As 2018 hurtles to a close our thoughts begin to turn towards next year, the future, and what may be in store. When I look back on the past year I can’t help but think it’s just as well we can’t predict what’s coming down the track.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, where the days are short and the sun never gets high in the sky, we hope that those of you in the southern hemisphere are enjoying a plentiful supply of light – that essential resource for photographers. But today marks the winter solstice – when the solar tables turn and the days in the north will lengthen and lighten once again.
For that reason, Talbot may have welcomed the winter solstice. Perhaps, once Christmas was over and done with, some remnant of pagan traditions from times long past may have stirred in his mind. Thoughts of fairies, elves, sprites, nymphs and hobgoblins seem more plausible when the days are short and the nights are dark.
This may partly account for one of the more intriguing artworks Talbot placed before his camera lens – the cover of a “Punch’s Almanack” for 1846. At the time it would have been such a commonplace subject, what reason would Talbot have had to photograph it? I mention it here because an almanack is an annual publication with a calendar of important dates for the year ahead (whether they be phases of the moon, or when best to plant crops), which fits this blog’s theme. Take a look at Schaaf number 5022 , then use the Zoom function in the ‘Image Viewer’ to appreciate the cornucopia that is the cover of Punch’s Almanack, with one eye firmly fixed on what high jinks were in store for 1846.
You might have thought you had seen the last of us. We haven’t forgotten you and would like to wish you all the very best for 2019.
Brian Liddy, Thaddeus Lipinski & Jaanika Vider
• Questions or Comments? Brian Liddy can be contacted on the Talbot Catalogue Raisonné Project at firstname.lastname@example.org • WHFT, Copy of a cover of “Punch’s Almanack for 1846” (reduced in camera), after December 1846, salted paper print, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, 1937-1170, Schaaf number 5022. • One of sixteen prints with no extant calotype negative known to survive. However, there are many variant photographic copies of this particular cover of a Punch almanack (a simple search for the word, ‘Punch’ will bring them up).