Category Archives: School of Geosciences

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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Grand Tour Slide Show

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.

Some time ago we digitised the hand coloured glass slides in the Cavaye collection, but we didn’t have time to do the much larger black and white part of the collection. So when our project photographer John Bryden, found a bit of spare time, we were delighted to have the remaining slides completed.

The whole collection is wonderful, apparently from a Grand Tour of Europe around the turn of the 20th century. I suspect that many of the slides were bought on the trip, much like we buy postcards today. Some of them were probably only lovingly hand tinted on return to Britain- in one of Palermo the tinting appears to be half finished. Continue reading

Monsters & Maps Printed under the Watchful Dog

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Last week Mercator’s beautiful Atlas sive Cosmographicae found its way into the DIU, only after it arrived did we discover that it was actually his 503rd Birthday, a fact celebrated by google with a Google Doodle http://www.google.com/doodles/gerardus-mercators-503rd-birthday.

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Explore the Geology with LUNA

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Last week we were very excited to see a new LUNA collection go live- ‘Geology & Geologists’. This brings together images from the CRC’s Lyell collection (a wonderful mixture of correspondence and drawings), Arthur Holmes Geology medals, as well as recent images from The Cockburn Museum, School of GeoSciences. The Cockburn collection contains photographs of past Professors, and historic photos of the department as well as plates of fossilised fish.

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Iconic Photography

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Clement Litill’s 1580 bequest charter

Part of our remit in the DIU has been to work through a list of ‘Iconic’ Items from the collection in our spare time. Over the years we have completed the digitisation of some outstanding manuscripts and collections in this way, from the Hill and Adamson photographs (a personal favourite- see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/jl5w63) to the wonderful Laing Album Amicorum (see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/6oh338 ). Continue reading

A Rocky Start to the Week

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This week saw the start of a small project to digitise some papers that recently came to the CRC from the The Cockburn Museum, School of GeoSciences. The collection contains an interesting mixture of lecture notes, photos, etchings, scrolls, correspondence and large format drawings. What is more, many of these papers come from some of the biggest names in the field. Today I scanned 112 pages of Charles Lyell’s handwritten notes on mountain ranges in Madeira, including pen and ink geological sketches. These delicate and precise drawings of geological details show what fine draughtsman this influential geologist was (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell).

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The correspondence of Sir Archiblad Geikie also figures largely, along with a portrait photograph. Geikie was appointed the first Director of the Scottish branch of the Geological Survey in 1867, as well as holding the geology and mineralogy professorship here at the University (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Geikie).

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Also included are some photo’s of the old Geology Museum, and perhaps my favourite – 6 plates of fossilised fishes. We hope to be able to deliver these all online in the not too distant future!

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

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The Universal Herbal

Fascinating book of the month requested for digitisation in the DIU goes to Thomas Greens “The Universal Herbal; or, botanical, medical, and agricultural dictionary. Containing an account of all the known plants in the world, arranged according to the Linnean system. With the best methods of propagation, and the most recent agricultural improvements.”  The book is lyrically illustrated with basic but pragmatic hand colouring befitting it’s dictionary status. However it is a visually delicious looking two volume set with some unusual and intriguing entries as can be seen below. Broad-leaved Bastard Parsley is certainly a new one to me.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Photographer

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Penguins and Social Life

Last year the Salvesen Collection, which has been in the possession of the University since 1969, was given permission to make the images publically available online for the first time. The collection description tells us that ‘the history of the firm of Christian Salvesen goes back to 1851 when Christian Salvesen arrived in Leith and set up in business as a ship owner and broker. Two years later he joined the Edinburgh merchant George Vair Turnbull, continuing in partnership with him until he went solo in 1872. Three of his sons, Thomas, Frederick and Theodor (http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/we94g6) 0007295djoined him in the business; the fourth, Edward, preferred a legal career which began with a law degree from the University of Edinburgh, and which culminated in his elevation to the College of Justice and the Bench as The Hon. Lord Salvesen (1857-1942)’.

Our collection of photographs and papers is largely about the company’s whaling concerns in South Georgia. So far only a small proportion of the photographs have been digitised- around 192, however they cover a wide range from landscapes and wildlife to the people and life at the Leith Harbour base in South Georgia .

