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Category: Photography, National Library of Scotland

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Edinburgh-born John Thomson (1837-1921) was one of the great names of early photography. His photographic legacy is one of astonishing quality and depth.

Thomson's images of China and South-East Asia brought the land, culture, and people of the Far East alive for the 'armchair travellers' of Victorian Britain.

He was one of the pioneers of photojournalism, using his camera to record life on London's streets in the 1870s. As a society photographer he also captured the rich and famous in the years before the First World War.

These pages present a brief introduction to Thomson's work, with examples drawn from the National Library of Scotland's collections.

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The Kirk Papers is a collection of photographs and papers belonging to East Africa pioneer Sir John Kirk. It was acquired for the National Library of Scotland in 1998/1999 with the help of a grant of £55,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Though not as well-known as his friend and fellow-explorer David Livingstone, Kirk was a trail-blazer of empire in East Africa and a man of eminence in his day. Born in Barry, Angus, in 1832, Kirk qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University and then volunteered for medical service in the Crimea. An accomplished botanist, zoologist and diplomat, he was also a talented photographer. This is evident from the collection of over 250 photographs, many of them stunning.

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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.

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