This album shows a collection of photographs known as calotypes. The work was produced by the music publisher and writer John Muir Wood. Wood was born in Edinburgh in 1805. He was educated in music, initially in Edinburgh but then in Paris and Vienna. When he returned to Scotland, after some time spent on literary work in London, he became director of a branch of his family firm, J. Muir Wood & Co, in Glasgow. The album contains calotype portraits of John Muir Wood, seated on a chair.
The calotype is an early form of photographic process developed by William Henry Fox-Talbot. He developed a process which allowed for the first time, photographic images to be printed onto paper and for images to be reproduced for commercial purposes. The calotype term refers to the negative which the camera produces; the picture is produced by placing the negative onto salted paper. Finished pictures would develop in the warm sepia colour we associate with early photography but they were fragile pieces, tending towards blurring and fading.
Some of the early pioneers of this type of photography can be found here within the album. In addition to the calotypes of John Muir Wood, examples of calotype work from the artists, David Octavius Hill, James Eckford Lauder and Joseph Cundell [possibly Cundall] are found in the album. The exact dates of these pictures are unclear. The calotype process was developed around 1834 and these artists were believed to be working with this process in the period between1840-1857, so most of the calotypes from the John Muir Wood Album are thought to be within this date range. The subjects of the works in this album vary from local peoples, places as near as Holyrood Palace and as far as Paris, and they illustrate the society surrounding Wood and his fellow artists at the time of production.
One of the artists whose work is featured in the album, James Eckford Lauder, is thought to be the owner of the album and was initially also thought to be the main artist due to the type-written index bearing the name 'James Eckford Lauder, Album of Calotypes'. The album's spine also bears the name of Lauder. The album was donated to Edinburgh City Libraries in March 1955 by a relative, Mrs Lauder-Thomson.
View our exhibition, Partnership of Genius
for more work by David Octavius Hill and other pioneering Scottish photographers.