Martin Luther in his own words #Reformation500

Today the School of Divinity will mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed the Ninety Five Theses to the door of Wittemberg Church with a public lecture from Durham University’s Professor Alec Ryrie, a leading scholar of Reformation History, who will speak on ‘Protestants and their Bibles from the Reformation to the Present’.

In New College Library, a display in the Library Hall showcases some of Luther’s early publications. Martin Luther’s prolific publishing output in Latin and German preserves the arguments that shook Catholic Europe.  Much more can be seen at the Incendiary Texts exhibition to be held at the Centre for Research Collections, Main Library, 10 November 2017-8 March 2018.  Continue reading

‘The price of blood’ : Frederick Douglass speaks to Scotland

A guest post for Black History Month by Eleanor Rideout, IS Helpdesk Assistant

Frederick Douglass by Samuel J Miller, 1847-52. Wikimedia Commons

Noted African-American anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass had embarked on a tour of Ireland and Great Britain, reaching Scotland in 1846. He was speaking against the evils of slavery generally, but a decision made by the Free Church of Scotland became the focus of his work here.

The separation of the Free Church from the Church of Scotland meant that funding needed to be found. One source was fellow Presbyterian Churches, including those in the American South. Money was accepted from slaveholders, which did not go unnoticed by abolitionists.

Douglass’s reputation as a powerful speaker is confirmed by two anonymous letters from a woman living in Dundee, addressed to Free Church leader Thomas Chalmers, which are held at New College Library, Edinburgh.

Anonymous to Thomas Chalmers, 1 April 1846. MS CHA 4.321.41-42.

The writer’s style is impassioned, swerving between criticism of slaveholders, concern for her own soul, and description of events recently witnessed:

“They would not give the churches and few comparatively speaking gave their ears. Because it was said that the strangers witnessed too hard things against your Church. If the Men tell the Truth you should not be angry.”

“Dear Dr C. What are you going to do in the matter of taking money from the slaveholders in the America about which I heard a great deal last week & meetings – two of which I attended – as I used to be very much interested in the Slave question…”

“Part of my ordinary as Rev. T Boston would say, or rather my extraordinary for in thought word and deed I am of late a Backslidder [Backslider], ah for Grace to grow in grace. You see how I wander –It is the Poor Captive slave I wish now to speak for. I would you would be a tongue to such dumb ones. Then soon soon the Lord will look down and deliver. For to them belongeth Power, Dominion, Strength, Mercy. And then will their tongues become glories to praise, to bless to laud the King of Glory – and they too shall not forget you –as we all have too long forgotten them. Neglect is infliction.

O how much I know of my Masters will yet do it not I wish whiles the Lord would set me and take me.”

She also uses rhetorical flourish herself to try and persuade Chalmers:

“It was sins of ignorance I was reading today 4 Lev. I see there the Lord will not let such pass. It was for such the blessed Jesus prayed when on the cross Father forgive them. Now I believe firmly you did not see at the time that taking money from slaveholders was the price of blood – verily your Church hath been guilty. Do not think I am glad to set aught against you because you have far outstript us in the way of voluntary giving. No I was glad and I myself made crape [crêpe] the year of the disruption that I might give what I had for ribbon, to your Free Church, Free Church what have you to do with the House of Bondage. Hath the Truth made you Free – then Freely give.”

It is interesting to be able to read her words along with the published transcripts of the speeches made by Frederick Douglass, also held at New College Library :

Free Church Alliance with manstealers: send back the money, great anti-slavery meeting in the City Hall, Glasgow. Glasgow: George Gallie, 1846. M.d.9/10.

 

“All was going on gloriously – triumphantly; the moral and religious sentiment of the country was becoming concentrated against slavery, slaveholders, and the abetters of slaveholders, when, at this period, the Free Church of Scotland sent a deputation to the United States with a doctrine diametrically opposed to the abolitionists, taking up the ground that, instead of no fellowship, they should fellowship the slaveholders. According to them the slaveholding system is a sin, but not the slaveholder a sinner.”

“The deputation had an excellent opportunity of aiming an effectual blow at slavery, but they turned a deaf ear and refused to listen to the friends of freedom. They turned a deaf ear to the groans of the oppressed slave – they neglected the entreaties of his friends- and they went into the slave states, not for the purpose of imparting knowledge to the slave, but to go and strike hands with the slaveholders, in order to get money to build Free Churches and pay Free Church ministers in Scotland. [Cries of “shame” and applause.]”

“I verily believe, that, had I been at the South, and had I been a slave, as I have been a slave – and I am a slave still by the laws of the United States- had I been there, and that deputation had come into my neighbourhood, and my master had sold me on the auction block, and given the produce of my body and soul to them, they would have pocketed it and brought it to Scotland to build their churches and pay their ministers.”

While the Free Church money was not returned the strong impression made on listeners by Frederick Douglass’s words can be seen clearly in these letters. With the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2018 his great contribution to the abolitionist cause is likely to be celebrated more and more.

Eleanor Rideout

With thanks to Alasdair Pettinger whose article ‘The Bloody Gold’ drew attention to this letter: http://www.bulldozia.com/projects/index.php?id=616

Freedom to read, freedom to believe #BannedBooksWeek

A guest post by Eleanor Rideout, IS Helpdesk Assistant

Banned Books Week, held the week of September 24th in 2017, is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. New College Library holds many texts that have been banned at different points in history, and by different nations and cultures. This week you can see some of these banned books on display in New College Library. Continue reading

Resources for Christian ministry and worship at New College Library

Today New College welcomes ministers and worship leaders to a CPD day focusing on Biblical resources. Topics include current scholarship on the Gospel of John and Advent themes in the Hebrew Bible.

At New College Library, we welcome people working in the church to use our outstanding theological collections for research and continuing professional development. Continue reading

Christian-Muslim Encounters in Texts

This week, the School of Divinity hosts the first conference of the Global Network for Christian-Muslim Studies,  Reframing Christian-Muslim Encounter : Theological and Philosophical Perspectives.

In a new display in New College Library, we can see some Christian-Muslim encounters in texts from New College Library’s collections.  These texts record Christian reactions to the Muslim encounters Turkish military campaigns brought close to home, and the preparations of Christian missionaries to venture into Muslim territories. 

Robert, of Chester, active 1143, Peter, the Venerable, approximately 1092-1156, Bibliander, Theodorus (1504-1564), Luther, Martin (1483-1586) Melanchthon, Philipp (1497-1560), Machumetis Saracenorum principis, eius’ que successorum vitae, doctrina, ac ipse Alcoran.
(Basel, 1550) MH.163

At the same time as Martin Luther was challenging the authority of the papacy using scripture, the military campaigns of the Turks were approaching closer into Europe. Luther approached this encounter with Islam by inquiring into Islamic texts, which culminated in his involvement in this publication in Latin of the Qur’ān. 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

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