The Dougan Collection of the photographic work of David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and other pioneers of photography

Scope and Content

The collection consists of:

  • 493 paper negatives
  • 324 glass negatives
  • 411 original calotypes and 459 later prints.

It is accompanied by 107 bound volumes, including over 20 albums containing examples of the work of many of the pioneers of photography

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection of photographs by (1802-1870) David Octavius Hill and other pioneers of photography was collated by Robert Ormes Dougan. Robert Dougan was born in 1904  in Ilford, Essex, England. He became a librarian holding posts as the city librarian in Perth, Scotland; deputy librarian at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland; and librarian at the Henry E Huntington Library, California. He died in California in 1999 .

Landscape and portrait painter, David Octavius Hill was born in 1802 . He is best known to history as a pioneer photographer. He was the first artist to apply the new invention of photography to portraiture, and many of the calotypes which he made of eminent figures are now a valued part of the national photographic archive. Hill had a studio on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland and was closely associated in his photographic work with Robert Adamson, of St Andrews, Scotland.

Hill and Adamson formed a partnership in somewhat odd circumstances. In May 1843 , four hundred ministers - a third of the entire church - signed a Deed of Demission, resigning their livings and establishing the Free Church of Scotland. Hill announced the undertaking of a great commemorative painting of the event, to include all those present, which would be the basis of an engraving. As the many ministers would soon scatter throughout Scotland, it was Hill's friend, Sir David Brewster, who suggested a way to make the recording practical. Brewster introduced Hill to Adamson and overcame the artist's scepticism as to the value of photography. The two men soon entered into an enthusiastic partnership. In their photography, Hill and Adamson produced calotype negatives. These were made on sheets of writing paper treated with light sensitive chemicals. Exposure times could run into several minutes in sunlight. The cameras were necessarily bulky as enlarging was not possible. The negative, which had to be the size of the final print, was printed by contact in full sunlight on a hand coated salt paper. Each negative and print had its own character. The prints were typically purple to reddish brown in tone, emphasising broad masses of detail. The partnership was brought to an end by the sudden death of Adamson in 1848  although Hill continued to work as a photographer.

Hill died in 1870  and is buried in the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, where there is a bronze bust of him by his widow.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Purchase : Robert Ormes Dougan : 1953 : ACCN 4317

Other Finding Aids

The bound albums and volumes have been added to the Glasgow University Library online catalogue and can be found via by searching for the call reference Sp Coll Dougan

Unpublished typescript inventory of negatives and prints available in the searchroom

See also the Hill and Adamson dedicated web pages at and the illustrated online catalogue available at

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Compiled by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 25 March 2002

No alterations made to date

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Head of Special Collections

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures

Custodial History

Collected by Robert Ormes Dougan


None expected

Related Material

GB 247 MS Gen 1585 Correspondence concerning the acquisition of the photographic collection of Robert Dougan


Catalogue of an exhibition of the works of David Octavius Hill, RSA, in the Hunterian Museum 11 May - 5 June 1954 (Glasgow, 1954)

Margaret F MacDonald , Sun pictures and other historic photographs (Glasgow, 1983) Exhibition catalogue

Geographical Names