Photographer Nicolaas Henneman was born in Heemskerk on 8 November 1813. Having worked in Paris for a while, he arrived in England around 1835. He was employed as valet to William Fox Talbot at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, where he assisted in preparations and printing, and he took many photographs himself. He accompanied Talbot on photographic expeditions around Britain, and in 1843 the pair ventured into France, securing important photographs later published in The Pencil of Nature (1844/6: the first first commercially published book illustrated with photographs).
Later that year, Henneman left Talbot’s employ to set up the world’s first dedicated photographic printing works at no. 8 Russell Terrace in Reading. Unable to sustain that operation he moved to London in 1847, this time in a business largely owned by Talbot but called Nicolaas Henneman’s ‘Sun Picture Rooms’ at no. 122 Regent Street. In 1848 he was joined by the young chemist Thomas Augustine Malone, and by the next year Henneman & Malone were billing themselves as ‘Photographers to the Queen’. While Henneman taught many successful photographers, he never achieved true artistry himself. In the increasingly competitive photographic world of the 1850s he lost out. By 1859 financial difficulties had overwhelmed him and he shut down his business.
In the 1860s Henneman worked as an operator for other photographers in Scarborough and Birmingham. He died in London in January 1898. Henneman’s major claim to fame was his involvement in the publication of the first photographically illustrated book on art. To the three volumes of text of William Stirling’s Annals of the Artists of Spain (1848) was added a limited edition volume of sixty-six photographic illustrations. These were the first photographs ever published of Spanish paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints, by artists including El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera and Goya, in addition to examples of architectural designs and book illustrations. The photographs were taken by Henneman who used the Talbotype (or Calotype) process invented by Talbot. The book has become extremely rare. Only fifty copies of the Annals were produced, and their deterioration, due to daylight, chemicals and other factors, began immediately.