Panorama of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, by Robert Barker (1739-1806)

Scope and Content

This is an incomplete non-aqua-tinted version of the earliest panorama view - and a modest panorama. The panorama is composed of only four of the full collection of a six part set.

The panorama shows (when the parts are laid adjacent to each other, and from right to left):

  • - Calton Hill, and the Observatory there, looking east towards Berwick Law and the Forth estuary
  • - Towards Leith, fields, to the Forth, and across to Fife
  • - Top end of what is today Leith Walk, across to the Inverlieth area, the Forth, and across to Fife
  • - (not included in the set)
  • - High Street from Tron Church to the edge of Holyrood Park, looking south
  • - (not included in the set)

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Barker was an Irish artist, born in 1739. He worked in Edinburgh in the late 18th century and invented the 'panorama' concept - a 360 degree view designed to be placed round the inside of a cylinder and viewed from the centre. The word was taken from the Greek 'pan', 'all', and 'horama', a view (from 'horan', to see). This type of illustration caught the public imagination and panorama viewing establishments soon opened in London, Paris and New York, and with the panoramas growing in size all the time. In the US they were often called 'cycloramas', a term which was first recorded from the 1840s.

In London, Barker panoramas were exhibited at an establishment in Castle Street, off Leicester Square. The first being a view of London from the roof of the Albion Mills, in 1791. Later on, from 1793, Barker panoramas moved to the first purpose-built panorama building in the world, in Leicester Square, London.

Robert Barker died in 1806.

Access Information

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

We strongly encourage you to contact us before your visit as special access conditions and restrictions apply to some collections. Please see our information on requesting material

Acquisition Information

Purchased July 2006. Accession no: E2006.22.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using information labels describing a similar aqua-tinted panorama set in Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections, and also numerous web-sites showing Barker panoramas.

Other Finding Aids

None prepared for this collection.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.

Related Material

Special Collections, Edinburgh University Library, also has a 'Panoramic scene of the field of Battle, near Waterloo, for the Panorama, Leicester Square, by Henry Aston Barker' which holds accession no: E2006.41.


Geographical Names