Edis Negatives

Scope and Content

The negatives in the University Library's collection span the full period of the firm's long existence in Durham. They are a selection from the firm's stock, made at the time it was being wound up, and represent an attempt to pick out negatives relating to the city of Durham, people associated with it and places near it. The selection includes many buildings now demolished or much altered.

Outside Durham, there are negatives of Newton Hall and Coxhoe Hall, collieries in the Durham neighbourhood, miners' cottages, council housing, road works, bridge repairs, and engineering and industrial subjects commissioned by Durham County Council and other institutions and companies, including Siemens of Hartlepool and Spennymoor.

Two small groups added to the collection as gifts by Dr. C.W. Gibby are entirely unconnected with the Edis firm - about 20 stereoscopic negatives from the 1860's, and about 50 glass negatives mainly of Durham castle and cathedral taken by Reuben Green, a butler at Durham castle in the first half of the 20th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Reed Edis (1860-1942) was one of the first students to train as a photographer at Quintin Hogg's newly founded Polytechnic in London. In the 1890s he set up business in Durham, becoming official photographer to the Dean and Chapter, the University and its colleges, and Durham School. He also established a reputation as a landscape photographer. After his death in 1942, the firm was carried on until 1964 by his daughter Daisy Edis, Mrs Spence, who had joined him in the business in 1901 and who became a specialist in portrait photography.


The collection was arranged by Dr C.W. Gibby, and follows an alpha-mnemonic scheme which he devised, although its execution lacks consistency. Material on Durham castle is grouped in class Ca and on Durham cathedral in class Ch. Portraits and groups are in class Pi. Class X contains negatives of subjects unidentified at that time.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the University Library, together with the copyright, in 1964. Three small groups of additions were subsequently presented by Dr. C.W. Gibby and Prof. F. Spooner.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue, available at online catalogue, compiled from existing word-processed list, in shelf order, with subject index. Complete visual index of 5 x 3 inch prints, which are also available as online images within online list.

Separated Material

Other negatives from the Edis firm's stock were acquired by Durham Cathedral Library, the University of Durham's Archaeology Dept, and Beamish North of England Museum.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

University of Durham Department of Archaeology Photographic Deposit includes a number of glass negatives from the Edis firm's stock.


Rainey, E., The Edis Negatives Collection in Durham University Library, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, 6 (1982), 75.