Jewish Studies Collections at New College Library : archives

Currently on display at New College Library for the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh at New College is this lovely manuscript item from New College’s historic archive collections, originally coming from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Yitzchaki, Shlomo. Commentary on Deuteronomy, undated. MS BOX 25.2

This is the first page of an illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as Rashi’s Commentary on Deuteronomy. Rashi was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), an acclaimed French medieval scholar, whose explanations of scriptures were valued for their precision and simplicity.

The New College Library archives hold the papers of Old Testament and Hebrew and Semitic Languages scholars such as Prof Oliver S Rankin (1885-1956), which contains many writings in German, teaching notes and notes on Jewish festivals, Prof John Duncan (1796-1870) and Prof Norman W Porteous (1898-2003). These papers are important sources for researching Christian academic engagement with the Jewish people and Jewish-Christian Relations. Continue reading

Jewish Studies Collections at New College Library : nineteenth and twentieth centuries

The British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh at New College today covers a wide range of topics under its theme of ‘Jews on the Move’ including the theme of Jewish-Christian relations. New College Library’s collections from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide a window into Jewish-Christian relations, particularly through travel writing, and through development of missions to Jews in the Middle East.

Bible Plants, 1887

New College Library’s collections are rich in the area of nineteenth century Christian encounters with Jews, usually in the form of mission to Jewish communities. The New College object collections include objects collected from trips to the Holy Land, including the pressed flower album of ‘Bible Plants’ above, phylacteries, a prayer shawl and a scale model of the Temple of Jerusalem. The book and archive collections include some fascinating materials from the Church of Scotland’s development of missions to Jews in the Middle East, including books, archives and objects relating to Rev. Andrew A. Bonar and Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Bonar and McCheyne were appointed by the Church of Scotland in 1838 as part of a deputation to visit Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East, with a view to future mission activity.

Books from the William Foakes Jackson Collection

The William Fulton Jackson Collection preserves the collection of man who was an enthusiastic armchair traveller to the Holy Land, with a popular, rather than academic interest in Israel and Palestine. His collection also includes many works on Jewish Studies, including encyclopedias and dictionaries, and demonstrates a keen interest in understanding Jews and Judaism.

New College Library’s Pamphlets Collection of over 35,000 items reflects a deliberate policy from the foundation of New College library in 1843 to collect pamphlets and ephemera on historical, religious and current issues. The collection includes these three pamphlets are examples of the publisher Victor Gollancz’s campaign to draw attention to the plight of the Jews in Europe and to demand that the British Government provide rescue and sanctuary for Jewish victims.

Nazi massacres of the Jews & others : some practical proposals for immediate rescue made by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Rochester in speeches on March 23rd 1943 in the House of Lords. London, Gollancz, 1943. Z.h.30/24

One of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942, Temple was at the forefront of the campaign to draw attention to the plight of the Jews in Europe and to demand that the British Government provide rescue and sanctuary for Jewish victims. His speech urges:

The Jews are being slaughtered at the rate of tens of thousands a day on many days … we cannot rest as long as there is any sense among us that we are not doing all that might be done.”

Sadly no changes to refugee policy were made by the British Government and after William Temple died in 1944, the impetus for rescuing the Jews did not continue.

“Nowhere to lay their heads” : the Jewish tragedy in Europe and its solution. London : Gollancz, 1945. Z.h.30/33

“Let my people go” : some practical proposals for dealing with Hitler’s massacre of the Jews and an appeal to the British public. London : Gollancz, 1943. Z.h. 30/1

Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Jewish Studies Collections at New College library : early books

This week New College welcomes the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh. Delegates are welcome to visit New College Library where they’ll find a display of Jewish Studies related items from our Special Collections..

Early Jewish sacred texts, biblical scholarship and devotional works in Hebrew can be discovered throughout New College Library’s Special Collections.

leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Naḥman. Perush ha-Torah. Pisa: Bene Sontsino, 1514. Dal-Chr 15.

