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Photography in Edinburgh


Why did Edinburgh embrace photography with such enthusiasm in the 1840s? 

Edinburgh was well placed to take advantage of the new discovery of photography. 

-  The copyright restrictions that limited the commercial use of both Daguerre’s and Talbot’s inventions applied throughout England and Wales, but not to Scotland.

-  The University of Edinburgh, renowned for its Faculties of Medicine and Chemistry, and other academic institutions, provided a forum for discussion of and experimenting in photography.

-  The City had many artists and painters, who, over the next few years, added photography to their skills. Edinburgh offered a good supply of clients – both tourists and local residents. 

-  There was a ready market both for portraits and, in later years landscapes of Edinburgh.  This was recognised by Edinburgh’s own photographers and by those based elsewhere in Scotland, including GW Wilson of Aberdeen and James Valentine of Dundee, both of whom became Members of the Photographic Society of Scotland.  


Edinburgh's Learned Societies

1839 Onwards

As early as 27 March 1839, and again two weeks later, Andrew Fyfe, Vice President of the Society of Arts for Scotland, gave lectures on photography to his society.   

He followed these by giving a public lecture in the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh one week later – tickets 2/- each.

Also in 1839, Sir John Robinson, Secretary to The Royal Society of Edinburgh, visited Daguerre in Paris.  On his return to Edinburgh he gave a lecture to his society on 29 May 1839, in which he spoke enthusiastically about the Daguerreotype:

The discovery is one of the most splendid and important which has ever graced the progress of the fine arts”.




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