Category Archives: School of Divinity

Incunabula: Fables, foliage and a female Pope

Hortus sanitatis, Fol.101 verso

I was lucky enough to be involved in the Incunabula pilot project here in the Digital Imaging Unit. This project  helped to create a digitisation workflow for Incunabula collection items using the i2S CopiBook v-shape scanner. These bound volumes are printed using a variety of early printing methods including wood block printing resulting in beautifully crafted and illustrated objects. This project afforded an opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful and often entertaining treasures,  that were quite literally being brought into the light through the capture of images.  

Continue reading

Tagged

The Aberdeen Breviary: A National Treasure

The Aberdeen Breviary is a highly significant book for a number of reasons. Initiated by King James IV and compiled by Bishop William Elphinstone, it is Scotland’s first printed book, published in Edinburgh in 1510. It also represents the most in depth collection of information on the lives and stories of Scottish Saints. Our copy is one of five known remaining original copies making it a key addition to our Iconics Collection. Continue reading

Living Icons: Keeping with the “Archival Liveness” of the University’s Iconic Items

Jami’ al-Tawarikh, f.14v detail

As the other blog posts that I have written for the DIU will attest to, I repeatedly find myself drawn to archival artefacts and stories that show the always “in-process” nature of archives[1]. While the word archive might initially bring to mind shelves full of preserved books and artefacts, collections kind of frozen in time and stoically telling a particular story, those working in archives will attest instead to the truly dynamic nature of archives. In fact, Tom Schofield et al. have introduced the term “archival liveness” as a concept that “promotes a view of the archive as a set of on-going professional, institutional and technical processes and precipitates a focus on the different kinds of temporality embodied within these” (“Archival Liveness”, 2015). What the idea of archival liveness gets at is that as our socio-technological, historical, and cultural moments change, so too does our ability to engage with archives. Cataloguing must be done to make an archive discoverable and searchable, but this costs time and money, and so archives exist at different stages of complete or incomplete cataloguing. Moreover, as time passes, archives typically grow, or sometimes shrink if things are lost, and they are remediated through various preservation, restoration, and, in our current digital world, digitization processes, all of which requires new forms of discovery and engagement with the archived collections. Archives are therefore always embedded within shifting networks of mediation and distribution. Continue reading

Michael Servetus: Christianismi Restitutio

Title:Michael Servetus een Spangiard Amsterdam, 1607.
Shelfmark: JZ 439

Bound to the stake by the iron chain, with a chaplet of straw and green twigs covered with sulphur on his head, with his long dark face, it is said that he looked like the Christ in whose name he was bound.  Around his waist were tied a large bundle of manuscript and a thick octavo printed book. The torch was applied, and as the flames spread to the straw and sulphur and flashed in his eyes, there was a piercing cry that struck terror in the hearts of the bystanders…’Jesu, thou Son of the eternal God, have mercy upon me.’ (Michael Servetus: Humanist and Martyr, Fulton, John F. 1953)

These were the last words of Michael Servetus, physician and theologian, condemned to death in 1553 after being branded a heretic.

Continue reading

Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan: a piece of early-Ming tradition

Just in time for the Chinese New Year we can announce that our copy of the Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan is now available to view on our collections website – here. This is the earliest printed book in our collections, printed in 1440 in the Chinese province of Fujian. Zhouyi zhuanyi Daquan has become known in English as the Complete Commentaries on the Book of Changes. The Book of Changes itself is a seminal work on the subject of Confucianism.

Continue reading

The Indian Primer: iconics in raking light

 

According to researchers at the Centre for Research Collections, The Indian Primer is a tiny book containing Christian instruction, mainly in the native American Algonquian language. Printing began in America in 1640 and was used by missionary John Eliot, who translated the Bible and many other works into the native language for the first time. This unique 1669 copy was gifted to the University Library in 1675 by James Kirkton. Amazingly, this copy is still in its original American binding, of decorated white animal skin over thin wooden boards. Continue reading

Copernicus x Smith


The University’s Iconics Collection holds some of the institution’s most valued and treasured items, and the recent push for more digitisation of the University of Edinburgh collections has meant that the Iconic items are a high priority.

Recently I digitised Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). Copernicus is regarded as one of the central figures of the Scientific Revolution for his heliocentric theory. It is considered one of the key works in the history of western astronomy as it brought forth a new theory about the Universe and our place in it at a time where it was widely believed that everything in the Universe orbited a motionless, central Earth. It was also the first open criticism against Aristotelian and Ptolemic systems, which in addition to claiming Earth was central, employed the classical ideal of ‘celestial motions’ being eternally uniform and circular.  Continue reading

The Gaelic Liturgy; the only copy in Scotland

This unassuming little book is of the greatest national importance: it is the only copy in Scotland of the first book printed in Gaelic (Gaelic Liturgy; year 1567; shelfmark Dd.10.44.).  After the Reformation there was a strong impetus, sponsored primarily by the Campbell Earls of Argyll, to evangelise the Highlands and Islands, where Gaelic rather than Scots was spoken.  John Carswell, Bishop of the Isles, adapted John Knox’s Book of Common Order into Scottish Gaelic.  It was a hugely ambitious undertaking, particularly considering it would be another two centuries before the New Testament was finally published in vernacular Gaelic.  This copy has clearly been well-used.

Continue reading

2nd C. Sculpture to Star Wars Props: 3D, a Force Awakens?

During a photogrammetry training session with Clara Molina Sanchez, we were recommended to choose objects with a matt surface, small to medium in size, and which didn’t have many holes or occlusions. We settled on a Gandharan Buddha from the Art Collection, a Paolozzi maquette from the Edinburgh College of Art collection and, just to test what would happen, a thigh bone trumpet wrapped in shiny metal filigree from the Musical Instruments collection.

Continue reading

A Lengthy Challenge: Photographing the Mahabharata


Recently I was asked to scope the digitisation of a beautiful scroll we have in our collection, Or.Ms 510, or better known as the Mahabharata. Gemma Scott, our former Digital Library intern, says that:

‘the Mahabharata tells the tale of a dynastic struggle between two sets of cousins for control of the Bharata kingdom in central India. One of the longest poems ever written, eclipsed only by the Gesar Epic of Tibet, it is said to have been composed between 900 and 400BCE by the sage Vyasa, although, in reality, it is likely to have been created by a number of individuals. To Hindus, it is important in terms of both dharma (moral law) and history (itihasa), as its themes are often didactic.’

Our scroll dates to 1795 and came to Edinburgh University in 1821 when it was donated by Colonel Walker of Bowland. It is 13.5cm wide and a staggering 72m long, housed in a wooden case, wound around rollers and turned by a key in the side. It has 78 miniatures of varying sizes and is elaborately decorated in gold, with floral patterning in the late Mughul or Kangra style. The text itself is dense, tiny, and underpinned with yet more gold leaf decorations.

Continue reading