Discovering ProQuest Primary Sources

Looking for primary sources and historical documents for your dissertation or research project? Interested in finding out more about how to search some of the primary source databases you have access to at the Library? Looking to use archive newspapers for your research?

ProQuest are giving our students and staff the opportunity to join their training team for a series of seminars exploring their extensive Primary Source collections, which you have access to from the Library. In each 30-minute tutorial, you will take a deep dive into key ProQuest resources and will learn the best search strategies, tips and tricks for getting the most relevant results for your research projects. This is a really great opportunity to learn from the experts how to use these fantastic resources and find relevant material for you. Read More

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New Scan & Deliver Service

The semester has been a busy start for everyone!

Due to government restrictions there have been limits placed on accessing our print resources, but as of the 18th January a new Scan & Deliver service is in operation.

The service offers staff and students of the University of Edinburgh the opportunity to request scans of one book chapter or 10% (whichever is the greater) or one journal article via DiscoverEd. The library will then email you a link which you can use to view and download the material. There are some limits (as we have to abide by copyright law), but it is worthwhile considering as an option for initial access to key section(s). Full details of the service are available on the dedicated webpages:

Scan & Deliver pages.

It is also worth remembering that for material we do not have within the library collections there is the interlibrary loan service (ILL). As with many library services we are operating within an online environment at the moment, but for book chapters and articles it may be possible to request a copy through this service.

Interlibrary Loan Service (ILL) pages

1-2-1 Librarian Meetings

The Law Academic Support Librarians have arranged some 1-2-1 bookable sessions for students. The time can be used for any library related query. Sessions will be advertised about 3 weeks in advance, but details of the upcoming ones are available on the MyEd Events Bookings.

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Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020

Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020 • •

• Looking at how Edinburgh Research Explorer and ERA have performed over the last year.
• Research Explorer hasn’t had the best of years, the numbers being shackled by the same filtration that had repressed ERA a year earlier, although they picked-up enough at the end to scrape past the million downloads for the second-year running; ERA on the other hand, has been somewhat unleashed.
• The usual snapshot of last month’s performances.
• A snapshot of the year that’s gone. Read More

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De Gruyter – upgraded e-Journal package

We have signed up for the new 2021-2023 De Gruyter Journal and Open Access Transformational Agreement via JISC.  This agreement provides for a 100% conversion of subscription fees into open access article processing fees and considerably expands our read access to e-journal content.

We now have access to 342 journals in the following subject areas; Architecture & Design, Arts, Asian & Pacific Studies, Business & Economics, Chemistry, Classical & Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Computer Sciences, Cultural Studies, Engineering, German Studies, Geosciences, History, Industrial Chemistry, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies, Law, Library & Information Science, Life Sciences, Linguistics & Semiotics, Literary Studies, Materials Sciences, Mathematics, Medicine, Philosophy, Physics, Social Sciences, Sports & Recreation and Theology & Religion. A title list can be found at

De Gruyter publish separately over 100 fully Open Access journals.

All new titles have been added to DiscoverEd, our agreement with De Gruyter allows future access to any new titles published over the next 3 years.

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Science logo

Following a successful trial last year, we now subcribe to Science Immunology and Science Robotics, both published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Science Immunology – research articles that report critical advances in all areas of immunological research, including important new tools and techniques.

Science Robotics – original, peer-reviewed, science- or engineering-based research articles that advance the field of robotics.

With these additional subscriptions, the University of Edinburgh now provide access to the full suite of journals published by AAAS:

Science, the premier global science weekly.

Science Signaling, the leading journal of cell signaling and regulatory biology.

Science Translational Medicine, integrating medicine, engineering and science to promote human health.

Science Advances, an innovative and high-quality open access journal for all the sciences.

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Welcome back, and the Law Library during Lockdown

A pair of hands hold a tablet with an image of shelves of books displayed on the screen.

Digital Library, from Geralt on Pixabay

Hello, and welcome back! This semester is set to be another strange one as we begin in ‘lockdown’ conditions in line with Scottish Government restrictions. This means that for the next few weeks the library will be running an online service with many physical buildings closed or with only very restricted access. Full information about the availability of library sites can be found on the Library Service Updates page.

If you feel a bit stressed about the availability of materials over the coming weeks and months, rest assured we will continue to work to make sure that all core material is available electronically and that we have as much ebook access to the things you need as possible.

