Pencils of Light – the albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club

The National Library of Scotland has a fantastic collection of early photographs taken in Scotland Belgium, Italy and Malta.

St. John's Chapel, West End Princes Street, Edinburgh.
Photographed by Hugh Lyon Tennent (1817-1874) and Robert Tennent (1813-1890)

These two albums of the Edinburgh Calotype Club, the first photographic club in the world, are among the earliest photograph albums in the world ever assembled. They contain over 300 images by a group of pioneering Scottish photographers working in Edinburgh and St. Andrews.

South Street, St. Andrews.
Photographed by Hugh Lyon Tennent (1817-1874) and Robert Tennent (1813-1890)

The calotype process was discovered by William Henry Fox Talbot; Talbot’s friends coined the term Talbotype. The calotype process was novel in a number of ways. It can be regarded as a direct forerunner of modern photography with its use of both a negative and a positive; the paper negative was the earliest process to allow the manufacture of several prints and it was also the first paper process- its predecessor, the daguerreotype, primarily used for portraiture, was printed onto a silvered copper surface.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 - 1877)

The albums can be browsed or searched and contain a number of images taken around Edinburgh, Fife and Ayrshire.


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