PSS History

January 1857 to July 1857

Rapid Growth

The original proposers of the Photographic Society of Scotland  anticipated that at the end of the first year, the Society might have about 20 or 30 members.  

In fact, Membership at the end of the first year had reached 119.

New applicants from Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland were balloted for and elected as Members of the Society at the start of each meeting throughout the Session

From January 1857 onwards, the Society moved from 117 George Street to more convenient and commodious premises at the Antiquarian Rooms 51 George Street for its meetings.

Sir David Brewster, President, occasionally took the chair, but more frequently it was Horatio Ross in the Chair.

The first AGM

The first AGM was held on 10 March 1857.  The Patron, President, Vice Presidents, Hon Secretary and Hon Treasurer all remained in office.  John Coy was elected as Hon Auditor.  The Meeting comprised:

-   Formal business of the evening,

-       Portable cameras exhibited and explained

-       Paper on The Collodion Process read by Mr

During the Meeting, Mr Rodger also:

-  prepared a plate

-  took a picture of a Bas Relief lighted by a jet of gas, and

-  developed it in the presence of the meeting.

A similar sequence of events had occurred at the meeting two months earlier, when James Ross had read his Paper:

-  The Albumen Process on Glass.

Other Lectures

Other Papers presented to the Society in the early months of 1857 were on:

-       Photography in the Mountains .................... Horatio Ross

-       Uranium & other Substances...................... Charles Burnett

-     Fading of  Photographs……........................James Tunny

-       Photographs on Fluorescent Surfaces …... George Wilson

-      Stereoscopic Photography…..................... James Ross

-       A tour - the Coasts of Spain....................…Cosmo Innes

-       Adhesive Substances for Mounting…....... Collin Sinclair

All the speakers were, again, members of the Society, with the possible exception of Professor George Wilson

In some cases, the titles of the Papers were longer than those given above.  The full title of Collin Sinclair’s paper was:

"An Account of Experiments on the Various Adhesive Substances used in the Mounting of Photographs as affecting the Permanency of the Print."

Items displayed  

Most of the items displayed in early 1857 were collections of photos, demonstrating different methods:

-     Photogaloamographic Engravings by James Wood

-     Calotypes, and made some observations on the use of Cyanide of Potassium in the Bromo-Iodizing Solution by Mr Walker

-     Negative Photographs on Albumenized paper by Messrs McKinlay & Zeigler 

-     Negative Photographs on Parchment paper by Prof. Wilson 

The Hon Secretary exhibited of and explained

a new form of portable camera invented by Capt. Fowke RE:

Mr Tunny exhibited:

-    his newly invented apparatus for printing stereoscopic transparencies on wet collodion

-     Pictures by his newly discovered process of Heliography

Distribution of Prints to Members

It was suggested at the 1857 AGM that there should be a distribution amongst the members of photographic works of high class, executed exclusively for the Society. 

The picture proposed on this occasion was Pitlessie Fair by Sir David Wilkie  "the only one of his works that had not yet been made public through the medium of the engraver."

Unfortunately, it was reported at the 1858 AGM that it had not possible to produce copies of this print as planned "because of the unphotographic character of the colours."     [Council Report to PSS 1858 AGM]    So instead, the Society selected and purchased pictures from the 2nd PSS Exhibition, for an outlay of £33.  These were distributed to the members by ballot.

The 1858 AGM Report said:

"Believing that the funds of the Society cannot be laid out in a way better calculated to aid and encourage the Art generally or more satisfactorily to the Members themselves the Council propose that a similar distribution of photos should be made next year."

The tradition of distributing a photograph to each  members continued for a further 50 years - initially by PSS, and subsequently by Edinburgh Photographic Society, in the form of a “Presentation Print”.

Publication of PSS Proceedings

For the first year, PSS proceedings had been published in Photographic Notes, the journal of the Manchester Society.  But this arrangement was not entirely satisfactory.

In April 1857 it was announced that a change was to be made, and that the Society's proceedings would in future be published in the Journal of the Photographic Society, the journal of the London Society.

Collection for Scott Archer

In June 1857 the Society contributed towards a collection for the Widow and Family of the late Scott Archer, the introducer of the Collodion Process.  The family had been left completely destitute.  PSS Members were told:  

"It is important that the sum collected be forwarded to London immediately"