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PSS - 9th Exhibition

December 1864


Another General Exhibition

The PSS Council reported in May 1864: 

"Successful as the Competing Exhibitions have been the Council are unanimous in their opinion of the desirableness of having next season, if at all practicable, a General Exhibition.  They find that a comparatively small number of photographs, however high the quality, has not the same attraction either to the public or the Society, as a more extensive collection; whilst the fact of it being a competitive Exhibition excludes many pictures of undoubted merit, which would be sent without hesitation to an open Exhibition."

The only obstacle is the want of a suitable room in a good locality, and the Council call upon every member of the Society to assist them in overcoming this difficulty, so that arrangements may be made in good time for next season."

 [PSS Council Report to AGM 5/1864]

A General Exhibition was held at 90 George Street, the same venue as for several previous exhibitions. 

It was specified that all pictures were to be untouched and from a single negative, except in the case of views which could have sky printed from another negative.  Toning or shading before fixing was permitted.

The exhibition was open to the public free of charge, from 20 Dec 1864 to 18 Feb 1865:

- 10am to 5pm @ 1/-

- 7pm to 9pm @ 6d  (3 for 1/-)

-  Season tickets 2/6

671 Exhibits

There were 671 exhibits.  The National Library of Scotland has a catalogue of the 9th PSS Exhibition.  Despite being well attended, the exhibition made a loss.  The Council reported:

"The Council have to regret, however that the exhibition, like its last predecessors, has proved a failure financially, the loss to the Society being £48 13s 9d.  This has been the fate, more or less, of every recent Photographic Exhibition and it is more to be regretted , as it is the opinion of some of the best Photographers in the country, and others qualified to judge, that the future progress of this beautiful art depends more on public exhibitions for its advancement than on anything else." 

"The Council are glad to report that photographically no previous exhibition has been such a success, whether as regards the beauty or the variety of the works exhibited"    [PSS Council Report to AGM 9/5/1865]

Exhibition Preview

The list of persons invited to the Preview of the exhibition comprised:

22 University Professors

  7 Edinburgh Photographers

    -  JD Marwick
-  John Nicol
-  Alex McGlashon
-  R Fleming
-  Alex T Niven
-  JH Center
-  Geoff Slight

  5 Geological

  1 MP

  1 Lord Provost

  8 Baillies

 12 Artists

    -  George Harvey PRSA
-  Robert Henderson RSA
-  David Bryce RSA
-  Horatio Maculloch RSA
-  Kenneth MacLeay RSA
-  James Drummond RSA
-  Gomley? Steell? RSA
-  DO Hill RSA
-  JB Johnston RSA
-  J Noel Paton RSA
-  John Steel RSA
-  Mrs Brodie RSA

  14 Antiquarians

    4 Meteorological

    4 Royal Society of Arts

    7 Fine Arts

    8 Architectural Institute

    5 Botanical

    8 Royal Physical

 12 Court of Session (mainly Lords)

   4 Register House

   7 Advocates

   9 Actuaries

   6 staff

 11 Banks

 25 others (Rev., etc)


Henry Peach Robinson

Silver Medal for the Best Portrait:  Brenda

J Ramsay L’Amy

Silver Medal for the Best Group:  Nether Byers

James Mudd

Silver Medal for The Best View taken by a Dry Process:  View of Dunham Park

John Smith

Silver Medal for The Best View taken by an Amateur:  On the Leader Near Melrose

Thomas Annan

Silver Medal for The Best View in Scotland:  Dumbarton Castle

Samuel Highley

Silver Medal for Microscopic Objects enlarged for the Magic Lantern

The Pantascopic Company of London

Silver Medal for Views taken with the Pantascopic Camera

The final three medals listed above were additional medals awarded at the discretion of the judges because they considered the entries merited medals.

 Henry Peach Robinson print, Brenda, became the Presentation Print, a copy being provided to each PSS Member.  HP Robinson charged 2/6 per print for making copies of Brenda.


Edinburgh Public Library and The National Library of Scotland have copies of the catalogue of the 9th PSS Exhibition, giving a full list of entrants and their exhibits.  

