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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Cay

Dates:  1790 - 1865
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for John Cay
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

According to the Scotsman, in his four decades as sheriff of Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, Cay was admired for “his decisions being invariably sound, which, together with his amiable qualities, made him extremely popular.” Cay was a lawyer based in Edinburgh, one of an extended and influential family abounding in artists and scientists, including his nephew, the brilliant physicist James Clerk Maxwell. He was an active member of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts. In 1843 Cay banded together with a number of like-minded souls to form the Edinburgh Calotype Club, swapping information and techniques and sharing their new photographic images. Cay and members of his family were calotyped by Hill & Adamson during the mid-1840s. In 1856 Cay became a member of the governing council of the new Photographic Society of Scotland. Only one surviving Cay photograph was known (attached to a letter in the National Library of Scotland) until 2003, when a trove of them emerged as the Cay Gift, donated by his descendants to the city of Toowoomba, Australia. Cay’s two sons had emigrated to Australia in 1841. They preserved a wide range of nineteenth-century photographs, but one album compiled in 1852 is of particular interest. Its thirty-seven salt prints from calotype negatives are headed with the title, “The Crown Jewels, by Sheriff Cay.” 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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