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Thomas Annan of Glasgow

Lionel Gossman

Prefatory Note and Acknowledgments

Lionel Gossman

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  • 1 Brassaï, Proust in the Power of Photography, trans. Richard Howard (Chicago: University of Chicago (...)

In his battle against Time, that enemy of our precarious existence [...], it was in photography, also born of an age-old longing to halt the moment, to wrest it from the flux of “durée” in order to “fix” it forever in a semblance of eternity, that Proust found his best ally.
– Brassaï1

  • 2 Thanks probably to an original donation by Princeton graduate David H. McAlpin 3rd, who also endow (...)

1When I graduated from Glasgow University in 1951, my parents followed the then common practice of having a graduation portrait made of me dressed in (rented) academic gown and holding my diploma. To this end I was sent off to the studio of T. & R. Annan in Sauchiehall Street in the heart of the city. Some years later I became aware of the most admired of the photographic works of Thomas Annan, who had founded the firm in the 1850s, namely his still quite frequently discussed and reproduced images of the slums of Glasgow (The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871). But it was only in the spring of 2014 that, thanks to Julie Mellby, Princeton University’s Graphic Arts librarian, I learned of the treasure trove of early photographic albums by Annan in Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection.2 Julie urged me to write an article for the Princeton University Library Chronicle with a view to acquainting the Friends of the Library, for whom the Chronicle is primarily intended, with these unusual and rare works — available only in microform even in most leading University libraries — and with Annan’s achievement as a photographer. As a native Glaswegian, I could hardly pass up the opportunity of spreading the word about Annan, even though, as a retired professor of French literature, I was also acutely conscious of my limited familiarity with the history of photography and with the major issues in the field. As my interest in the topic broadened, however, what was to have been a short essay of 20-30 pages grew into a considerably longer study — one, moreover, for which I collected many illustrations. Since neither the longer study nor the large number of illustrations I had selected could be accommodated by the Chronicle (even in the form of an online portfolio), it became necessary to restrict the Chronicle essay to a single work of Annan’s and to seek other publishing opportunities for the full study. Open Book Publishers was an obvious choice for me. Since my retirement in 1999, I have worked with this innovative publisher on four books and I enthusiastically support the company’s Open Access policy.

2The chief purpose of these brief prefatory remarks is to acknowledge with gratitude both the unfailing support of my colleagues at Princeton — Julie Mellby, Gretchen Oberfranc, the editor of the Princeton University Library Chronicle, and Steve Ferguson, the Curator of Rare Books and Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections — and the invaluable advice and assistance I have received from leading experts in the field, notably Ray McKenzie, recently retired from the faculty of the Glasgow School of Art, Tom Normand of the University of St. Andrews, and Roddy Simpson, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Culture and Creative Arts at the University of Glasgow. I am also much indebted to helpful librarians at Glasgow University Library, St. Andrews University Library, Princeton University Library and the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. I would like to offer special thanks to Mary Clare Altenhof and her staff at the Fine Arts Library of Harvard University for their assistance, encouragement and interest in the project, and to curators at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the photographic collection at St. Andrews University, the Capital Collections of the City of Edinburgh Council, the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, the Glasgow Museums and the Perth Museum and Art Gallery for generously permitting me to use, at no cost, reproductions of artworks in their collections. I am also glad of the opportunity to record my appreciation of the liberal policy in accordance with which the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Library of Congress and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York permit the use, for non-commercial purposes, of images posted on their websites.

3Finally, I am greatly indebted, as on previous occasions, to Alessandra Tosi of Open Book Publishers for her tireless collaboration and sound advice, to her assistant Bianca Gualandi, who worked heroically on the illustrations, to my copy-editor Ben Fried, and to Stephen Bann, one of the readers of the manuscript, for some stimulating suggestions. OBP joins with me in thanking the University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Princeton for their continued support.

4Princeton, April 2015


1 Brassaï, Proust in the Power of Photography, trans. Richard Howard (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001; orig. French ed., 1997), p. xi. My thanks to my colleague Suzanne Nash for alerting me to Brassaï’s book.

2 Thanks probably to an original donation by Princeton graduate David H. McAlpin 3rd, who also endowed the Chair of Photography in the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University Library has an outstanding collection of rare albums and published volumes by Annan. Holdings include The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow in both the extremely rare (four or five copies) album of 1871 and the very limited (100 copies) photogravure edition put out by Annan’s son, James Craig Annan, in 1900; an album of Photographs of Glasgow College (1866), as well as copy no. 150 of University of Glasgow Old and New (1891), an updated edition in 350 copies, containing photogravure prints of many of Annan’s original photographs in the 1866 album and in the later Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow (1871); Photographs of the Clyde, with Descriptive Letterpress (1867); Illustrated Catalogue of the Exhibition of Portraits on Loan in the New Galleries of Art (1868); The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry (both 1st ed., 1870 and 2nd ed., 1878); Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire (1885); and Views on the Line of the Loch Katrine Water Works (1859) in the later 1889 edition entitled Photographic Views of Loch Katrine.


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