Here are a few of the entrants, together with extracts from some of the letters accompanying their entries:

John Adamson

St Andrews

6 portraits

"All are by the collodion process copied upon ordinary albumised paper, and except stopping out specks on some of them they are absolutely untouched."
[John Adamson:  Letter to PSS 29/11/1864].

Thomas Annan


Thomas Annan wrote several letters:

I am glad you are going to have a real Exhibition this year.  If it had only been a competitive exhibition, I had made up (my) mind to send anything 
[letter:  Thomas Annan to PSS - 24/10/1864]

He was awarded a Silver Medal for his photograph Dumbarton Castle, and wrote:

"I was much gratified at the kind expressions in your last letter - but I feel as if I did not deserve a medal as I don’t do myself justice in not taking advantage of the best weather for my views but my business compels me to work very often at very unpicturesque subjects, and as it unfortunately happens in the best weather I hope you will have finer things in your exhibition than I will send you."    [letter:  Thomas Annan to PSS]

He regretted not being able to come to Edinburgh to collect his medal, and wrote:

I have nothing new to communicate, as I am not much of an experimentalist.  

My constant aim is to make my Photographs like Pictures and I am happy to think that my efforts are not altogether unsuccessful”

Thomas Brownrigg


Thomas Brownrigg sent some 12ins x 10 ins views of Killarney scenery to the exhibition.  He offered these for sale at 6/- mounted or 5/- unmounted.  He wrote

"There are several pictures by the Collodio-Albumen and Tannin processes.  When you write to me I should be obliged for your opinion of their relative merit.  I find the Collodio-Albumen the best of the dry processes but extremely slow for dark subjects."   

 [letter:  Thomas Brownrigg to PSS 3/1/1865]

He also sent copies of these photographs to Queen Victoria, and received this reply:

“The Queen has been pleased to accept a set of Kilarney photographs, the same as those in the Exhibition.  I have not failed to present to the Queen your beautiful photographs of Kilarney which arrived this morning.  I have much pleasure to inform you that they have been gracefully accepted and very much admired by Her Majesty."

 [letter:  PB(?) Phipps, Windsor Castle to Thomas Brownrigg]

Julia Margaret Cameron

Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Julia Margaret Cameron sent photographs to the exhibition.  These included portraits of Alfred Tennyson, Anthony Trollope and others.  

She enquired about the exhibition

"I am preparing a collection of very excellent photographs to send to your Exhibition.  I propose sending 12 portraits, chiefly of eminent men and some of these 12 are very beautiful fancy pictures all from the life. 

Also two large frames containing each several groups, also from the life and each of these frames will be very much within the 12 square feet in area.

I write now to beg you to be so good as to forward me with an immediate answer to these questions:

Will the 12 portraits in 12 separate frames and the various groups in t he two large frames be admitted?  Regarding their excellence, I can assure you that they are pronounced by the greatest Artists in London 'to be amongst the finest things in existence'.  Therefore it is only about the number I feel doubtful.  If the number is not  objected to, I am sure you will admit these.

My second question is - If they do not reach Edinburough (sic) by the 30th Instant, will you promise me they shall be received.  Being a resident of the Isle of Wight, I am subject to real disadvantage as to the expediting carvers, gilders &c. in their work … though also subject to great advantage in my own Art for sky is so clear for work here, but I am hurrying my framers as much as possible and if they should make any delay so as to render it impossible foe  my case to reach you by the 30th how can I address it so as to ensure its being received and admitted by you if it is two days late?  I will send by passenger train if needful."

[Julia Margaret Cameron to PSS - 24/11/1864]

Describing her style of photography, she wrote:

"My aim is not only to be faithful to portraiture but to revive and reproduce the Old Masters by taking pictures in which the ideal prevails without any sacrifice to the real."   

  [Julia Margaret Cameron to PSS - 12/3/1865]

T Davis


T Davis sent 16 stereographs and 3 photographs 

The stereographs included many views around Lancashire.

The photographs were magnified objects by polarised light:

    - crystals of sulphate of copper  (Mag. 200 diam.)

    - crystals of sulphate of copper and magnesia (ditto)

    - crystals of tartrate of soda (ditto).