Many of the images were digitised as an order for climatologists interested in comparing glaciers at the beginning of the 20th Century with their current state, http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/1co9ui. 0007714dAlthough some are faded and damaged, they still convey the awe inspiring nature of the Islands http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/d9e4lj

Box 4. No. 3.Cumberland Bay Glacier, South Georgia, 8th June 1917.

Perhaps the most touching images are of the hardy people who worked in this cold and remote outpost http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0q75b4.

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South Georgia? 10/12/18 Envelope entittled 'Penguins and Social Life', South Georgia -football game.

From the light hearted shots of sledging http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/c6e03o and football http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/bs1r73  (I love that this photo came from an envelope entitled ‘Penguins and Social Life’), to coping with the extreme weather encountered only a little to the north of Antarctica. While some of the snow fall photos have an element of humour to them, like “The Old Powerhouse surrounded in 6″ of snow, had to be removed to fire the chimney, Dec 10/12/18” – remember that December is summer for South Georgia http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/56h599 .

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Others are far more shocking. The season of 1929-30 appears to have been one of the worst- an old news clipping shows the damage to one of the giant vats in the harbour, a note with the photo reads “Power of the Wind. Oil tank in Leith Harbour pressed together by the wind. I saw it happen” http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/rm184k . 0024988dIn the same season an avalanche hit the base with devastating consequences. This blurred and grainy photograph shows the wreckage of the Foundry http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/zysa4o and the next reveals the human cost http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/f8akdg0024989d 0024990d

For more than 50 years the Leith Station battled both the elements and tough working conditions (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands ) surviving avalanches and fires http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/9e14c2 . 'Horatio, 12/03/16 '. On fire with whale oil loaded on board. South Georgia

Throughout it all they documented their lives, challenges and environment. Although whaling has thankfully had its day, I’m glad they have left this wonderful resource for us all http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/5dhlh7'Sea Elephant, 20/6/15'. South Georgia

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

A Spring Time Natural History

Maybe it is this lovely spring weather that has got me thinking about the wonderful books on Natural History in our Collections. Perhaps the most notable of which is  The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, Vol.II, 1846 by John James Audubon. Famed for his fine artistry, life-like poses and inclusion of habitats, this naturalist was regularly quoted by such towering figures as Darwin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_James_Audubon

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Darwin himself edited several volumes, documenting The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.  Including Pt.2: Mammalia by George R. Waterhouse. http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Freeman_ZoologyOfBeagle.html

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One original we have completed in its entirety is the book by Edinburgh’s own James Wilson, Illustrations of Zoology. Surely this is the next candidate to be converted into the book reader format? Here you can see ‘The Great White Dolphin’ (Beluga) drawn by Patrick Syme and engraved by W.H. Lizars. James Wilson tells us that ‘For three months in 1815 a White Whale was observed to inhabit the Firth (‘Frith’) of Forth’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wilson_%28zoologist%29

0010939d Another of my favourites is the Herbal De Historia Stirpium, 1542 by Fuchs – the man who gave his name to the flower Fuchsia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonhart_Fuchs  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Historia_Stirpium_Commentarii_Insignes

0004715dAnd who could fail to love this frog from Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Vol.2? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Catesby

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There are many more fantastic images from our Natural History  books, a few of which can be found by clicking the links below

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After all this, I recommend a walk through one of Edinburgh’s many parks to see a bit of nature on your doorstep!

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

Digitising Darwin

Heiskell DarwinOver the years several Darwin originals have made their way to us for photography- a handwritten sheet from the manuscript of ‘On the Origin of Species’, his class cards, letters and recently some shells collected by Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle which had been rediscovered amongst Lyell’s geology collection. This week I was delighted to receive a whole trolley load of books from the Darwin collection which were being photographed in preparation for a printed catalogue. The Rare Books and Manuscripts team have already completed the online cataloguing (see their blog about this mini-project here http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/blog/2013/08/30/darwins-voyage-of-discovery/ ).

Much of what arrived in the DIU was from the Heiskell Darwin collection- a donation of first editions made to the University in 2012 from the Heiskell Bibliographical Foundation, although some beautiful plates from the ‘The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle’ came from our existing collection. As our image archive of Darwin is growing, I thought it might be nice to show some of the highlights here.

Susan Pettigrew

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