One of my daily problems in this job is being drawn into the objects we are digitising- it is always too tempting to start reading, and yesterday was one of the toughest challenges I have faced! A reader had requested a book-scan copy of a transcript from a Diary of John Shaw Smith and his wife Mary as they did the Grand Tour of the Mediterranean and Middle East between 1849-1852 (see http://www.archives.lib.ed.ac.uk/catalogue/cs/viewcat.pl?id=GB-237-Coll-20&view=basic ). Perhaps it was that John Shaw Smith was one of the earliest photographers to visit these regions (see http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/John_Shaw__Smith/A/), or perhaps it was because I have visited many of the places they travelled to, however once I started I became fascinated by the lively, sharp witted pair and their adventures.The following are some of my favourite excerpts… I do wonder what a Chameleon on a book case might look like.
So far we have only digitised a couple of John Shaw Smiths photographs http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/60mh96,
but the diary made me think about some of the other images that we have in the collections of the Grand Tour, such as the delightful Cavaye Slides http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/951m2b
It is hard for me to imagine both the challenges and excitement of photographing these locations in the days before even the term ‘Photographer’ had been settled on. In the end, that is perhaps why the diary is so intriguing.
Susan Pettigrew, ‘Photographist’