Category Archives: School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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.

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Dong Ding The Boundary of Balance – Documentary Condition Photography

The Art Collection acquired one piece from Dong Ding’s sculptural jewellery collection Boundary of Balance; a series of works which explores the relationship and tension between balance and imbalance.  Each of the carefully crafted kinetic pieces can be worn in multiple ways – disassembled and re-assembled by the wearer – with interchangeable and detachable details such as rings, tie pins and earrings integrated into the overall composition.

The movement of each piece is influenced by these counterbalanced components, as well as by the body and actions of the wearer. Sharing a passing resemblance to historical navigational tools, the works come accompanied with bespoke laser cut instructions identifying the multiple permutations for the wearer.  Julie-Ann Delaney Art Collections Curator University of Edinburgh.

“A piece may contain hidden details and contrasting elements of weight and material. The work is kinetic with moveable parts that invite play. Movement is influenced by counterbalanced components, interchangeable parts and the wearer’s body movement. Through interaction with the work, the wearer is invited to play with the tension between balance and imbalance.” Dong Ding.

Museum Collections Manager Anna Hawkins outlined the photography and handling of the complex object. Multiple images were required to accurately record the condition of the piece at point of entry into the Museum Collections. This included two views of the whole object back and front and in addition back and front views of each individual part of the object in isolation.

To achieve a detailed representation I employed focus stacking to achieve the consistent detail. This involves taking multiple images at different focal lengths and aligning these images to create one image with overall focus. Below is a selection of some of the images captured. I have included partial details to demonstrate the capabilities of our medium format cameras. The resulting Tiff files are delivered to the Museum Collections team in excess of 100Mb which can be used for condition checking and allowing detailed object examination. These images are also suitable for publication, broadcast and social media.

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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.  

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Doodles and Discoveries: Scottish Court of Session Papers

We are now well in the midst of the Scottish Court of Session Papers Phase 2 Pilot. In this stage of the project, we are concentrating on digitising three hundred volumes from the collections of the three institutions involved; The Faculty of Advocates, The Signet Library and the Edinburgh University Library. Week seventeen has passed, workflows have been tinkered with, scanner issues are being ironed out and we are gradually seeing the fruits of our labour as fascinating and soon to be accessible digital content builds up. In this blog post, project staff Joanne and Daisy report back on some of the more interesting discoveries they’ve made within these volumes.

 

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Scottish Court of Session Papers: Phase 2 Pilot

“The most valuable unstudied source for Scottish history….in existence.” Historiographer Royal, Professor T.C. Smout

It has been a while since we provided an update on our Scottish Court of Session Papers Digitisation Project after the initial pilot in early 2017 (see previous blog post here). To recap, this project consists of an expansive collection of court records from Scotland’s highest civil court. The collection is held over three institutions here in Edinburgh; The Faculty of Advocates, The Signet Library and the Edinburgh University Library (EUL), with EUL leading the project. There are over 5000 volumes made up of written pleadings of contested cases, answers, replies, and case summaries, many of which have contemporary annotations. It is almost certainly the world’s largest single body of uncatalogued English language printed material before 1900. Many of the volumes are in very poor condition, requiring conservation care, and the volumes often contain large foldouts which present many digitisation challenges.

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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

The Anatomy of the Horse

Recently I digitised Carlo Ruini’s ‘Anatomia Del Cavallo’ (The Anatomy of the Horse, Diseases and Treatments) as part of our Iconic’s collection on our i2S V-shape cradle scanner. It is a lavishly illustrated anatomic manual on the study of horses and was the first book to focus exclusively on the structure of a species other than man. In Ruini’s estimation, the horse combines ‘great love of man’ with natural docility and is celebrated for its many ways to bring pleasure and assistance to man that it is commemorated everywhere in monuments, tombs, poetry, and painting.

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A Stitch in Time: Mahābhārata Delivered Online

I don’t know if I have ever been more excited about a digitisation project going live:  the Edinburgh University’s 1795 copy of the Mahābhārata is now available online.  This beautiful scroll is one of the longest poems ever written, containing a staggering 200,000 verses spread along 72 meters of richly decorated silk backed paper. As one of the Iconic items in our Collection it was marked as a digitisation priority, so when a customer requested the 78 miniatures back in April 2017 it seemed like a good opportunity to digitise it in its entirety. There was just one problem: it was set to go on display in the ‘Highlands to Hindustan’ exhibition, which opened at the Library in July. This left us with only a narrow window of opportunity for the first stages of the project: conservation and photography. Continue reading

Correcting Shakespeare

Since November last year, I have been volunteering on the Luna Project in the Digital Imaging Unit. Throughout the project I have been working with the University of Edinburgh’s Shakespeare Collection. As a fan of Shakespeare’s work, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with this collection which contains a variety of different classic Shakespeare plays such as; Romeo and Juliet, Henry VI, Midsommer Night’s Dreame and my personal favourite, the Taming of The Shrew. 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.

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