Sir Cecil Beaton dated his interest in photography to the age of 3, when he became entranced by a picture postcard of Lily Elsie, an actress of the day. From the moment he was given his first camera at 11 until his death last January at 76, he was a faithful chronicler of his times. His lenses captured the celebrated, from Garbo to Jagger, from Gertrude Stein to Princess Caroline. Along the way Beaton himself became a celebrity; an elegant dandy educated at Cambridge, he was a lifelong bachelor who had a much-publicized dalliance with Garbo in the 1940s. In 1972, as the favorite photographer of the British Royal Family, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, whom he first photographed in her teens. To be sure, Beaton will also be remembered as diarist, painter and costume designer—he won Academy Awards for his work on Gigi and My Fair Lady—but his real legacy will be his portraits. In 1977 he sold more than 150,000 prints, a quarter of a million negatives and innumerable color transparencies to the London auction house of Sotheby’s. From this vast collection Yale-educated art critic James Danziger, 27, culled 260 photographs for his book, Beaton (Viking, $30), which includes the famous faces on this and the following pages.