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Hamish Riley-Smith

Rare Books And Manuscripts

Thomas Annan

Photographs of Glasgow College 1866

Glasgow College as Adam Smith knew it “by far the happiest and most honourable period of my life”

Photographs of Glasgow College. Glasgow, T.Annan [1866]

Oblong folio album, 15.5 x 11.0 ins, original green cloth, a little worn, skilfully rebacked, triple gilt fillets, with the College coat-of-arms in gilt on upper board and lettered in gilt Photographs of Glasgow College, 20 albumen silver prints mounted on cards rectos, [17.1-13.0cm – 19.0-14.0cm] ten with arched tops, card edges gilt, some occasional foxing to endpapers and cards but not affecting images, images clean and crisp.


Probably commissioned by the College, these predate the later publication Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow 1871 which contained 41 photogravure images. Today, in the 21st century, the decision to demolish Glasgow College, would be considered as an act of vandalism.
Thomas Annan [1829-1887] was the pre-eminent photographer of Glasgow at this time.
This album of original albumen images is significant not only in the history of photography but also because every trace of the distinguished College [or University] of Glasgow founded in 1451, which stood on the east side of the High Street for 400 years has disappeared and the site it occupied has been altered beyond recognition. The site was sold to a railway company and became a railway goods yard. It is now derelict. The College left in 1870 and moved to the west end of Glasgow at Gilmore Hill.
The images illustrate where some of the greatest figures of the Scottish Enlightenment worked as lecturers and professors, and in particular Adam Smith, John Anderson, Joseph Black, James Clow, Thomas Craigie, William Cullen, Robert Foulis, Francis Hutcheson, William Leechman, John Millar, James Moor, James Robertson, and John Simson.
In 1751 Adam Smith was appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow College (University of Glasgow) and in 1752 became Professor of Moral Philosophy. He was to remain there until he resigned in February 1764 to become tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch.
Although Glasgow College was relatively remote, it was becoming one of the great educational institutions in these islands. There were only 300 students in Adam Smith’s day. The great majority of the students were apparently young men preparing for the Presbyterian ministry. Adam Smith’s moral philosophy chair never had more than 90 students in the public or 20 in the private class.
At Glasgow he taught logic, jurisprudence and politics. He was a member of the Glasgow Literary Society. In 1755 he lectured to the Cochrane Club on economics. In 1758 he became Quaestor for the University Library and in 1760 was appointed Dean of Arts. In 1761 he became Vice-Rector. He published two articles in the Edinburgh Review in 1755, in 1759 his first book The Theory of Moral Sentiments and in 1761 Considerations concerning the First Formation of Languages in The Phililogical Miscellany.
Adam Smith lived rent free in a house in Professors’ Court at the College, with his mother and his cousin, Janet Douglas.
It was the custom for professors to take students into their houses. The names of the students who boarded with and were supervised by Adam Smith have been lost, other than Henry Herbert (later Lord Porchester) and Thomas Petty-Fitzmaurice.
It was this period at Glasgow College which Adam Smith was later to describe as “the period of thirteen years which I spent as a member of that society I remember as by far the most useful, and, therefore, as by far the happiest and most honourable period of my life”.

References: David Murray, Memories of the Old College of Glasgow 1927. W R Scott, Adam Smith as Student and Professor. 1937. Getty Museum: Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow. Exhib. May-August 2017 Getty Center.

Full descriptive details available on request.

Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866
Thomas Annan - Photographs of Glasgow College 1866

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