EPS Wednesday Meetings - Overview


The Beginning

From the outset, members of Edinburgh Photographic Society took an interest in pictorial composition, and in Photography and Art. Some lengthy papers were read on the subject, sometimes delivered in parts on different evenings during the lecture season  

W H Davis delivered a lecture spread over two evenings, in Dec 1861 and Mar 1862:

Hints on the Nature of Pictorial Beauty the Principles of  Composition - illustrated by diagrams, photographs and engravings

Practical Demonstrations

The British Journal of Photography gives a reports of the early EPS meetings.  So we learn that Mr Davis’ lecture was followed by discussion of getting all subjects sharp when well arranged for pictorial photography.  Then there were 

practical lessons in grouping, some artists who were present kindly arranging groups of two, three and upwards, explaining the principles of composition involved and further elucidating the points embraced in the paper.

There was another practical demonstration in November 1861, when John Nicol gave an explanation of  Mr Moule’s Patent Photogen.  The British Journal of Photography reported

Mr Nicol briefly explained the nature of this invention showing that a small quantity of a peculiar powder was ignited in the lantern-looking apparatus on a receptacle for the purpose, and the light generated was of such a nature to admit of a photograph being taken with an ordinary camera in little more than a dozen seconds.  Some gentlemen selected from the audience then sat for their portraits.

Photography and Art

Three of the lecture evenings in the 1868-69 season discussed Art and Photography:

On the Importance of a few of the Leading Principles of the Art of Drawing and their bearing on Photography: [Norman Macbeth: Nov 1868 + Dec 1868]

followed by:

Some Remarks on the Macbeth Paper and the mutual reactions of Pictorial Art and Photography on one another. [Robert H Bow: March 1869]

More Experiments

We are reminded of some of the dangers of photography by Mr Nicol’s lecture in 1865:

On the Manufacture of Oxygen, with Special Reference to the late Fatal Accident in Manchester  [illustrated with some convincing experiments]

In April 1863, George Ballantyne delivered a paper then took a photograph of a bust illuminated by the electric light.  His paper was entitled:

On Electro-Photography with some remarks on Ozone.

Mr Bow went to considerable trouble in 1865 to illustration of 

The Application of Ordinary Gas to Portrait Photography. 

He reported that experiments had shown 

with the lenses and chemicals such as they were about to use, the production of a negative required the proper burning of about 9 cubic feet of gas which cost about a halfpenny.  

Twenty nine No 2 fish-tail burners were arranged, which would consume 9 cubic feet in seven to eight minutes.” 

It was reported that:

"Mr McGlashan and Mr Davies got a plate ready then took an 8 minute exposure of W Neilson."


Many of the lectures dealt with processing, and the relative advantages of wet and dry plates.  Lectures on wet plates at the start of the 1860s gave way to lectures on dry plates by the end of the decade.  Processing was still experimental with lecture titles including:

  Experiments in Printing with Solutions of Various Strengths on  Soluble and Insoluble Paper 

·    On the Influence of Other Nitrates than that of Silver in the Printing Bath

·    Uses and Reactions of Nitrate of Ammonia  in the Printing Bath 

·    Some Recent Photographic experiments

In the last of these Papers, J G Tunny described

a method of preventing the darkening of negatives after intensification by Bicarbonate of Mercury, by the application of Cyanide of Potassium” 


a method of preventing the albumen from sinking into the paper by first saturating the paper with paraffin”.

Lectures were also delivered on:

-   The Collodian Process

-   The Tannin Process

-   The Fothergill Process

-   The Coffee Process

-   The Hot Water Process.  

Lecture titles included:

- On Printing Photographs on Prepared Printers Canvas and Similar Surfaces

The Preparation of Artificial Ivory  Illustrations of Woodbury’s Photo-relief Printing


On 6 September 1865, Mr Chapham of Leith exhibited and explained a new camera which he had invented for working wet collodion in the field without tent or dark box.  

Ten days later, Mr Chapham took this camera on EPS’s last outing of the summer season to Stenhouse Mills.  Other members of the Society were impressed that he travelled lightly, They reported that he took 

“a bottle of collodion in his pocket, the plate box strapped on his shoulder and the camera which is a square box not much larger than the size of a plate in one hand, and the tripod in the other - and that is all.”

In 1867, Mr Davies exhibited

a number of photographs of the eclipse of the Sun, taken by him that morning  with an exposure of 1/10 of a second to 4 seconds”.

Several items of equipment were demonstrated at the Society’s meetings in the 1860s, including:

-   Sarony’s Posing Apparatus.

-   A New Tent for Photographic Purposes mounted on a Wheelbarrow.

-    The Grisdale Washing Machine.

Andrew Pringle read a report on the Grisdale Washing Machine which was

generally to the effect that it had failed in their hands.  Although he thought the principle good, the mechanical parts were weak and had broken down.”

The Velocipede

In 1869, Dr Nicol read a paper on a subject that was being discussed in the photographic journals:  The Velocipede as an Adjunct to Landscape Photography.  It was reported that:

"A few observations on the subject were made by Mr Slight (who for photographic purposes preferred three wheels), Mr Davies (who preferred none), Mr Muir, Mr McGlashon, Mr Low, Mr Pringle and other gentlemen."

The Society’s Album

In 1869, Mr  J H Douglas exhibited a number of prints

 “taken on Obernettes prepared paper and toned in various ways"  

By this time the Society possessed a photographic album, so several of these photos were placed in the album  "to undergo the test of time.”


The lists of Wednesday evening lectures on this site have been compiled from a variety of sources including manuscript notes.  Some of these records contained a number of inconsistencies, particularly for the 1860s. In some cases several different titles were given for the same lecture.  In other cases there was a little ambiguity over the date that the lecture was given, so some of the dates on this site may be 'one year out'.  As I continue my research, I will check and update these records.


EPS Wednesday Meetings - Index