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ANNAN, Thomas.

The Old Closes & Streets of Glasgow.

Engraved by Annan from Photographs taken for the City of Glasgow Improvement Trust. With an Introduction by William Young, R. S. W.

Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons, 1900 Stock Code: 145774
£3,750.00
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"Classics of social documentary"

First photogravure edition, the third overall, of this superb visual record of "the dark slums of Glasgow" (ODNB), Annan's most celebrated work and the series of images upon which his posthumous reputation rests. There were two print runs of just 100 copies each, published by MacLehose, as here, and under Annan's own imprint.

In 1866 Thomas Annan (1829/30-1887) was commissioned by the Glasgow City Improvement Trust to mark the city's first slum clearances. Between 1868 and 1871 he took an initial 35 photographs, which were designed to record the history of the buildings as well as the appalling living conditions. "There are three editions of the work: albumen prints (1871, with photographs made between 186771), carbon prints (1878, with photographs made between made 18681877) and photogravures (1900, with photographs made 18681899)" (National Galleries Scotland). In 1883 Annan, along with his son James, had travelled to Vienna to learn the new process of photogravure from its inventor, Karel Klic, acquiring the British rights for the process in the same year.

Annan's focus was on the streets, wynds and closes of "old" Glasgow around Glasgow Cross in the East of the city. "Once a wealthy area housing tobacco and fishcuring merchants, by the 1840s it was severely overcrowded. Under powers granted in the 1862 Police Act, systems of 'ticketing' dwellings attempted to control the slums' population by proscribing the number of occupants. (One adult and 2 children could legally inhabit a space 6' square and 8' high). This failed and led to The City Improvement Act (1866). The slums were to be cleared and work began in 1871. Most of Annan's images show the closes and wynds as deserted, with a few people, or an occasional group pressed in between walls. This is partly because of the technical limitations of early photography. Long exposure times were required, and some of the images would have taken minutes. It was therefore difficult to photograph the living as movement produced disturbing "ghost" images The overall effect created in Annan's images is one of deep space, and a penetrating view. There is also a feeling of stillness, a kind of loneliness and isolation. When people do appear they seem trapped in a maze of buildings (verticals are narrow) and they are also set safely at some distance from the photographer, and from us, as observers looking at the image now. We have little sense that these were in fact bustling thoroughfares teeming with life" (ibid.). In some ways Annan's work is a counterpart to Gustave Doré's similarly sombre vision of London (1872). The British Library describes his images as "classics of social documentary".

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Description

Quarto. Original dark red cloth, gilt-lettered spine, gilt coat of arms of the City of Glasgow to front cover and blazon to back cover, top edge gilt, others untrimmed. Housed in a custom red quarter morocco solander box.

Illustrations

50 fine photogravure plates by Thomas Annan from his own photographs; title page printed in red and black.

Condition

Spine sunned and a little frayed at extremities, old ink stain at head, a few marks to covers,, touch of worming in blank margin at pp. 21-3 and first two plates, yet this remains a very good copy.

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