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G W Wilson

Instantaneous Views

 from Princes Street

George Washington Wilson, on his tours of Scotland, visited Edinburgh on several occasions.  He was also a member of the Photographic Society of Scotland that met in Edinburgh in the 1850s and 1860s.

Princes Street Views

Wilson was one of the first photographers to take 'instantaneous photos', taking these in Edinburgh, looking to the east along Princes Street towards Calton Hill.  His first were taken in 1859, but he returned to the same location in later years to try to improve on his original results.

These photos used short exposures and so captured sharp images of the people and vehicles in the busy Princes Street, rather than the blurs that appeared in most longer-exposure photographs of the period.

Princes Street - c.1859

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Jenny and Ray Norman

 Web site: World of Stereoviews

Princes Street - c.1860

Photogrraph of Waverley at the East End of Princes Street  -  by George Washington Wilson

  Reproduced by courtesy of the Yerbury family.   Click here for link to web site.

Dates of the Photos

Thank you to Roger Taylor for guidance in dating GW Wilson's photos of Princes Street, given in his book: George Washington Wilson - Artist and Photographer (1823-93)' [pp.72-74]. 

Roger Taylor's book has illustrations of three 'instantaneous photos' by Wilson, all from the same balcony on one of the buildings on the north side of Princes Street. 

The buildings in the foreground on the left are a guide to when the photos were taken:

-  1859:  'Sun Insurance' + 'Star Hotel'

-  1860:  'Star Hotel'

-  1863/64:  'Star Hotel' name removed. The hotel has been modernised and renamed, 'The Edinburgh Hotel'.

-  1859:  Wilson's stereo view of 1859 is far rarer than his later views. the copy of his 1859 view illustrated above is currently offered for sale, in good condition, for $120 (April 2005).  This is perhaps about five times the price that might be asked for one of Wilson's later views from the same location.

-  1863/64:  In the 1863/64 views, the name 'The Edinburgh Hotel' can be seen on two new lamp posts erected on the pavement outside the hotel.

Format of the Photos

Wilson sold his Princes Street photographs as stereo views

GW Wilson stereo card - Princes Street  -  An instantaneous view taken in 1859

 and also some cut-down to cartes-de-visite size.

GW Wilson - Carte de Visite of Princes Street  c.1859



Map of nos 26 to 46 Princes Street, around 1900
  Reproduced with acknowledgement to National Library of Scotland

Here is a view of Wilson's horse-drawn darkroom, parked outside the hotel in Princes Street from which he took his instantaneous views.

Princes Street  -  Looking west along Princes Street from Waverlwy  -  c. 1860

Other photos from the same location

G W Wilson appears to have swung his camera through 45 degrees to look to the south-west to take other views from the same location  -  looking across Waverley Bridge towards the Old Town of Edinburgh.

GW Wilson stereo card - Waverley Bridge and Old Town from Princes Street       GW Wilson stereo card - Waverley Bridge and Old Town from Princes Street


G W Wilson


GWW in Edinburgh

Photos and Albums

Post Cards

Photo: Burns Monument

Photo: Princes Street

Photo:  Dean Bridge

Lantern Slide

Stereo Views - List

Stereo Views - Thumbnails

GWW's Instantaneous Views:      Comparison of photos      Location

All Stereo Views:         Background        List of Publishers        Thumbnails