Archibald Burns' photos in the books:

Picturesque 'Bits' from

Old Edinburgh


Fifteen Albumen Prints

This book was published in Edinburgh and London in 1868.  It has fifteen original albumen photographs by Archibald Burns tipped in, and a descriptive and historical notes by Thomas Henderson.

Several of the views are of well known scenes, such as the Netherbow and John Knox House.  I particularly like his  three views of the Cowgate.


Historical Notes

The historical notes in the book are interesting, especially as Archibald Burns was later to produce a series of photos of the area around Chamber Street and the Cowgate, before its demolition.

Thomas Henderson's remarks began:

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time

"Twenty years have passed since Daniel Wilson published his most interesting and complete "Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time".  Twice, twenty years ago Robert Chambers collected the "Traditions" that still lingered in its ancient streets; and so graphically related them, that the denizens of bygone days seemed to live and move once more in their old abodes.  The one re-edified the ancient city, the other re-peopled it.

A decade of years in the nineteenth century often produces as many changes as a century did in former times; and probably in [an]other twenty years, Edinburgh of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries will have passed away entirely.

Already, very many of the buildings referred to by these authors have gone  -  some which were used as guides to assist in the search for others have been removed, making the description of those that remain somewhat obscure, and discovery often so difficult as to necessitate resource to the advice of the Russian sign-post, "This road leads to the town:  all persons who cannot read this might apply to the Blacksmith."

Many of those still in existence are also threatened with destruction in the course of contemplated city improvements; and each year now requires its own guide-book, so quickly does the new appear and the old pass away.

To preserve a slight record of some of these vestiges is the object of this little book; which pretends to be nothing more than a few Photographs of the most picturesque "bits" in the "auld towne" that might be of interest to the antiquary or of use to the artist  -  and which could be got within the camera's range.

While the draughtsman can generally choose his own point of view, and may "humour" his sketch. it must be remembered the photographer has not the same license, but must "take" things as they are, and "nothing extenuate".

Thus many objects which it might have been desirable to include, have of necessity been omitted here; and of others it may be said, that the point of view from which they are taken was only considered the best  -  within reach.

Photography is seldom more successful than in the representation of architectural subjects, and the sun which for so many centuries looked down on the storied streets of this old Capital, has in this nineteenth century been discovered to be their truest limner."