Continue reading

When size matters : big books

A really good question was asked by one of our student interns recently about the rare books collections they were working with : “Why are the big books so big?”. This set me thinking about the size of the books in our Special Collections, big and small, and why size matters.

[Bible. Authorized version]. The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments … Glasgow ; Edinburgh ; London : Printed and published by William Mackenzie ; 1862-1863. New College Library B.r.302a-b

The biggest book that I know in our collections is the Queen’s Bible, which is so large (48cm in height) and heavy it takes two members of staff to safely handle it. This Bible was prepared for the International Exhibition of 1862, at which it was an example of the new technology of using machinery for composing text, though the printing was done by hand. With only 170 copies published, it is bound in red morocco, embossed with royal cipher and other ornaments, with brass mountings and clasps. For this book, its size is all about impressing the onlooker and is part of its role as a luxury object.

The Bible: translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languages. London: Christopher Barker, 1583. B.r.33/1

Alongside this book, in our early Bibles collection we have several examples of pulpit Bibles such as this Geneva Bible used as the pulpit Bible in Crail, Fife. Traditionally Presbyterian churches in Scotland had a centrally located pulpit, reflecting the importance of the Bible as the foundation of faith. The large size of the book is part of its role as an object used in public worship.

Mikdash yeyai, ʻesrim ve-ʾarbʻa sefare ha-mikhtav ha-ḳadosh = En tibi lector Hebraica Biblia. Basel, 1534. LP4/2.10

In fact many of the largest books in our rare book collections are Bibles, and this is no surprise considering that the Bible is a very large amount of text, which requires a large book to fit it all in. This is even more the case for polyglot Bibles, which offer parallel versions of the text in different languages such as Latin, Hebrew and Greek, or for Bible versions that include commentary parallel with the text.  In the recently catalogued LP section, this folio edition of the complete Hebrew Bible, with Latin translation, and Latin commentary drawn from Rabbinic sources, is one of the greatest Christian Hebraists of the sixteenth century, Sebastian Münster. This Bible was highly valued by 16th century Christian students of the Hebrew language and the Hebrew Scriptures, and is likely to have been among the resources used by Luther in preparing his Genesis lectures (1535-1545), his last major work.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian

With thanks to Janice Gailani, Rare Books Cataloguer.

Psalm singing and the Reformation

New College Library welcomes delegates to The Cultures of the Reformation: A Colloquium in Honour of Professor Jane Dawson on Thursday 1 June 2017. We have updated our current display of early psalm books and Scottish liturgy to include two new items.

The CL. Psalmes of David in meter : for the vse of the Kirk of Scotland : the contents of this buke follovve in the next page after the kalender. Imprinted at London : By Thomas Vautrollier dwelling in the Black-Friers, 1587.  tUR 77 1587

Continue reading

Psalms in public and private

New College Library welcomes the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this week with a display of early psalm books.

The psalmes of David in metre : according as they are sung in the Kirk of Scotland … Edinburgh, 1596. tUR 77 1596

During the period 1564-1644, around 70 editions of the Psalme Buik were produced for used in the Church of Scotland. Continue reading

My dear Playfair

A guest post from Eleanor Rideout, Helpdesk Assistant – New College Library

Letter of Henry Cockburn to William Playfair. Box 49.1.7, New College Library

One of my favourite things about working with historical collections is the unexpected find, like this letter of Henry Cockburn to William Playfair discovered while shelving.

9 Dec [18]41

 My Dear Playfair

 No one can rejoice more cordially than I do; & chiefly on your account. It will do you so much honor, – to say nothing of anything else. It is the best recipe for all your ailments. Get it up while I have eyes to see, – & God bless you.

Ever

Cockburn

 

New College Library through the scaffolding, April 2017

New College is currently deep under scaffolding for cleaning works so a message to the original architect stood out. Henry Cockburn’s name is also familiar – he was a prominent advocate for conservation in Edinburgh and nearby Cockburn Street is named for him.

