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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 15:23 GMT
Photo snapshot saved for nation
Dilwyn's first recorded photograph of a snowman

Images captured by a Victorian pioneering photographers have been saved from export to America by Wales's premier library.

In the 1840s and 1850s Mary Dillwyn was one of the first women ever to get behind a lens.

One of a circle of early photographers living in Swansea, she was involved in pioneering the development of photography.

Now some of her work has been saved for the nation after The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth paid 48,165 for an album to prevent it from going abroad.

It will be a fine addition to our national collection of over a million photographs dating from the dawn of photography to the new digital age
Gwyn Jenkins

The album contains 42 prints which demonstrate the early use of photography as an art form.

Dilwyn used a small camera which, since it only needed short exposures, provided her with the opportunity of taking more spontaneous photographs, often reflecting the warmth of Victorian family life.

It also allowed her to photograph chickens and other animals which were unlikely to stay still for more than a fleeting moment.

Born in 1816, Mary Dillwyn was the daughter of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, a prominent Swansea industrialist.

The family was related through marriage to William Henry Fox Talbot, who announced the discovery of photography in 1839.

The Dilwyns and another Swansea resident, Calvert Jones, who took the first dated photograph in Wales, were among the first to embrace the new technology.

two women
A young lad peeps round the corner at two women posing for their picture

Mary Dillwyn's album was a gift to her niece, Susan Franklen, and remained in the family until its sale at Christie's to an American dealer in May 2002.

Following a successful application by the library to stop an export licence, funds were raised to buy the album.

The purchase was made with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund, the Friends of The National Libraries, and the library's own Friends organisation.

Gwyn Jenkins, director of collection services at the library, said the album was an important piece of Welsh history.

"The National Library is delighted to have acquired this wonderful album of early photographs and is grateful for the support given to it by several organisations who contributed funding towards its purchase," he said.

"It will be a fine addition to our national collection of over a million photographs dating from the dawn of photography to the new digital age."

Once conservation work has been completed the album will be placed on public display.

Further research will also be undertaken into the subjects of the photographs.

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12 Jul 00 |  Wales

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