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James Robertson photographs collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Robertson, James, 1813-1888

James Robertson was one of the first prominent traveller-photographers to depict scenes of mid-nineteenth century Greece. Of Scottish descent, he has been identified as the engraver James Robertson, who worked in London around 1830. He first settled in Constantinople in 1841, where he spent forty years of his life working as a master engraver in the imperial mint. His photography career began in the early 1850's when he opened a photographer's studio in Peran, the European district of Constantinople. His photographs, which were immediately popular among the art lovers of his period, appeared in international exhibitions in Paris and London and were frequently reproduced in the leading periodical "The London Illustrated News". He died in 1888 in Yokohama. Robertson earned his place in the history of photography with his coverage of the Crimean war, and with his photographs of Constantinople and other historical Mediterranean sites, such as Athens, Malta, Damascus, Egypt and the Holy Land. A close study of his work in Athens reveals that he first visited the city in 1853-1854 and probably returned later with Felice Beato, another renowned, somewhat younger, photographer. The monuments of the Acropolis (Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, Erechtheum) and the city of Athens (Temple of Olympian Zeus, Tower of the Winds, Gate of Athena Archegetis, Lysicrates Monument) as well as the Temples of Poseidon in Sounion, Aphaia on the island of Aegina, and Apollo in Corinth were magnificently portrayed by his camera while contemporary Athens was only infrequently depicted or used as a setting for its ancient remains. Although he rarely photographed people in his early work, in later work he handled them with consummate skill as a means of alleviating the monotony of ancient ruins and as an allusion to contemporary paintings. (

Consists of an open collection of photographs of Robertson. Currently, there are 4 albumen prints mounted on board of classical sites in Athens, Greece. Included are: a general view of the Acropolis (23.5 x 30.4 cm.); the Erechtheum from the west (25.1 x 29.9 cm); the main Propylaea building from the east (24.8 x 30.2 cm.); and a view of the Parthenon from the northwest (22.9 x 30.0 cm.). All the images are captioned and three are signed in the print.

Acquired with matching funds provided by the Program in Hellenic Studies with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund. (AM 2011-33)

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This collection was processed by Kalliopi Balatsouka in 2012. Finding aid written by Kalliopi Balatsouka in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

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Collection Inventory

Vue générale a Athénes , circa 1854. 1 box.
Scope and Contents

One photographic albumen print (23.5 x 30.4 cm.) showing a general view of the Acropolis (Athens, Greece), mounted on board; signed in ink at the lower right of the print; captions in French on cardboard.

Physical Description

1 box

The Erechtheum , circa 1854.
Scope and Contents

One photographic albumen print (25.1 x 29.9 cm.) of the Erechtheum from the west (Acropolis, Athens), mounted on card board; signed in ink at the lower right on the print; captions in ink in French on the carboard: "The Erechtheum."

Le Parthénon , circa 1854.
Scope and Contents

One photographic albumen print (22.9 x 30.0 cm.) of the Parthenon from the northwest (Acropolis, Athens), mounted on card board; title in ink, in French, on the card board.

Interior of the Propylaea , circa 1854.
Scope and Contents

One photographic albumen print (24.8 x 30.2 cm.) of a view of the main Propylaea building from the east (Acropolis, Athens); mounted on board; signed in ink on the print; captions in ink, in English, at the lower left corner of the print.

Print, Suggest