This volume of twenty-two mounted calotypes is the third book of
photographic illustrations to be published and the first such to be devoted to
the monuments and scenery of just one city, St. Andrews, Scotland. David
Octavius Hill was a painter and illustrator and learned the art of calotype
photography from Robert Adamson (1821-1848), with whom he first teamed in 1843,
to tackle a daunting group portrait project. Adamson had been trained by his
brother, John, who had learned the process from Sir David Brewster, a friend of
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), the inventor of negative-to-positive paper photography.
The Views of St. Andrews has a printed title-page but no table of
contents. There are fewer than ten copies recorded, and each differs in
assortment and number of images. The calotypes in the Avery copy have faded, as
is usual. Alas, the ephemeral medium eerily seems to suit the medieval ruins,
nineteenth-century fisher folk, and top-hatted gentlemen depicted. Too fragile
for exhibition, the book is preserved and made available through study prints.
Avery acquired this volume early on from a London bookseller. For years it
sat on the open shelves, classed with other books on Scotland's cities, more a
novelty, perhaps, than a "treasure." Today, as photomechanical processes in book
illustration give way to digital ones, the significance of this volume is obvious.