The Official Geological Picture Collection

Puddle Trench for Howden Reservoir, Derbyshire, 1904.

The first officially catalogued image in the collection, picture A1 (left), is an English picture entitled 'Puddle Trench for Howden Reservoir, Derbyshire'. It was taken in 1904 by J J H Teall, by then the Director of the Survey, and is shot on glass quarter plate.

Earlier English pictures are recorded, from 1903, taken by a gentleman called John Brooke Scrivenor, a geologist with the Survey between 1902 and 1905. All subsequent early photographs were registered within the A series, later replaced by the MN series. Early Scottish photographs were registered using a B prefix which was subsequently followed by C and D prefixes.

However, photography had been used to record geological features long before Lunn and Macconochie set out for the Highlands. In fact records show that as early as 1840, geologist L L B Ibbotson (subsequently a Survey geologist) exhibited images of fossils photographed on Daguerrotype plates.

In 1857, seismologist Robert Mallet used photography to create a detailed record of the effects of the Neopolitan earthquake and the United States Geological Survey appointed a photographer to join a party of geologists surveying the territory of Wyoming.

In 1858, J Enys, exhibited photographs at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, illustrating the structure of granite in quarries near Penrhyn. Another geologist, Joseph Prestwich, is recorded in the same year as having hired a photographer to produce a record of the location of flint implements found near Amiens.

W J Harrison, an amateur geologist and Curator at Leicester museum, published a memoir in 1877 entitled: A Sketch of the Geology of Leicestershire and Rutland which incorporated photographic plates of geological features. This was the first time photographic plates of geological subjects had been used in this way. Harrison's interests in photography extended beyond the areas of geology and he was also at the forefront of the movement to establish a photographic record and survey of each county.