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

Window to a Sixth-Century Scriptorium

A post from guest curator Elijah Hixson, PhD student, School of Divinity

This month’s student led display at New College Library features the facsimile Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus, which is on display at the entrance to New College Library.  This Codex is one of the three manuscripts to be discussed in the next Biblical Studies seminar “Window to a Sixth-Century Scriptorium: Three Luxury Gospel Manuscripts and the Scribes Who Made Them” on Friday 10 March.

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus (N 022) [facsimile] Four Gospels; Sixth century (Possibly Syria?).
[Facsimile] Athens: Miletos, 2002
New College Library (Special Collections):
Ho Porphyrous Kōdix tōn euangeliōn Patmou kai Petroupoleōs; Folio Z.142

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus (N) is a sixth-century luxury manuscript of the Gospels. It is one of only a handful of “purple codices”—manuscripts written with inks made from melted silver and gold on parchment that had been dyed purple. The purple colour indicated the luxury status of the manuscript, making it fit for the use of the Emperor, perhaps even the emperor Justinian.  In this particular manuscript, the scribe usually writes with silver, but he or she writes references to God or Jesus in gold to set them apart from the rest of the text. See, for example, the four letters in gold, 4 lines from the bottom of the first column on the right page. These four letters are abbreviations for the words “God” and “Son” in the text: αληθως θ(εο)υ υ(ιο)ς ει (“Truly, you are the Son of God”).

The facsimile is open to Matthew 14:26–36. This opening is an excellent example of how much the conditions in which a book is kept can affect its appearance. These two folios remained together for around 1,300 years. They were numbered consecutively, relatively recently in their history (see the numbers 82 and 83 written in the centre of the top margins). At some point after they were numbered (probably around the year 1896, but not before 1820), the folio on the left was separated from the rest of the codex.

Codex Purpureus – left folio

When the folio resurfaced in Athens in the 1950s, its purple dye had faded, its silver ink had tarnished, and the folio had crease marks because it had been folded up. The folio on the right remained protected within the majority of the codex, and only the silver letters around the edges of the page were exposed to air and tarnished. which was sold to Russia in 1896, and it remains in St. Petersburg to this day.

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus is cited as N in most modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament. Its text is an early form of the Byzantine textform found in the majority of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Most scholars think it was made in Syria (possibly Antioch).

Elijah Hixson, PhD candidate, School of Divinity

New books at New College Library in March 2017

A selection of some new books at New College Library, with an Islamic theme.

Muslim Christian encounters, by Professor Mona Siddiqui from the School of Divinity is now available, with four volumes  at BP172 Mus.

 

Also available, تفسير القرآن الحكيم : المشهور بتفسير المنار Tafsīr al-Qurʾān alḥakīm : al-mashhūr bi-Tafsīr al-manār by   مّد رشيد رضا.; Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā  in a twelve volume set at BP130.4 Muh.

 

 

 

Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi : Islamic reform and Arab revival by Itzchak Weismann. Available at BP80.K38 Wei.

Understanding the Qu’ran by Mostafa Mahmoud, available at BP130.4 Mah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New College Library has a regular display of new books at the far end of the Library Hall, close to the door to the stacks. Details of all new books are available via DiscoverEd.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Historic New College Library partnership begins a new chapter

Founded in 1843 as the Library of the Free Church College, and now serving the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, New College Library is one of the largest theology libraries in the UK with approximately a quarter of a million items.

There have been a number of legacy arrangements allowing borrowing access for ministers of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. This reflects the partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the Church of Scotland, which has resulted in the Church’s historic collections being maintained at New College Library and supported by the University of Edinburgh. As of 1 March 2017, we have streamlined our access arrangements and now provide free borrowing access (ID and evidence of status required) to ministers, retired ministers and employees of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. Registration enables access to all nine site libraries within the University of Edinburgh Library, including New College and the Main University Library.

Inside New College Library

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Reading the Reformation : Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was born on 16 February 1497, to become a Greek scholar and Protestant theologian, and a powerful force in Reformation debate.

A colleague of Luther’s at the University of Wittenberg, Melanchthon took part in the ‘pamphlet wars’ that spread the debates across Europe. New College Library holds early examples including this 1521 pamphlet:

Melanchthon, Philipp. Aduersus furiosum Parisiensium theologastrorum decretum Philippi Melanchthonis pro Luthero Apologia. Basel, 1521. New College Library B.a.1.15

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Reading the Reformation : John Fisher

New College Library’s collections provide a rich resource for and about Reformation theology and its readers. One of these readers was John Fisher  [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535), bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr in the time of Henry VII and VIII. Tutored in Greek by Erasmus, Fisher was able to use Erasmus’s edition of the Greek New Testament (1). Like his contemporary, Thomas More, Fisher was an active opponent of Martin Luther in the theological debates of the 1520s.

New College Library holds two editions of Fisher’s response to Luther’s theology, Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio (1523).

—Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio / per Reuerendum Patrem Joannem Roffensem Episcopum, Academiae Cantabrigiensis Cancellarium. Antwerp, 1523. X7/A2

 

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Reading the Reformation : Luther

On 14, 15 and 16 February 2017, the Cunningham Lectures at New College will mark the 500th Luther anniversary, with lectures by Professor Kaufmann covering Europe, Reformation and Luther.

New College Library holds outstanding Reformation collections that support the theme of the first lecture, Book, Print and Reformation. This includes examples of Luther’s pamphlets like the one below, from the early part of his career at the University of Wittenberg.

Luther, Martin. Auslegung und Deutung des heylige vater unsers … Leipzig, 1518. New College Library tpGT 2 1518

Each pamphlet, printed using the newly developed printing press technology, was cheaply produced and easily distributed, allowing the ideas they contained to spread quickly. Continue reading