Tag Archives: archives

Earlier this year, our two interns Sarah and Devon spent a few months re-housing and listing the papers of the Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), recently donated to the CRC. They share their experiences with us.

Sarah Hendriks:

When I was about eight years old my violin teacher gave me a new piece of music and said, ‘now you get to play a real piece’. It was Joachim’s Hungarian Dance No. 4 and I loved it. It’s remained one of my favourite pieces to play and its folksy, vibrant style inspired my later love of other composers like Bloch and Kreisler.

Despite loving his music, I knew relatively little about Joachim the man until I took on this internship at Special Collections. By going through the collection I discovered so much about Joachim, his family, his music, and his life. I also got to meet his relatives and talk about the collection and hear their recollections of the items. Matching the stories to the items I’d been reading and examining for the last two months reinforced the human aspect of the material I’d been working with: such a rare experience!

Over the last three months I’ve catalogued what feels like hundreds of newspaper clippings, notes, concert programmes, photographs, and music. I’ve had the chance to brush up my German whilst reading the mountain of obituaries and anecdotes about him, his violins and his performances. There were also notes about his life in Hungarian and a poem in French on the occasion of his death. Buried amongst the newspaper clippings was a handwritten account of a family holiday: I’d never read a more touching portrait of the man.

Postcard of Joseph Joachim in a fake car with the Mendelssohn brothers, 1890-1907 (Coll-1711/5/5)

The highlights for me, however, were the photographs. Joachim apparently loved a joke and you can see this in the picture of him in a fake car. The images also captured his pensive side, reading his letters in front of a fire or concentrating on some German verse. A particularly special picture for me is the one of Joachim with Nellie Melba, a fellow Australian whose alma mater I also attended. Apparently they were great friends with an equally adventurous sense of fun that often perplexed those around them. I like to think you can see a touch of this camaraderie in their portrait.

Working with archives is, for me, always exciting. You never quite know what you’re going to come across or discover and so often the material hasn’t been examined in a long time. The Joachim archive was so full of delights and surprises and it exceeded all my expectations. This internship has been a wonderful experience and one I would highly recommend. It would not have been possible without the generosity of the Joachim family and the support of the Special Collections Team and I’d like to thank them both for the opportunity. I’ve learnt so much about the practical side to archive management and processing, but also had an awful lot of fun learning about a hero in the process. I can’t wait for the next one!

Signed image mounted on card of Joseph Joachim and Nellie Melba, taken by Guigoni & Bossi, Milan, late 19th/early 20th c. (Coll-1711/5/7)

Devon Barnett: 

I wanted to be an Archive Intern so that I could learn first-hand the processes behind turning a collection of items into an organised and usable resource. As a Music graduate, it was an added benefit that the archive I would be working on centred around an important figure in classical music – Joseph Joachim. While working on the Joseph Joachim collection I have learned how to box list items, how to identify anything that may need to be sent to conservation, how to think about what items may be useful and beneficial to be digitised, and how to best categorise, arrange, and reference the items as well as a collection of books.

Image of Joseph Joachim playing cards outside a coffee shop, 1890-1907 (Coll-1711/5/12/5)

I have also learned a lot about Joseph Joachim, both his musical output and his personal life. Shockingly, I had never heard his name even once in my entire four years of studying a music degree and I did not know that he is owed at least in part for helping Johannes Brahms to find success and for helping Clara Schumann to care for Robert Schumann in his final years of critical mental illness. My favourite item of the collection by far was a letter written in 1907 by Donald Francis Tovey. It was written to an unspecified ‘Mrs Joachim’ and concerned the recent passing of Joseph Joachim. The letter is beautifully and poetically written, and really shows the loss felt by the music world. The letter is also important for its personal connection to Edinburgh. Tovey was a composer, musician, musicologist, and close friend of Joseph Joachim. Tovey became the Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music (from which I have just graduated), and at which there now exists the position of Tovey Professor and the award of the Sir Tovey Memorial Prize for outstanding promise shown in composition or performance. As the university is home to not only the Joseph Joachim collection but also a collection of Tovey’s large collection of books and music scores, this letter is significant and relevant to both, tying them nicely together to both each other and the university.

Letter to ‘Mrs Joachim’ from Donald Francis Tovey on the subject of Joseph Joachim’s death, 1907, p.1 (Coll-1711/1/2/5) (click here for a higher resolution image)

Letter to ‘Mrs Joachim’ from Donald Francis Tovey on the subject of Joseph Joachim’s death, 1907, p.2 (Coll-1711/1/2/5) (click here for a higher resolution image)

Their fantastic work has enabled us to create a great resource on our online discovery platform, ArchivesSpace. Click here to see the catalogue.

The Foundation of Anatomy: Class List of Alexander Monro (primus)

From time to time we ‘rediscover’ items in our collections.  It’s not that we didn’t know we had them; rather that they have not come to anyone’s specific attention within the many, many items we hold.

This is certainly the case with the earliest class list we hold for anatomy students.  It has a comprehensive name index, which is usually what people refer to, seldom asking to see the item itself.  However, when double checking some catalogue references, it was necessary to have a quick look at the original item.  It revealed itself to be far more significant than the index recorded.

It is a volume of principally students’ names and those they were studying under, beginning in 1720, when Alexander Monro primus began giving classes in anatomy in autumn 1720.  Monro had just been appointed Professor of Anatomy. Although the official establishment of the Faculty of Medicine was still six years away, many view the appointment of Monro as the clear starting point.

Page from 1820.  Includes the name of Martin Eccles. (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Died 1778.)

Page from 1820. Includes the name of Martin Eccles. (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Died 1778.)