I had hoped that Cockburn’s excitement was about New College itself, but swiftly realised that the key date of the 1843 Disruption rather prevented this. Checking Playfair’s entry in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects showed that at this time he was working on Donaldson’s Hospital.[1] Getting final design approval seem to have been a difficult process but on 7 December 1841 his plans were finally accepted.[2]

Cockburn for one was impressed: even before work was completed in 1852 he described the building as ‘of itself sufficient to adorn a city’.[3] He lived to 1854, so did indeed get to see the result with his own eyes.

[Donaldson’s image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edinburgh_Donaldson%27s_School_view_from_SE.JPG]

Eleanor Rideout

[1] http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=100290

[2] David Walker, ‘The Donaldson’s Hospital Competition and the Palace of Westminster’, Architectural History, Vol. 27 (1984)

[3] Henry Cockburn, A letter to the Lord Provost on the best ways of spoiling the beauty of Edinburgh (1849)

The perils of Christian mission : writing from the New World

Guest curator Suzi Higton writes about her current display in the Funk Reading Room case

In their quest to spread the Word of God, missionaries have for centuries traversed continents to reach some of the most isolated and hostile places on earth. Currently on display at New College Library is a mere handful of the wealth of literature written by those who risked their lives to introduce Christianity to nations only recently acquainted with Western influence.

Dating from the mid-1850s to the turn of the nineteenth century, these titles are notable not only for their vivid Victorian book bindings, but for the captivating stories of enduring hardship and inherent peril of which they tell.

The daughters of Syria : a narrative of efforts by Mrs. Bowen Thompson for the evangelization of the Syrian females; Bishop Hannington : the life and adventures of a missionary hero; A thousand miles of miracle in China; . From New College Library

A Thousand Miles of Miracle in China first published in 1904, recounts the personal experience of Archibald D. E. Glover, a missionary who witnessed first-hand the brutality of the Boxer Uprising of June 1900, an unrelenting attack on Western missionaries and Chinese Christian converts. Glover recalls half of the missionaries in the Shan-si region were murdered and that he and his family were lucky to escape with their lives.

The Cross and the Dragon or Light in the Broad East focuses on an earlier era of missionary work in China as described by the Reverend Benjamin Couch Henry. A Princeton graduate, Henry travelled to Canton (now Guangzhou) in 1874 and describes in detail the deeply unwelcoming reception of Western missionaries. Labelled as ‘foreign devils,’ it was widely believed they had brought misfortune to the country, including drought and famine.

The story of James Hannington, who became the first bishop of East Equatorial Africa, begins on a decidedly light-hearted note but ends ultimately in tragedy. The Life and Adventures of Bishop Hannington documents in often comical detail the Anglican minister’s travels to Zanzibar and Uganda between 1883 and 1885. Accompanied by striking colour illustrations and formed in part by humorous letters written to his young nephews, Hannington’s eventual kidnap and murder by tribesmen is recorded from his own pocket journal recovered by a later expedition after his death.

A number of missionary accounts from the period are noteworthy for their inclusion of foldable maps as seen in Fiji and the Fijians. Measuring just 18cm in length, the map included in this account which spans two volumes charts the cluster of islands as they would have appeared in the mid-nineteenth century to the missionaries who first arrived there. Missions to this region however were not without risk as demonstrated by the fate of English missionary Thomas Baker who was killed and eaten by cannibals in Nabatautau, Fiji in 1867.

The Daughters of Syria recounts the tireless work of female missionary Mrs Elizabeth Bowen. Following the outbreak of civil war which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Christians, Mrs Bowen travelled alone to Lebanon in 1860. Her efforts resulted in the establishment of the British Syria Schools in Beirut, providing a lifeline to the many widows and children left destitute by the conflict.