He added:  

“I fear my contribution to your Exhibition this year is but of small value as I have had little time to work.”
[letter:  T Davis to PSS  -  25/1/1864]

Vernon Heath

43, Piccadilly, London

Vernon Heath sent 5 frames of photographs which he offered for sale:  single frames @ 12/6 each:  Photos @ 7/6 each.

Most of his photographs were landscapes.  They include views of Windsor Castle, Burnham and Cottage Porch.

On discovering that there was some interest in his photographs, he wrote to PSS:

"I am  glad to find from your letter that the Cottage Porch is inquired for.  It is my pet picture: not only because it is my own house but because I believe it has qualities as a photograph which surpass any I have taken.

PS  I have just published two engravings of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the infant Prince from a photograph I took from Life.

They are really interesting, and being from photographs if they are admissible, I will have a pair sent down for exhibition.  I believe you would sell a great many copies."

Samuel Highley

Samuel Highley wrote:

"For the last month I have been confined to my room with a dreadful illness and am now confined to my bed but I  have sent you three frames containing the best selection I can make under the circumstances.

His entry, for which he was awarded a Silver Medal, included:

"two frames containing transparency positives of enlargements of microscopic objects, for the illuminated lantern… a selection showing the application of photography to the Magic Lantern for scientific educational demonstrations embracing Astronomy, Physical Geology, Pathology, Anatomy, Osteology, Botany, Mineralogy and a series of Zoological type forms." 
[letter: Samuel Highley to PSS  -  26/11/1864]

Jabez Hughes

Ryde, Isle of Wight

Jabez Hughes sent two large views and six 9ins x 7ins views of Her Majesty’s residence, Osborne, printed from Tannin negatives. the skies are slightly tinted in the printing.   He wrote:

"A description of the mode of printing these negatives will form a paper I will read next Tuesday night at the London Photographic Society.

[letter:  Jabez Hughes to PSS  -  28/11/1864]

James Mudd


James Mudd sent twelve frames of landscapes of England and North Wales.  He won a Silver Medal for the Best view taken by a Dry Process.  He wrote:

"It is a very gratifying thing for me to receive a third medal from Edinburgh.   It has been a great pleasure to exhibit there because of the gentlemanly treatment I have received on all occasions from yourself and others connected with the Society; and I hope to continue to be a contributor as long a you deem my pictures worthy of your annual gathering."  [letter:  James Mudd to PSS  -  30/1/1865]

He later wrote:

I am sorry that I cannot send you a better lot of photographs every year.  The fact is I do not spend more than 10 days during the whole year in getting those you see annually.  Indeed with the exception of half a dozen, you see all I produce in the way of pictures, bad and good.  

I do hope, however, to be able to devote much more time, and I feel sure much better things can be done.  Whatever I do shall always be at the service of your Society for my exhibitions they may in future have.

 [letter:  James Mudd to PSS  -  21/3/1865]



Pouncy exhibited 5 frames, each 24 ins x 30ins, printed in printers' ink direct from the negatives by Pouncy's Patent Process.

The Pantascopic Company

Red Lyon Square, London

On hearing that they had been awarded a Silver Medal for Views taken with the Pantascopic Camera, a representative of the Pantascopic Company wrote:

"Having given some years’ conscientious labour to perfect the Pantascopic camera and having spent large sums upon it,  I naturally look with affection upon the offspring of so much thought and toil.  It is therefore with great gratification that I learn that its merits are recognized and acknowledged by persons so competent to judge as the members of your Society."
[letter from representative of Pantascopic Company to PSS]

HP Robinson


HP Robinson was awarded a Silver Medal for the Best Portrait for his photograph titled Brenda.  He regretted that he was unable to attend the PSS Meeting to receive his medal, but wrote:

"Instead of attending to receive the Medal I must find some subject on which to write you a paper when you get short of one, although there is very little of interest in photography to write upon."

C Silvey


C Silvey sent 12 photographs, all wet collodion, all taken on 1 June 1864 at a Fete given at HRH Duke of Anmale(?)'s residence.



Other Photographs in Exhibitions


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