Edinburgh Calotype Club
The Edinburgh Calotype Club (1843-c.1850s) was the first photographic club in the world. Its members consisted of pioneering photographers primarily from Edinburgh and St. Andrews. The efforts of the Club's members resulted in the production of two of the world's earliest assembled photographic albums, consisting of more than 300 images.
The group was formed after the introduction of calotype photography to Edinburgh gentlemen by Sir David Brewster, then Principal of the colleges of St Salvator and St Leonard at St. Andrews and also a close friend of the inventor of the calotype process, William Henry Fox Talbot. Talbot sent Brewster examples of his work well before publishing on his findings, and it was Brewster who suggested that Talbot only patent his invention in England, and not Scotland, which eventually allowed for the club's formation.
Talbot sent Brewster examples of his calotype photography, but Brewster had to turn to a colleague at St. Andrews, the Professor of Chemistry Dr. John Adamson, in order to discover how to reproduce his friend's process. Although John Adamson was the first person in Scotland to use calotype photography, it was his brother, Robert, who was to take up photography as a passion and a profession, eventually establishing Scotland's first photographic studio with painter and pioneering photographer David Octavius Hill.
A visit from James Francis Montgomery, who was studying for the bar in Edinburgh, and a group of friends who were interested in Brewster's and John Adamson's reproduction of the calotype process allegedly led to the formation of the Edinburgh Calotype Club itself.
The membership of the Club was composed of professional gentlemen from a variety of backgrounds - including clerics, academics, physicians - in both Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Meetings of the club are described as being generally informal, and retrospective on the Club from an 1874 edition of The British Journal of Photography states that had "neither laws, office-bearers, or formalities of any kind":
"The meetings were held periodically at the houses of the members alternately, and generally each took the form of a breakfast, although when some greater step than ordinary had been made in advance it was generally honoured by being introduced to the members at a formal dinner."
Despite the lack of records, the names of eight members have been traced, and the albums themselves include the names of five members as well as a number of associates.
The club's membership included many notable figures of the time, particularly from Edinburgh and St. Andrews, including:
- John Adamson (1810-1870), doctor and chemist in St. Andrews
- David Brewster (1781-1868), Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, and writer
- Cosmo Innes (1798-1874), Scottish historian and antiquary
- James Francis Montgomery (1818-1897), advocate and cleric
- Mark Napier (1798-1879), historian
- Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786-1861), Provost of St. Andrews
- William Fox Talbot (1800-1877), British inventor and pioneer of photography
- George Moir (1800-1870), Scottish advocate and author
The Edinburgh Calotype Club continued meeting until sometime in the 1850s; although the exact date when it ceased to exist is not known, curators at the National Library of Scotland suggest that it was likely around the mid 1850s, "when the albumen and collodion processes superseded the calotype... The Edinburgh Calotype Club had, in a sense, outlived its usefulness." The development of newer photographic technologies meant that photography was opened to a wider audience, and "spread like wildfire over the country."
Some members of the Club, in particular David Brewster, George Moir and Cosmo Innes, went on to become active in the later Photographic Society of Scotland that was founded in 1856. Brewster became the President of the Photographic Society of Scotland, Moir one of its two vice presidents, and Innes a council member.
- "History". Pencils of Light: The Albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
- A.D., Morrison-Low. "Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
- "An Hundred Pictures in Calotype by Hill & Adamson". Capital Collections. Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
- J.T. Taylor et al. (ed.). The British Journal of Photography, Volume XXI. London: Henry Greenwood. p. 385. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
- Stubbs, Peter. "PSS History". Edinphoto.org.uk. Retrieved 2 November 2013.