Thomas Annan’s images of Glasgow’s past

Image credit: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Image credit: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Thomas Annan – The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Sp Coll Dougan 64

The Glasgow photographer Thomas Annan’s collection of photographs featuring the old closes and streets of Glasgow held in the University of Glasgow Library’s Special Collections is a wonderful resource. Created between 1868 and 1871 as part of a commission from the City of Glasgow Improvements Trust, this collection of images of the working class areas of old Glasgow helped document the impoverished living conditions of the working class at the time.

In 1866, the City of Glasgow passed an act through Parliament which authorised it to destroy the appalling slums of the City Parish. When it was decided in 1868 to make an effort to document the character and conditions of the old town, Thomas Annan was the obvious choice. Annan had previously photographed some of the busier thoroughfares of Glasgow, providing us with some historic record of the city’s more populous streets. When his focus was shifted to the confining closes, he provided us with another kind of record: the earliest comprehensive series of photographs of an urban slum – the very slum which was considered to be the worst in Britain.

Image credit: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Image credit: University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Thomas Annan’s son James Craig Annan is the photographer behind many of the most famous images of our very own Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Image courtesy T. & R. Annan & Sons Ltd.

Image courtesy T. & R. Annan & Sons Ltd.

For more information visit the University of Glasgow Library’s Special Collections website. Check out their online collection highlights and virtual displays for more inspiration.

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6 thoughts on “Thomas Annan’s images of Glasgow’s past

  1. Thomas Annan sadly passed away in 1887. The famous picture of CRM in his artist’s floppy bow-tie is by his son, James Craig Annan.

  2. Trying to comment on the Talwin Morris bookplate post, but unsure if it took. The comment follows.
    This is wonderful! I have no doubt that the Lady in the bookplate is Alice Talwin Morris, the river is the Clyde, and the obelisk is the Monument to Henry Bell. I have studied as much of Gerald Cinamon’s writing on TM as I can, and found no mention of this bookplate, or I may just have missed it. This is the first representation of Alice I have encountered. It’s a shame the image is a little blurry and the lighting is inconsistent. Is it possible the image can be re-done, or can you advise if a better image is available for purchase?
    If the Lady is holding a pen in her hand, it would be a great confirmation of the possibility of being Alice the Authoress.
    Many thanks for this!
    PS; correction required in post

    • Many thanks for your enthusiastic comment Alan. A copy of this bookplate was exhibited at Cinamon’s exhibition on Talwin Morris at the William Morris Gallery in 1983. You can access the full record of the book in which our bookplate appears on our Library Catalogue here http://prism.talis.com/gsa/items/32335.

      We have a very large collection of Glasgow Style bookbindings by Talwin Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Ethel Larcombe, and Jessie M. King in our Special Collections. More information here http://www2.gsa.ac.uk/library/special_collections.html. We’d certainly be happy to rephotograph the bookplate for you, though unfortunately it cannot be accessed currently due to refurbishment works. Could I ask you to remind me in October at d.chappell@gsa.ac.uk, at which point our building works will be completed?

      Best wishes
      Duncan Chappell
      GSA Librarian

      • Duncan, thank you for your kind reply and the links. I shall certainly send an email to remind you in October. There is a lot of symbolism in the bookplate, including an hourglass on its side. If Gerald is correct with the 1893 date, on which I concur, this is a recently married couple, who are still clearly very much in love. The Lady does not appear to have a pen in hand, but I still think the Lady depicted is Alice Talwin Morris as she would not yet have been an authoress at this early date.
        I shall endeavour to locate a catalogue for Gerald Cinamon’s exhibition on Talwin Morris at the William Morris Gallery in 1983.
        Many Thanks once again!

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