitised images of Talbot's photographs, gathered from collections around the world.
The fascinating pictures, including beautiful early cityscapes of Oxford, London and Paris, show the development of photography while capturing moments of early Victorian life.
The comprehensive online archive, called the Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, is an important new resource for scholars, curators, photographers and historians in many fields, as well as anyone interested in photography.
Catalogues raisonné encompass the entire body of an artist's work and while they are common in art history, nothing of this scale has been attempted for photography.
Prof Larry J Schaaf, project director for the Talbot Catalogue Raisonné and Visiting Professor of Art at Oxford University, said: "There has been nothing like this before in the history of photography.
"This catalogue raisonné of Talbot's work will help unlock the enormous artistic, documentary and technical information embodied in these images and allow researchers to find out even more about these works."
Working closely with the Talbot family, Prof Schaaf has been researching Talbot for more than four decades and has examined nearly all of Talbot's originals held in collections worldwide.
There are also images of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire as the photographer lived in the village and there is now a museum in Lacock dedicated to his work.
Talbot was a scientist who then became an artist and unlike most of his peers, much of his archive survives,
As well as 25,000 photographs there are more than 10,000 letters, and hundreds of notebooks.
In the early 1980s, before digital projects in the humanities were common, Prof Schaaf developed the pioneering databases of Talbot's work on which the new online catalogue is based.
The Bodleian has spent the last two years preparing the images for the online catalogue, which brings together images from more than 100 international public and private collections including items from the British Library, the National Media Museum, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as smaller but significant collections in Russia and others worldwide.
Launching with more than 1,000 images, these will be added to weekly until the entire 25,000 negatives and prints known worldwide have been published.
The personal archive of Talbot includes original manuscripts, correspondence, family diaries and scientific instruments.
Bodley's Librarian Richard Ovenden said: "The Talbot Catalogue Raisonné exemplifies the important role of the Bodleian Libraries and cultural institutions in creating digital resources that allow unprecedented virtual access to collections.
"This project also demonstrates the value of working in partnership, bringing together items now dispersed from across numerous collections.
"We are extremely grateful to the many institutions who contributed to this exciting new research tool, without whom this project would not have been possible."