Ellis Crapper photographic collection

Reference: GB 0227 phEC, ms37835-37852
Title: Ellis Crapper photographic collection
Dates of creation: 1845-1973
Held at: University of St Andrews
Extent: 19 loose leaf photographic albums, 28pp to 32pp., 35 notebooks, 48pp to 104pp. and 242 glass plate negatives, 7x2.5cm.
Name of Creator: Ellis Crapper
Level of Description: fonds
Language of Material: eng

Administrative/Biographical History

Ellis Crapper (d 1973), amateur botanist was a life-long resident of Tayport, Fife. A customs and excise man in Dundee by profession, he was a noted local ornithologist as well as a respected amateur plant collector. He was extremely active in studies of both Tentsmuir (Leuchars, Fife) and Glen Clova (Angus). His work includes valuable studies of Tentsmuir in periods prior to and post commercial forestation. In his studies of Clova he corroborated with James L. Colville (ca. 1892-1974), Dundee-based ironmonger and noted amateur botanist. Crapper also updated some of the 19th century field surveys of Clova and adjacent areas by both Professor John Hutton Balfour (1808-1884), professor of botany, University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh and William Gardiner (1808-1852). Crapper is particularly notable for his botanical field photography. Very little of his work has been published.

Scope and Content

The botanical photography forms part of a larger collection of papers of Ellis Crapper which include plant lists, field notes and correspondence, all relating to Fife and Angus amateur botany studies dating from the first half of the 20th century.

Those elements of the collection within which photographic material has been identified are:

ms37835 Seven loose leaf albums of mounted b/w photographs showing Scottish wild flowers compiled by Ellis Crapper, with accompanying autograph texts comprising species, date and location of specimens, ca. 1910-1945.

ms37836 Nine loose leaf albums of mounted b/w photographs showing plants found at Tentsmuir, Fife, compiled by Ellis Crapper, with accompanying texts comprising species, date and location of specimens, ca. 1927-1956.

ms37837 Two loose leaf albums mounted b/w photographs of Scottish fungi compiled by Ellis Crapper, with accompanying autograph texts comprising species, date and location of specimens compiled ca. 1937-1939.

ms37838 Autograph notebook detailing Ellis Crapper's botanical field photography. Details given include specimen species, location, date, hour, exposure etc., ca. 1940-1957.

ms37840 One colour photograph of Ellis Crapper, one newspaper obituary relating to E Crapper and one colour photograph of a wild orchid, ca. 1970; Colour photograph of E Crapper, probably at Tentsmuir, Fife, mounted press cutting death notice of E Crapper [Dundee Courier, May 1973] and a colour photograph of wild orchid at Tentsmuir.

ms37842 Typed notebook "The flowers of Tentsmuir [Fife] Part 1" including b/w photographs, compiled by Ellis Crapper and detailing specimens found, dated "Tayport [Fife], September 1930".

ms37843, ms37849 Two typed notebooks including photographs, "The flora of Tentsmuir, Fife" compiled by Ellis Crapper. Also included are various printed, autograph and typed loose inserts. (ms37843 Texts compiled ca. 1939-1944. ms37849 is a revised edition structured in the same manner as ms37843, compiled ca. 1939-1957.)

ms37848 242 Glass plate negatives of Ellis Crapper's botanical photography. The subject matter is principally the botany of Tentsmuir [Fife] and Glen Clova [Angus]. The items are boxed and the boxes are dated 1937, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1954.

ms37844 - ms37852/14 Notebooks comprising typed botanical field notes, field photography and collected published sources, compiled by Ellis Crapper. These holdings relate principally to studies of Glen Clova [Angus] with brief notes elating to Glen Shee [Perthshire /Angus]. They date principally from 1937-1945 and closely involve James Colville. They also include a report on a weekend botanical excursion to Clova made by the Dundee Naturalists' Society in June 1937 and a 1941-45 study.

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was gifted to the Botany Department of the University by Ellis Crapper shortly before his death in 1973. The transfer to the University Library was arranged by Professor Robert Crawford and Mr Andrew Angus of the Botany Department.

Appraisal, Destruction, Scheduling

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0227 procedures.

Access Conditions

The photographic collections are currently the subject of a major digitisation project. It is the intention to have the entire archive captured in electronic form, and available (with sophisticated searching facilities) online via the web. A full version of the software can be accessed in the Library and researchers are welcome to visit the library to use it but it is important that appointments are made in advance. Access to original photographic material may be restricted.


Copies of images held in the photographic collection (with the exception of any photographs which are held either without copyright or under other restrictions imposed by the donor or photographer) can be ordered. Photographs thus provided for purely personal or research purposes are not subject to any fee beyond the photographic costs (for which a scale of charges is available). Prior written permission must be obtained before any further reproduction is undertaken of images supplied, for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Reproduction fees may be charged.

True photographic reprints of most images can be provided, or computer-generated prints of an increasing proportion of the collection at low, medium or high resolution. Given the fragility of the original material our preference is to provide computer prints where possible. We can also provide transparencies and a range of electronic formats.

This material is original.


This is part of the University of St Andrews Botany Department deposit. Ms37836 /8 [album of mounted botanical specimen photographs] was found to be missing at date of listing. This had also been noted at the time of compiling the previous paper-based list in the late 1980s.

Further Information

Finding Aids

The collection is listed on the Departmental mansucripts database.

Related Units of Description

At date of listing an additional quantity of unlisted Ellis Crapper glass plate negatives were also known to be held by McManus Galleries Museum [Dundee, Angus]. These related principally to the natural history of Tentsmuir [Fife].