We’re running a few online sessions in the coming weeks to help you refamiliarise yourself with online library services. One of these is a refresher session on the 27th January 2021, between 9.30 and 10am, and is open to students at all levels. We will provide a short update on library services, some key resources that you may not already be familiar with, and will have time to answer your questions too. You can book a place for this online event here, or by searching in the MyEd Events Booking system for ‘Library Services Refresher Session – Law’

We’ll also be running an introductory event for new PG Online students beginning in January 2021, and a repeat of our popular PhD Using the Library session which we last ran in September. For booking information please follow the links or get in touch with us via

Finally you can also attend the Library Bitesize sessions which we’ll be running in the coming weeks, focused on Using the Online Library. For links to this and all other Library Bitesize sessions please see the Events Booking system.

We hope that you managed to enjoy your festive break and that you’re managing to proceed with your studies as planned. We look forward to helping support your studies online over the coming semester. As ever if there’s anything we can do to set your minds at ease please let us know!

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Thank you Acceptance in Lieu scheme

The Charles Lyell archives feature in the Arts Council England’s Cultural Gifts Scheme and Acceptance in Lieu annual report 2020/21 .

Both schemes are remarkably important in ensuring important cultural collections are cared for by the right public institutions. The 2020 allocation of the extensive Charles Lyell archives to the University of Edinburgh Library, thereby reuniting them with his other papers including his 294 notebooks, is just one example of the scheme producing a wonderful result.

Sincere thanks from the University of Edinburgh go to all of the staff, volunteers and supporters who make these schemes such a success.


David McClay

Philanthropy Manager, Library & University Collections

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Volunteering Virtually with Conservation

A new year and a new blog from the conservation studio! Our first blog of the month comes from Stephanie Graban, an undergraduate student from the University of Edinburgh currently studying Arabic, who volunteered virtually with the conservation team for eight weeks from October to December 2020…. 

As my time working as a volunteer for the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) comes to an end, I’d like to reflect on my experiences. The eight-week project, which was both challenging and fascinating, focused on XRF analysis and background research of objects held by the University. These included a rare 15th century German Bible, a striking Persian marbled album, vibrant Indian Ragamala paintings, a collection of commemorative medals, and scraps of a 10th century Qur’anic manuscript. Evidently, the range of objects which I studied was wonderfully varied; each week felt like I was embarking on a new historical journey to a different corner of the world – from the comfort of my bedroom. The internship was carried out remotely due to Covid-19 and, although I wish I had the opportunity to see the XRF spectrometer at work, it was all the detective work that made this project so unique and memorable.

XRF analysis of Ragamala painting (Or.Ms.437) carried out by Special Collections Conservator, Emily Hick, at the CRC

My task was to interpret combinations of periodic elements in a table and deduce what pigments these elements could form. I quickly realised that in practice, this could be quite the challenge as the pigments could be contaminated or mixed with neighbouring colours. In order to make a confident assumption about the pigment’s identity, I consulted various pigment databases on the internet, as well as books exploring colours from various time periods and cultures. It was through this process that I found a new dimension to all the colours I see on a daily basis. Before the project, I never thought twice about why my jeans are blue or how the acrylic colours in my painting set were first named. I quickly realised that each colour that we interact with on a daily basis offers a rich and captivating history, which may even be controversial at times.

Taking the example of the Ragamala paintings which I studied in Week 3, I discovered the surprisingly cruel history of Indian Yellow. The pigment, which began to be utilised on a wide scale in the 16th century, was produced by force-feeding bitter mango leaves to cows until they were near the point of starvation. The leaves would intensify the bile pigment and produce bright-yellow urine. The cow urine was then collected and boiled for hours, resulting in a pigment which proved sensational across Asia and Europe! Without a doubt, everyone has seen this haunting pigment in a world-famous work: Van Gogh’s Starry Night – but few people know about its morbid history.

Ragamala painting (Or.Ms.437)

This was not the only secret the Ragamalas hid in plain sight. Upon analysing the elements making up the colours of the vividly-decorated music sheets, I noticed that titanium was overwhelmingly present in the artwork. This did not seem correct. The only recognised use of titanium in paint is in the manufacture of titanium dioxide white, a paint which was only first synthesised in the early 20th century. The presence of titanium is now commonly used as a marker for detecting forgeries. However, the Ragamalas were dated back to 1842 by the University catalogue, which drew questions about its authenticity. How was it possible for titanium white to be used in the object? Was the dating wrong? After delving into literature on similar Ragamala paintings, I came across a study which raised the exact same questions about the presence of titanium. Here I found an interesting observation: the authors of the article suggested that Indian artists may have been using titanium in their paints since the 17th century, centuries before the West first used it. This is a fascinating idea, but it’s a topic yet to be thoroughly explored. However, discovering further evidence which supported this observation offered a sense of importance to our findings.

