British photographic history

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Publication: Greatrex – Forger and Photographer

A new book by David Bruce tells the true story of John Henry Greatrex (1827-76), photographer, thief, convict, actor, grocer, bankrupt, preacher, adulterer, absconder and counterfeiter, who had a colourfully disreputable life, despite his entirely respectable Victorian family background.

His dubious career took him from England to Australia, Scotland and America – only for him to be arrested by an extraordinarily clever Glasgow detective, for printing his own money. 

The book is formally launched on 29 November at the Scottish Arts Club. 

David Bruce is a former Director of the Scottish Film Council and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. A historian of film and photography, he is the author of The Sun Pictures – the Hill-Adamson Calotypes; Edinburgh Past and Present (with Maurice Lindsay); and Scotland – the Movie and has contributed widely to other publications. He is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and convenor of the Scottish Society for the History of Photography.

His interest in Greatrex was triggered by a lecture given by Dr Sara Stevenson, then Senior Curator of Photography in the National Galleries of Scotland, who made reference to a Glasgow photographer who had resorted to 'printing his own money’. The resulting hunt for Greatrex lead to fascinating revelations not only about a colourful criminal career but about Victorian photography and forgery, crime and punishment, in England, Scotland, Australia and the USA.

The book costs £9.99 and is available from the publisher, Renaissance Press by clicking here: or from booksellers. 

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