The People of Gibraltar
1866 - James Hollingworth Mann - The Story of a Mistake

Catalan Bay - Gibraltar

My amateurish attempts to illustrate articles on the social history of Gibraltar inevitably led me to accumulate a considerable number of digital copies of 19th century photographs of the Rock. Mostly it was a question of finding, copying, using - and attributing where possible. For the last I was almost entirely dependent on the correctness of the information offered by my sources. 

Quite a few years ago I came across a series of interesting digital copies of glass plates depicting Gibraltar attributed to George Washington Wilson a well known 19th century Scottish photographer. Not knowing any better at the time I followed suite and attributed likewise whenever I used some of these.

The photos are uselessly - and irritatingly - dated 1855 to 1908 but even the most cursory examination shows that all of them were more than likely to have been taken in the late 19th century.

Shortly afterwards I unearthed various editions of Frederic George Stephen’s History of Gibraltar and its Sieges. For unknown reasons the name of the author does not appear anywhere in the book. Instead the title page gives the person responsible for its photographic illustration - J. H. Mann - and in such an ambiguous manner that many a library still acknowledges him as the author of the book rather than its illustrator.

Front page of Frederic George Stephen’s unattributed History
A comparison between the illustrations in two editions of the book - one meant for libraries and the other for bookshops - suggests that five are the same as those that appear on the G. W. Wilson collection while a further 12 while not exactly identical are almost certainly the work of the same photographer. 

Add this to the fact that four of the stereo photos in the Wilson Collection are cryptically labelled as having been “Registered 3 April 1900 J Mann” I came to the rather hasty conclusion that all 195 photographic plates at Aberdeen University were taken by John H. Mann.  George was not the photographer. Instead he had somehow become the owner and subsequently the publisher of the plates - and their saleable prints.

Details of one of the many glass plates of the G.W. Wilson Collection held by Aberdeen University

Shortly after I came across eleven 19th century photographs of Gibraltar on the “Fondo Fotográfico de la Universidad de Navarra”. All were dated 1868 and attributed to John Hollingworth Mann.

A quick glance through these eleven photos revealed that they are all either identical to those found on the G. W. Wilson collection or very similar. Although the quality of these University of Navarra copies leave much to be desired they did seem to confirm my feeling that all the Wilson copies were by J. H. Mann. As a small bonus I had also found out what the “H” in J. H. Mann stood for.

A search via Google, however, yielded surprisingly little information as regards Mann - other than to confirm that his work was not confined to Gibraltar. The October 2014 edition of the Diario Sur, for example, carried an article about the Torre de los Adalides in which John Hollingworth Mann is mentioned as photographer.

The above was not much of a surprise as it appears in the Gibraltar section of the G. W. Wilson collection - as does the one on the Malaga cemetery shown below.

An exhibition of old photographs of Tangier held in 2013 also seems to have included photographs taken by John Hollingworth Mann . . . . 
. . .  and he is also given a mention in a celebratory article on the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco. Although the G. W. Wilson collection includes around 20 photographs of Tangier, the one used to illustrate the article is not one of them and was possibly taken by another unknown photographer.

The name of John Hollingworth Mann is again included in the Directorio de fotos de España website sponsored by the University of Valencia . . . 

. . .  and a lengthy 2014 article in MEI - Métodos de Informacion - on Fernández Rivero’s Collection of old Photographs, had this to say about him.

All of which more or less confirmed everything that I had deduced up to that point.

At the beginning of 2017, however, I came across yet another large collection of Gibraltar photographs in the “Biblioteca Virtual” of the Spanish Ministry of Defence under the general title of Vistas fotográficas del Peñón de Gibraltar.

The collection - as against when the photos were taken - is dated 1896 and consists of 60 framed prints. Only 45 are available for download. Interestingly there are numbers on each photograph presumably identifying locations on them - a monumentally interesting find for somebody like myself who is particularly interested in the minutiae of life on the Rock prior to the 20th century - unfortunately the site does not include a key that might explain what these numbers refer to.

Although no acknowledgement is made as regards the photographer or photographers responsible, I found it easy to come to the conclusion that quite a few of them were taken by the same photographer that produced the plates in the G. W. Wilson collection.

In 2017 all was made clear. The Museum of the University of Navarra published an impressive tome with the title “Gibraltar [1888] - Fotografía y usos Militares”. Basically this book is a short history of the setting up the “Comisión del Plano de Algeciras y sus Alrededores”.

The “Comisión” was in effect a military study of Gibraltar and its defences. Spain was worried that British projects such as proposed improvements to its harbour and creation of dry docks and so forth might persuade the UK Government to act proactively and take over Spanish territory to the north of Gibraltar in order to make sure that the new work would not be compromised by any future hostile action by Spain.

An interesting historical account in itself but my main interest was that the underlying theme of the book was to reproduce and explain the photographs that I had previously found in the “Biblioteca Virtual”.  The complete set of 60 are included and - more importantly - a key explaining what the numbers on each photograph refer to. Even more to the point is that the main author of the book - Juan Carlos Pardo - directly confirms that a large number of the photos were indeed attributable to John Hollingworth Mann. 

The website of the publishing museum, however, insists that all 60 photographs were by John Hollingworth Mann, something that I suspect is not correct.

Article on the website of the Museum of the University of Navarra on their newly published book - Gibraltar [1888]    (2017)

Not surprisingly I bought the book and  . . . . . I suddenly realised why details on the life and work of John H. Mann had been so difficult to find either on the net or any other sources. The main author of the book had changed his mind - John's name was not John - It was James Hollingworth Mann.

I wonder who was responsible for the original mistake . . .  I really feel like strangling him.

Website of the BBC World Service    (2010)