That wasn’t the only time throughout the project where XRF analysis proved potentially valuable to academic discourse. A Persian album exhibiting calligraphy and marbled paper was chosen for analysis due to uncertainty in its date of manufacture. The catalogue description claims that the marbled page borders were added to the album at a later date and were not contemporary to the construction of the album. While XRF analysis did not offer any decisive results, I was able to find a recent essay by researcher Jake Benson discussing the very same album. Benson offered strong arguments in favour of the marbling being contemporary to the album’s construction.

Persian album of calligraphy and marbled paper – Qit’at-i Khushkhatt (Or.Ms.373)

After conducting contextual research, I found out that the marbled pages were most likely created by the famous marbling master Muhammad Tahir. In fact, the album likely inspired generations of artists, who used Tahir’s methods to endow Persian literary masterpieces such as Conference of the Birds and Fragrant Orchard with similar marbled borders. I reached out to Jake Benson, who kindly offered his suggestions on specific areas to conduct future technical analysis on in the album that would conclusively date the marbled borders. It felt exciting that the potential data gathered by XRF could be used to change what we know about such an important historical object!

The last object which I studied during the project was one of my personal favourites. It consisted of ancient-looking scraps of vellum displaying angular Qur’anic Arabic calligraphy. The University catalogue did not offer much information on its background or dating, so anything I could find while analysing the XRF data and conducting background research could prove valuable. I ultimately managed to date the manuscript scraps to approximately the 10th century, by using clues relating to the style of calligraphy and the format of the manuscript. I also found out that the manuscripts were discovered in the Al-Amr mosque in Egypt, the same mosque which held the oldest Qur’an ever found (now held at the University of Birmingham).

Scrap of vellum with angular Qur’anic Arabic calligraphy (Or.Ms.175)

Perhaps the most valuable outcome for me personally is that the past two months have taught me so much about various areas of history (including the history of colour) which I have never had the opportunity to study formally. The opportunity to solve a new ‘puzzle’ every week and put all the pieces together into a meaningful and valuable interpretation was more rewarding than any other academic project I’ve worked on! Thank you to Special Collections Conservator, Emily Hick, for all your kind guidance and advice throughout the eight weeks and for making my time as a volunteer (especially Thursday afternoons) very memorable. Lastly, thank you to CRC for offering me an invaluable opportunity to gain experience in the field of XRF analysis.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities at the CRC, please see our website.

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Lyell’s School of Rock

Juliette Lichman working on Lyell digitisation assessment

In November 2019 the Library excitedly welcomed Sir Charles Lyell’s two hundred and ninety-four notebooks into its Special Collections. With support and funding from leading institutions, groups and donations pledged from over 1000 individuals, this tectonic acquisition meant the notebooks were able to stay in the UK and join the Library’s existing collection of Lyell-related materials. As part of the DIU team, I was lucky enough to photograph Lyell’s notebooks, working with the world’s finest quality cameras to digitise a previously private collection into the public sphere and beyond.

Before I dig a little deeper I would like to share a quote from Charles Withers, who we filmed late last year talking about Lyell. He captures the essence of these notebooks perfectly in his description;

“They contain, in a sense, the emergence of thought of one of the world’s leading Earth scientists. But Lyell is much more than that. Lyell was a leading geologist but he was also a geographer, an antiquarian, an archaeologist. He writes with literary references, he writes with a lawyer-like precision, and he’s in touch with very many people whose names, along with Lyell’s, inform our understanding of the emergence of 19th century science.”

Professor Charles W J Withers, Ogilvie Chair of Geography,
University of Edinburgh, Geographer Royal for Scotland



We’re very lucky that Lyell was such a great organiser and essentially catalogued his notebooks for us. With a robust system of pagination and a glossary, he was able to quickly reference information when needed. These small, unassuming notebooks accompanied him everywhere, and in his regular ‘Memoranda for Town’ (a.k.a. to-do lists) there are mentions of particular notebooks which he wanted to pack for later reference, as seen in no.4 below. Very conveniently the locations he visited are neatly labelled on the front of the notebooks. The writing within, however, can be difficult to decipher in some cases, especially where Lyell used his own form of shorthand and references, or if he was in the field resisting against the elements and pressure of the wind.

I find that to-do lists are a simple and yet revealing insight into our every day lives and passing thoughts; little reminders which help us to achieve a larger goal or shape our daily lives. Without having to read a whole passage as you would in a journal, we are able to get a sense of Lyell’s day to day life.


