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By Rebecca Smith on

Feet, fish and rodents revealed in 19th century X-ray photogravures

Shortly after Wilhelm Röntgen announced his discovery of X-rays, Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta produced their portfolio of prints using the new technology.

Last month, a researcher’s visit gave us a good excuse to marvel anew at this fabulous portfolio. It shows some of the earliest examples of prints made using X-rays.

Grüne Eidechse, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Grüne Eidechse, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection

These images date from early 1896, merely a couple of months after Wilhelm Röntgen announced his discovery of X-rays. The announcement caused a stir among scientists, and a craze for the new technology among the general public.

Hand eines 8 jährigen Mädchens, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Hand eines 8 jährigen Mädchens, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection

Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta seem to have revelled in revealing things that were previously hidden or invisible. Human bones in hands and feet, cold blooded lizards and a snake, fish and rodents are all uncovered and revealed in perfect photogravure.

Ratte, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Ratte, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection

The portfolio Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen’schen Strahlen contains 15 photogravures and an accompanying essay. It has just been conserved, ready for exhibiting next year. We’re lucky to have this complete example, as well as a good selection of individual prints in our collection. Get in touch, book a visit, and come and see it!

Zwei Seefische, Zanclus Cornutus / Acanthurus Nigros, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Zwei Seefische, Zanclus Cornutus / Acanthurus Nigros, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection
Solfisch (Pleuronectes Solea), 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Solfisch (Pleuronectes Solea), 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection
Fuss eines 17 jährigen Jünglings, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Fuss eines 17 jährigen Jünglings, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection
Cameen in Goldfassung, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Cameen in Goldfassung, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection
Frösche in Bauch - ünd Rückenlage, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Frösche in Bauch—ünd Rückenlage, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection
Neugeborenes Kaninchen, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder, National Media Museum, Bradford / SSPL. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA
Neugeborenes Kaninchen, 1896, Eduard Valenta and Josef Maria Eder © Science Museum Group collection

4 comments on “Feet, fish and rodents revealed in 19th century X-ray photogravures

  1. Fantastic!!!
    What a nice collection of X-ray photographs, just a couple of months after the announcement of Röntgen. I like a lot #s 1, 4, 5, and 8.
    It is a pity that I am so far to go and see them in exhibition. But if I have any chance of visiting I will try to book in advance.
    Thanks for sharing these wonders!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment Jesús.
      Some of the prints will be on display in London next year, or if you come to the UK in the future you can visit the collection at the National Media Museum in Bradford and see them all!

      1. Thanks Rebecca,
        I was in Leeds last July but I will certainly go again to visit my son, so I will visit the Bradford National Media Museum.
        I wonder what kind of emulsión/ support are those pictures taken, silver gelatin?

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