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Archibald Burns

His comments on printing skies

Archibald Burns' views on printing skies are expressed in a letter to the South London Photographic Society, published in British Journal of Photography on 16 March 1863.

He wrote:

4, Calton Hill


10 February 1863

George Wharton Simpson, Esq.,  London

DEAR SIR,  -  In compliance with your note of the 6th inst., I send by this post as many of the card view of Edinburgh as I have ready, viz. two dozen;  and as I expect they will reach you in the course of to-morrow, they will, I hope, be in good time for the South London Society's first meeting.

With regard to a paper for the Society, on obtaining cloud negatives and printing-in skies, I fear I cannot do anything in that way.  What little I do know on the subject is just what has appeared in the News and other journals and a mere compilation by such an indifferent hand would not profitably occupy the time of the South London Photographic Society

The card picture is printed from a stereo. negative obtained by the ordinary Fothergill process very early (about 5a.m.) one morning in June last.  The exposure, with a pair of Horne and Thornthwhaite's small view lenses and small stop, from beginning to end occupied sixty seconds; but the whole plate did not receive so much time, the lens being opened and closed very slowly by a shutter inside the camera, so that the immediate foreground would receive at least double the exposure of the distant castle &c.  In this way I sometimes manage to obtain natural skies;  and in the negative referred to, all the clouds present at the time may be seen in the negative, but too dense to print with the rest of the picture.

I shall send another dozen or two as soon as I can get them ready unless advised to the contrary.

Yours respectfully


[BJP:  16 March 1963,  p.125]


Archibald Burns

Professional Photographer

Archibald Burns began as an amateur photographer in the 1850s or earlier.  He first appeared in the Edinburgh trade directories as a professional photographer in 1867.  His cartes de visite advertised:

"Copies up to life size printed in silver or carbon

& finished in oils or water colour."



Landscape and Urban Photographer

From 1871, Archibald Burns was a landscape photographer, based who worked from Rock House, which he shared initially with the Annan family in 1871

He took 26 photographs for the Edinburgh Improvement Trust, showing buildings in the old closes between the University and Cowgate, photographed as they were about to be demolished.  He was paid £16 7s 0d for these photographs.  These photographs were published in a book entitled “Picturesque Bits of Old Edinburgh. 


Stereo Prints

Stereo photographs of John Knox House, Royal Mile, Edinburgh - by Archibald Burns.

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact

A stereo pair of photographs by Archibald Burns, showing John Knox House in the Royal Mile, running from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood.  This scene looks very similar today.


Archibald Burns  -  Cartes de Visite


In 1859, Archibald Burns sent some of his stereograms to Photographic News, edited by William Crookes, in 1859.  The article in Photographic News said:

“If we are to take these stereograms as a fair average specimen of his skill, -he deserves to take as high a rank among photographers as his celebrated namesake among poets.”      [PNe:25/11/1859] 

Some examples of Burns' stereotype views of Edinburgh can be found in the Victoria & Albert collection.  Others appear on this site



Archibald Burns died, aged 49 on 29 January 1880, at Rock House in Edinburgh.  He was married to Janet Goss.

Father:  Robert Burns, West Machan, Hamilton, Landed Proprietor

Stepfather:  John Findlater

[Death Certificate]



Archibald Burns



Studios  Addresses and Dates

Amateur Photographer

Professional Photographer

Burns' comments on printing skies


Albumen Prints

Picturesque 'Bits' from Old Edinburgh


13 Photographs

Photographs of Edinburgh
with Distinctive Letter Press 
-  2 editions


Edinburgh Old Town, 1871

Photos for the Old Town Improvement Trust


Cartes de Visite

4 views of Edinburgh

Castle from East Gardens

Scott Monument


Stereo Cards:

Background and Thumbnails

Stereo Views - Inchkeith

Stereo Views - John Knox House

Stereo Views - Other Edinburgh

Stereo Views  [large]  -   John Knox House

Stereo Views  [large]  -  Other Edinburgh