Monro was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Leiden and learned anatomy under Frederik Ruysch in Amsterdam. He returned to Edinburgh in 1719 and passed the examinations for admission to the Incorporation of Surgeons.  The Professorship of Anatomy had been established by Edinburgh Town Council in 1705 but for Monro, unlike his predecessors, his appointment was clearly defined as a university chair.

Students were apprenticed to masters (surgeons), often boarding with them as well.  Teaching was conducted at Surgeons Hall and not within the precincts of the University until 1725, the move at least partly fuelled by public rioting over accusations of grave robbing.

A random check of names in the volume has as yet failed to yield a match with actual medical graduates, though names of identifiable surgeons and physicians are present, illustrating the fact that the formality of a degree was not mandatory to practice medicine.

The volume was donated to the University Library in 1924 by James Watt, LL.D., W.S., F.F.A., F.R.S.E (1863-1945).  He lived in Craiglockart House, which was built for Monro’s son, Alexander Monro secundus (1733-1817). The volume was found by Watt inn the cistern room of the house.  Fortunately, he was able to recognise its significance and pass it on to the then University Librarian, L. W. Sharp.

Copy of letter from James Watt to Lord Amulree, 1945, sent to Lauriston William Sharp, University Librarian.

Copy of letter from James Watt to Lord Amulree, 1945, sent to Lauriston William Sharp, University Librarian.

Sources:

  • Alexander Monro, class list (1720-1749), Special Collections, EUA GD60 (Dc.5.95)
  • Anita Guerrini, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Monro, Alexander, primus (1697–1767), surgeon and anatomist [accessed 30 Jan 2015]
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The story of the University of Edinburgh during its first three hundred years (1884)

The University benefits from Christmas

Robert Irvine (1839-1902) FRSE

Robert Irvine (1839-1902) FRSE. Endowed the Chair of Bacteriology.

A recent enquiry about a benefactor has thrown up an interesting set of connections within and beyond the University.

The son of Robert Irvine, manager of The Scotsman newspaper, Robert Irvine was born in Edinburgh in 1839.  By 1871 he was married to Margaret Sclater and living in a large house in Baltic Street, Leith, the manager of a chemical works.  By 1891 he was the owner of Caroline Park at Granton.  This included, the marine station, laboratories and warehouse as well as his own home.  He was now a Chemical Manufacturer. He was a friend of oceanographer, Sir John Murray (1841-1915), assistant on the Challenger Expedition and founder of the Marine Station at Granton, either on or adjacent to Irvine’s property (accounts differ).

Murray was also involved in establishing the Christmas Island Phosphate Company.  One of the investors was Irvine and it was part of the fortune realised by this lucrative venture that was bequeathed to the University of Edinburgh.  This established the Chair in Bacteriology and the first Professor was James Ritchie (1864-1923), MA, BSc, MD, FRCPE.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1886, his proposers including Sir John Murray, and David Mather Masson, Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (English Literature).  The winner of the Neill Prize 1892-5, he also served as Councillor 1899-1902.

Irvine died in 1902 at his home at Granton, predeceased by his wife.  They had no children.

Irvine appears in our collections not only as a benefactor to the University but also in the records of the Granton Marine Station, which suggest his was role in it was quite hands-on.  The station closed shortly after Irvine’s death by which time most of the work had already moved to the west coast (for further information, see http://www.sams.ac.uk/about-us/our-history).

Grant Buttars, Deputy University Archivist

New acquisition: Further papers of Alexander Craig Aitken

aitken1The mathematician, statistician, writer, composer and musician, Alexander Craig Aitken, was born in Dunedin, New Zealand on 1 April 1895. He was of Scottish descent. He attended Otago Boys’ High School from 1908 to 1912. On winning a university scholarship in 1912 he went on to study at the University of Otago in 1913, enrolling in Mathematics, French and Latin. Studies were cut short by the 1914-1918 War however and he enlisted in 1915 serving with the Otago Infantry. Aitken saw action in Gallipoli and Egypt, and he was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. After his hospitalisation, he returned to New Zealand in 1917.

On the completion of his studies in 1920, Aitken became a school-teacher at Otago Boys’ High School and the same year he married Winifred Betts the first lecturer in Botany at the University of Otago where he also did some tutoring. Then, encouraged by a professor of mathematics at the University, he gained a postgraduate scholarship which brought him to Edinburgh University in 1923. His thesis on statistics gained him the degree of D.Sc. in 1925 when he also joined the University staff as a lecturer in Statistics and Mathematical Economics. In 1937 he was promoted to Reader, and in 1946 was appointed to the Chair of Mathematics.

Aitken’s publications include: jointly with H. W. Turnbull, The theory of canonical matrices (1932); with D. E. Rutherford, a series of Mathematical Texts; wartime experiences in Gallipoli to the Somme: Recollections of a New Zealand infantryman (1963); and, posthumously To catch the spirit. The memoir of A.C. Aitken with a biographical introduction by P.C. Fenton (1995). He made many important contributions to the many fields of his subject, particularly in the theory of Matrix Algebra and its application to various branches of mathematics. In his time, Professor Aitken was one of the fastest mathematical calculators in the world.

While at school, Aitken had learned to play the violin, and later on in life he played both the violin and viola and composed pieces for performance by university groups.  He died in Edinburgh on 3 November 1967.

Shortly before Christmas we acquired a further tranche of Aitken’s papers.  These include a number of original mathematical manuscripts, correspondence, legal documents, offprints, publications and photographs.  Amongst these is a review by Aitken of Sara Turning’s “Alan Turing”.

aitken

At the moment we still have to look through the collection, box it up and create a basic handlist.  Once this is done it will be available for consultation.