My favourite list is for items to take on an upcoming voyage. There is a glimpse of ‘Lyell the husband’, as he mentions a hat box and a bonnet box, separately, and again, a parasol and an umbrella, alluding to his wife’s presence with him. Indeed, this notebook is from 1837 and the catalogue description indicates:

“This notebook was kept by Lyell during his travels with Mrs. Lyell to Denmark and Norway, where they focused on contact zones between sedimentary rocks and large intrusive bodies of granite and syentie, as well as dykes and sills.”

If you wondered what it was like to travel with Lyell, this is a great example of how he packed light.


I came across an example of ‘Lyell the brother’ in this simple note. His sister, Marianne was a keen lepidopterist, and enjoyed collecting and naming insects. This was especially popular in Scotland, where much of the flora and fauna had no official name. He writes, ‘Curtis –  No. 1. Did he not find a spider’.  Maybe it was of personal interest, but there is no doubt he would have had illuminating conversations with his sister about entomology and the natural world, perhaps describing foreign insects he encountered in the field, to her delight!


Lyell was well acquainted with the notable entomologist, John Curtis which is evident in this letter he sent to his sister in 1827;

“Dear Marianne, Curtis sends me a note to say that there are good things among the Spring insects, and says the Miss Lyells will do wonders in Scotland. He hopes you will get some general knowledge of botany, as a little knowledge even of Scotch plants, would, he says, double the value of your entomological information. “


Another favourite find of mine was this illustration of what I assume to be a bovine tooth, with a sketch of Southwold Sea and the beach where he found it. After walking back and forth along the beach, looking intently at the sand for specimens, he stops and notes sadly “no shells”, only teeth!


My most recent find in the notebooks was the most exciting by a landslide. We often come across interesting and unique watermarks in our department, but we found one in the notebooks which was very sweet and ornate. This was found in a loosely bound section that Lyell added to the start of a notebook, acting as a preface. The watermarks in the corresponding volume do not bear the same image, so it’s likely that he needed extra paper while travelling and bought some directly from the supplier.


The ‘Beehive’ watermark originated with a family of Dutch papermakers by the name of Honig [honey], who owned mills in Zaandyk (1675–1902). The coat of arms of the Honig family (incorporating the beehive motif) became a watermark extensively copied throughout the Netherlands and abroad in places such as Russia and Scandinavia.1 The ‘Beehive’ watermark became a common motif for Dutch papermakers and those who wished to allude to Dutch papermaking. Eventually it also came to represent a particular paper size.

National Gallery of Australia


Here are a few examples of watermarks and branding from C&J Honig. Note that ours is very similar to the first watermark, with the exception of larger bees.


We’re thrilled that this second batch of notebooks is now digitised and available online for all to enjoy. I photographed Lyell’s notebooks for the majority of the year, and with the added lockdown and social distancing restrictions, for a time it was just myself and the notebooks in the DIU. I will certainly miss seeing Lyell’s familiar scrawling hand and pencilled field sketches – intimate notes that he likely never anticipated sharing with anyone.

It’s been just over a year since our acquisition of these notebooks and it feels as though we have only scratched beneath the surface of the treasures contained within. They are a rare and fascinating glimpse into this famed geologist’s daily life, and like many others I shall be eagerly awaiting the transcriptions and new discoveries from this most beloved rockstar!

Juliette Lichman


Useful Links:

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Lyell’s School of Rock


In November 2019 the Library excitedly welcomed Sir Charles Lyell’s two hundred and ninety-four notebooks into its Special Collections. With support and funding from leading institutions, groups and donations pledged from over 1000 individuals, this tectonic acquisition meant the notebooks were able to stay in the UK and join the Library’s existing collection of Lyell-related materials. As part of the DIU team, I was lucky enough to photograph Lyell’s notebooks, working with the world’s finest quality cameras to digitise a previously private collection into the public sphere and beyond.

Read More

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Default utility Image Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020 Edinburgh Research Downloads: December 2020 • • • Looking at how Edinburgh Research Explorer and ERA...
Default utility Image Lyell’s School of Rock   In November 2019 the Library excitedly welcomed Sir Charles Lyell’s two hundred and ninety-four...


Default utility Image Lyell’s School of Rock   In November 2019 the Library excitedly welcomed Sir Charles Lyell’s two hundred and ninety-four...
Default utility Image The Battle of Life: A look at the Dumfriesshire mental health survey “worried, dull and anxious, not quite up to the battle of life.” Widowed female, 45-54...


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