The diversity of missions undertaken during the Victorian era is perhaps best demonstrated by Village Work in India, the account of Normal Russell of the Canada Presbyterian Church. The Reverend’s mission to Madhya Pradesh, Central India between 1890 and 1902 is accompanied by a number of photographs taken during his often perilous travels.

Today, missionaries continue to travel the world and although many still encounter great danger, the fascinating yet harrowing accounts of these first missions provide unique insights into unexplored lands and of the lives of those who lived there.

Suzi Higton, School of Divinity

Confessions of a work placement student

A guest post from MSc Book History and Material Culture student Holly Sanderson

Entrance to the Library from New College Courtyard

As part of the Master’s degree in Book History and Material Culture at the University of Edinburgh, each student is required to undertake a ten-week work placement at a cultural heritage institution. I have long focused my academic interest upon aspects of divinity, especially liturgical and devotional texts, and as such, it was a pleasure to learn that my placement would be at New College Library. Now, with just one workday left until the placement’s end, I am taking the opportunity to reflect upon my time here – the treasures found, tasks undertaken, and skills learnt.
The projects I’ve been working on fall into roughly three areas: collections assessment, collections care, and exhibitions. I’ve handled several different collections, including the Chinese collection donated to New College Library in 1921 by the Rev. James W. Inglis, the Portraits collection from the New College archives, and the Norman Walker Porteous Papers. I’ve also been working with a sequence of very dusty unaccessioned material and a sequence of uncatalogued pre-1800 books. I was on the lookout for any items with copy-specific features and/or interesting provenance that could heighten potential research value. Collections care is another important factor in library management, and when handling each item I would assess its condition, making a note of particularly bad damage and tying any fragile items with cotton conservation tape. One particularly interesting item I came across was a photo album collected by Bishop Whipple from Minnesota. After spending most of the day sifting through albums of British ministers and notable men, it was a surprise to encounter portraits of nineteenth-century North American Indians!

Images from Bishop Whipple’s Photo Album

Anyone who has visited the library will be able to understand why my romantic sentiments were only encouraged by the stunning neo-gothic building that is New College. However, as the placement progressed, I came to realise the problem with my original perspective: not only was it impractical, it was selfish. My bibliophilic daydream made room for me only, hoarding rare books like a dragon with its gold, when the true importance of cultural heritage lies in it being openly accessible to all. Enabling public access to special collections can generate significant environmental, economic and social benefits: it boosts the economy, aids social inclusion and cohesion, advances understanding and education, and can even contribute to wider agendas such as health outcomes, the environment, and urban planning.

The importance of cultural heritage to humanity is perhaps recognised most clearly through its destruction. Consider ISIL’s treatment of Palmyra and Mosul, or the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 – both attempts to destroy a community’s sense of shared history and identity. However, heritage is mostly lost not by wilful destruction but by simple neglect, demonstrating the constant need for good collections care and management. Any loss of heritage highlights not only its importance but also its irreplaceability. This, I have come to realise, is one of the clearest arguments for the importance of collections care and management as a profession: preserving our history to pass on to future generations.

Image courtesy of http://lotr.wikia.com

I would like to thank Christine Love-Rodgers, and all of the staff at New College Library, for allowing me to see behind the scenes and get to grips with the everyday tasks that ensure these collections can be accessed, enjoyed, and preserved. Gone are my fantasies of green leather-topped desks, lamplight, and spending every day surrounded by mountains of fifteenth-century manuscripts, but I have found the reality that has replaced these daydreams to be just as exciting.

Holly Sanderson

April 2017

Library open during New College Quad closure 8-22 April 2017

Due to building works, access to New College Library via the New College Quad will be closed between Sat 8th to Sat 22nd April. However alternative access to New College Library will be provided via the door to left of the archway on Mound Place.

New College Library – temporary side entrance

Due to concerns about fire exits, Stack II will be closed to public access for this period. A collection service will be operated for library users. Please make enquiries at the Helpdesk. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Access to the School of Divinity is available via the Ramsay Lane entrance – see map.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity