James Howie


Early Photographer

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Animal and Portrait Painter

Neighbours in Princes Street

Daguerreotype Exhibition - 1839

Professional Photographer - 1840?


 Animal & Portrait Painter

James Howie

James Howie was born in Brechin, Forfarshire in 1791.

 [Obituary: The Scotsman: 29 Dec 1858]

He moved to Edinburgh, becoming an animal and portrait painter in 1823, based first at 8 North Bridge, then at several addresses in Princes Street.

He exhibited around a dozen paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy exhibitions between 1823 and 1834.

Here is one of his later paintings.

A painting of a hores by the early Edinburgh photographer and artist, James Howie. ©

James Howe

NOTE:  Do not confuse this James Howie, Animal and Portrait Painter and early photographer, with the more famous Edinburgh Portrait, Animal and Historical Painter, James Howe (1780-1836).

In fact, James Howe sometimes signed himself, James Howe. [John Malden, The Paxton Trust, Berwick-upon-Tweed]

James Howe was born in Skirling, Peeblesshire.  He was apprenticed to the Norie family in Edinburgh.  He travelled to London in 1806 but failed to get royal patronage so returned to Edinburgh where he worked for most of his career.

He painted animal subjects and also huge panoramas of the Battle of Waterloo and Quatre Bras.

Notes on James Howe (above) are taken from catalogues of City of Edinburgh Art Collection.


Neighbours in Princes Street

Nos 64, 65, 66

In the late 1830s, James Howie had lived for several years at 64 Princes Street, an address that he shared with a saddler, a watchmaker and a firm of hatters.  At No 65 was a surgeon dentist, a firm of dyers and the engraver Robert Scott.

Two doors to the west of Howie, at No 66 lived a bird-stuffer.  He  was a freed Guyanan slave  (though possibly African in origin) named John Edmonstone, who for an hour every day for two months, for a charge of one guinea, showed Charles Darwin how to skin and dry birds.

Please see here for further details of John Edmonstone.

 [Ref:  Charles Darwin Voyaging, p.66 by Janet Browne:  Acknowledgement: Fraser MacLean]

No 68

In 1841, James Howie moved to No 68 Princes Street, an address that he shared with a fishing tackle maker, stay maker, watchmaker, writing master and dentist.  He remained at this address for only about a year before moving to 45 Princes Street where he opened his rooftop studio.


Daguerreotype Exhibition - 1839

In 1839, the same year as Talbot and Daguerre announced their discoveries of photography, James Howie had begun to make daguerreotypes. 

He placed an advertisement in The Scotsman  on 15 October 1839, announcing the opening of an exhibition of his work at 64 Princes Street.


Mr Howie, artist, 64 Princes Street, begs leave respectfully to inform the Nobility, Gentry and Public, that he has succeeded in producing some beautiful specimens in the above 


the first public exhibition of its kind in Scotland

[The Scotsman:  15 October 1839]



Professional Photographer - from 1840?

Princes Street Studio

James Howie was the first photographer to set up a studio in Princes Street.  The exact date that the studio was established is not clear.

Further Research Needed

The adverts on the back of his cartes-de-visite originally said “Established 1839” but several years later, after producing about 30,000 portraits, he changed this to read “Established 1840”.  This change seems to have occurred some time between negative  26311 and negative 34158, but I don't know the dates of these two negatives. 

In his book, History of Photography, Gernsheim suggests a date of 1841, but gives no source for this date.  Further research is needed.

It would be interesting to find the exact date that Howie opened his first studio in Princes Street and, in particular, whether it could have been before spring 1841 – the date when Gernsheim states that Europe’s first public portrait studio was on the rooftop of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London.

Rooftop Studio  -  1845

Ebsworth featured James Howie's rooftop studio in his view looking to the North, from the recently constructed Scott Monument in 1845.

Howie's Rooftop Studio

45 Princes Street

   James Howie's rooftop studio ©

The Howie Family  -  More Pages


James 1791

James Jr 1820

James 1845





John and J


Cartes de Visite



James Jun



Howie & Bonne


Exhibition 1839

Studio 1845

Studio 1840

Glasgow & Edinburgh

Studio Dates

Cartes de Visite

J Howie Jun + Questions

Group of 20 men

Group of 42 men

Cabinet Prints

J Howie Jun -

6 Edinburgh Medical Students


J Howie Jun

Description of a photo

Possibly Family


Adverts and Directories

Adverts - 1849-59

Adverts - 1860-99

Princes Street Addresses


Other Pages





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