LLEWELYN, John Dillwyn

b. 12 January 1810; d. 24 August 1882

The eldest son and second child of Lewis Weston Dillwyn FRS, FLS and Mary. Lewis West Dillwyn was a distinguished botanist and a member of the First Reformed Parliament. John, originally Dillwyn, added his maternal grandfather's name upon coming of age and inheriting his estates near Swansea, south Wales. He married Emma Thomasina Talbot, a first cousin of Henry Fox Talbot. He was distantly related to his friend and fellow photographer Calvert Richard Jones.

Llewelyn was making images within days of Talbot's announcement and it is possible he had prior knowledge from his mother-in-law, Lady Mary Cole, who had visited Talbot in 1838. Llewelyn was a founder Council Member of the Photographic Society of London, and remained on the Council until 1857. He exhibited at their exhibitions and at the Exposition Universelle, Paris 1855, where he won a silver medal for his 'Motion Series' of four instantaneous images.

Talbot regarded Llewelyn as the first botanical photographer, and botanical daguerreotypes are recorded by Kew Gardens as early as 1842, though these are now lost.

In 1856 he discovered the Oxymel process, an early form of dry plate photography. He claimed to have used all the known early processes and continuously experimented with variations on these. He worked with Antoine Claudet on the daguerreotype process, though no details survive beyond diary references.

Some of his images were published in "The Sunbeam" by his friend Philip Delamotte and also in the Photographic Exchange albums.

Other members of the family who were photographers were his wife Emma, who did all his printing, his daughter Thereza, his sister Mary Dillwyn, his uncle by marriage Richard Dykes Alexander of Ipswich and his wife's cousin Jane St John.

Llewelyn was also a member of the Amateur Photographic Association and was on their council.


I am grateful to Richard Morris FRPS for information on John Llwelwyn.

Robert Leggat, 1997.