St Andrews University Library holds one of the largest and most important collections of historic photography in Scotland, stemming primarily from the fact that St Andrews played a vital role in the development of the photographic process through the early interest of Sir David Brewster and his friendship with William Henry Fox Talbot.
The collection numbers in excess of 700,000 images, and is still being increased by acquisition.
The images exist in a wide variety of formats: negative (on glass and film of varying sizes), lantern slides, prints (from salt paper to modern photographic), postcards and modern transparencies.
The collections reflect St Andrews importance in the history of photography: there are many examples of the pioneering work of Dr John Adamson, D O Hill and Robert Adamson, and Thomas Rodger. Building upon these eminent beginnings, the collection has been developed over the last several decades to include large collections such as:
- the photographic archive of Valentines of Dundee, the well-known photographic company which produced albums of Scottish views from the 1870s, and later became famous as the producer of picture postcards;
- the archive of Robert M Adam, the well-known Scottish landscape photographer whose work spans the first half of this century and numbers over 14,000 negatives;
- the work of George Cowie, a local press photographer from 1930 to 1982, which covers all aspects of life in and around St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife, with a considerable section on the subject of golf.