Photographic Collection


Photographic Collection


A separate shelf-mark was created for new acquisitions of photographic material in all formats in 1978 by rare book curators. At present this contains around 400 separate items, dating from the 1840s onwards: positive silver prints (of all processes), photomechanical prints; waxed-paper, film and glass negatives; lantern slides, miscellaneous albums, and photographically illustrated books. The collection contains a total of around 10,000 photographic images and is augmented through donation and purchase, with an emphasis on Scottish material in general and on photographically illustrated books. The earliest item in the collection is a copy of William Henry Fox Talbot's 'Sun Pictures in Scotland' (London, 1845), containing 23 salted-paper prints from calotypes made during a tour of Scotland in 1844. Another important item in the collection was purchased in 2002 when the Library acquired at auction, with financial assistance from various bodies including the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Art Fund, one of two surviving albums containing salt paper prints made by members of the Edinburgh Calotype Club, the oldest photographic club in the world, founded around 1843. The collection also contains four albums owned by James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863), who was appointed Viceroy and Governor General of India in 1861, and his son the 9th Earl. These albums, purchased with assistance from the Art Fund, contain rare early photographs of India and elsewhere in East Asia (, 28-29,

Within the collection are three acquisitions of smaller photograph collections: the photographs from the collection of Louis Baume (shelfmark: – see Baume Collection), the Dale collection and the Rushbrook photographs of the South Side of Edinburgh. The Dale collection (shelfmark: is a small collection of black and white photographs of views of Scotland, dated from 1914 to 1932, from the archive of the Glasgow-based firm Millar & Lang. The firm was a publisher of postcards, wedding stationery, greetings cards and calendars; it went into liquidation in 1982. The collection was donated in 2003 by Mr Colin Dale, whose father, Bert, worked as a sales manager for Millar and Lang. The Rushbrook collection (shelfmark: is a collection of 138 black-and-white half-plate gelatin-silver prints from photographs taken in 1927-29 by Alfred Henry Rushbrook (1867-1937) on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Improvement Trust. Rushbrook was born in London and moved to Edinburgh in 1885. He worked as a commercial photographer and set up a successful business, the Grange Photo Works in Causewayside, before moving to a studio in Nicolson Street in the mid-1920s. The photographs in the collection show tenements and shops around the St Leonards area before the buildings were pulled down for slum clearance. They are part of the same photographic tradition as Thomas Annan and Archibald Burns, who both worked on similar civic projects in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively during the late nineteenth century. Most of the images record the buildings and street life of the city and are fascinating for recording contemporary shop front design and advertising hoardings.


Volumes have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'Phot.'. Individual photographs within volumes have not been catalogued.


The collection has been built up through purchase and donation. Photography-related items have also been transferred from other Library shelfmarks.

Related collections

The Library has nearly 400,000 photographs in its collections; in addition to the Phot. collection, there is the MacKinnon Collection and there are several thousand photographs held in the Library's archive and manuscript collections, as well as photographically illustrated books acquired over the last 170 years which are held throughout the printed collections of the Library.


'Recent Acquisitions of Travel Photography by the National Library of Scotland', R Ovenden, Scottish Photography Bulletin, 2 (1992), 11-20.

Online resources

Photographs in the Library's collections

Pencils of light: the albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club

Rushbrook Collection: photographs of the South Side of Edinburgh