The National Heritage Memorial Fund has awarded £1.2 million to the Bodleian Libraries towards the acquisition.
The archive is being sold for £2.2 million and the Bodleian libraries have until February to raise the remaining £1 million.
Talbot is considered to be one of the greatest polymaths of the Victorian Age and is known as the British ‘founder of photography’. The archive will allow a much fuller understanding of the breadth of Talbot’s scholarly activities.
It also contains great potential to understand the influences exerted by the women in his family, in particular their educative roles and their shared interests in botany, languages, art, travel and history that are so central to Talbot’s work.
The collection includes some of the first photographs of the city of Oxford, so is especially relevant to the Bodleian Libraries. It also contains glassware and artwork that Talbot photographed for The Pencil of Nature, the first book illustrated with photographs.
It is hoped that the archive will shed light on his family life, his role as a Member of Parliament and his range of intellectual interests from science to ancient languages.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “The impact of William Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering work is felt daily by all of us, whether we are snapping our holidays with a camera or capturing outings on our mobile phones… This is why the Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt it was so important that the archive should be secured for future generations to explore.”
Richard Ovenden, Deputy Librarian at the Bodleian, commented: “The Bodleian is anxious to ensure that the collection is made available to scholars and to the general public to allow the legacy of this extraordinary innovator and pioneer in photography to continue to inspire new generations of researchers, innovators and photographers.”
Hiroshi Sugimoto, who is considered one of the world’s greatest living photographers, also pledged his support to the Bodleian’s campaign to secure the archives.