Nicol PhD was a frequent lecturer to Edinburgh Photographic Society from
1861, the year the Society was established, until 1878.
was also a regular contributor to the British Journal of Photography
(BJP), writing a column entitled Notes from the North.
1881, he looked back on the early days of photography and paid tribute
to John Thomson. [BJP:
John Nicol wrote:
own headings have been added to the article below.]
by one the pioneers of photography as a profession, and those who
enjoyed the substantial rewards which its practice brought in its halcyon
days, are passing away; and there is, for some of us at least, a tinge
of sadness in the reflection that, yet a little while, and of all who
were privileged to assist at the birth of this beautiful art, there
shall not be one left. ... ...
my last batch of notes were printed, there has been gathered to his
fathers Mr John Thomson, late of the well-known firm of Ross &
Thomson. ... ...
the time that Daguerre's discovery was given to the world, Mr Thomson
was a clerk in his father's office, who was a wine merchant in Leith,
and before any definite information regarding it had reached this
country, he was visited by a friend who had just returned from Paris
from whom he got sufficient information as to the modus operandi to
induce him to attempt a repetition of the Frenchman's experiments; and
having previously been a somewhat diligent student of chemistry he met
with success sufficient to rouse enthusiasm and encourage perseverance.
classic cigar-box and spectacle eye were his first camera and lens, and
a polished and iodised crown-piece was his first plate.
as the daguerreotype picture required, for protection, to be enclosed in
a case ... ... he entered into partnership with a jewel case
manufacturer and thus was formed certainly the first photographic firm
in Scotland - Macmillan & Thomson."
Nicol quotes a date of 1844 or 1845 for the Macmillan & Thomson
partnership. This seems a little late for a first Scottish
photographic firm. James Howie and Thomas Davidson began their photography
around 1840. The Hill & Adamson partnership began in
1843. I have also found reference in the trade directories to
other early partnerships, including Ross
& Bishop in 1844]
& Thomson Partnership
I think in 1847, Mr Thomson became acquainted with Mr James Ross, at
that time a professional artist, the outcome of which was the formation
of the well known firm Ross & Thomson, a firm which by virtue of the
happy union of the great artistic taste and ability of Mr Ross with the
technical skill and chemical knowledge of Mr Thomson, rapidly attained a
popularity that has continued to the present time.
a considerable period the work of the firm was largely confined to
calotype work; but in May 1849 the Queen was graciously pleased to
accept a handsomely-bound collection of their views of Edinburgh
which led to
their appointment as photographers to Her Majesty in Scotland - the
first of such appointments on record. ...
believe this album is probably still in Her Majesty's collection at
few months later, Ross & Thomson took up the albumen process.
John Nicol quoted from a Paper written by James Ross in 1873, which
establishes the date of Ross & Thomson's adoption of the albumen
5th, 1849: Half doz. eggs -
6th, 1849: 3 plates of glass - paid 2s 0d
Nicol reported that after some fifteen or sixteen years of successful
work Mr Thomson retired and was little known beyond his immediate