‘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

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

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)

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

International Women’s Day 2017

During my initial survey of the New College Collections, it was immediately evident, although not surprising, that the majority of the archives stemmed from the work of men or their institutions. What it did mean, though, was that those collections which belonged to women stood out all the more.

Leaving aside the archives of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in which women missionaries play a significant role, there are three collections with a female provenance which immediately spring to mind.

The first of these are the papers of Betty Darling Gibson (1889-1973), who worked on the International Review of Missions with Joe Oldham (ref. GD5: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/85273). The second would be the papers of Margaret Duncan Campbell (ref. GD 37: (http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86251) while the third would be the papers of Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) (ref. MS WIL 3).

With this last collection, what struck me was that the author of the manuscripts was only referred to as “Mrs James Wilson, wife of James Wilson, ship’s captain, Leith”. As with Betty Gibson, whose biographical details were hard to find in the shadow of her friend and colleague Joe Oldham, I was keen to give Mrs Wilson her given name and dates for the record. Her contribution to history is a curious set of journals recording her religious experiences, including her attendance at church, interlaced with family history, notable events in her own family life and what she saw as evidence of God’s influence on her own life and the life of her family past and present.

The papers of Mrs James Wilson aka Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815)

The papers of Mrs James Wilson aka Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) ref. MS WIL 3.

The journals run to six notebooks, each of around 50 pages of manuscript, starting around 1771 and finishing in 1812, three years before she died. There are also a couple of loose sheets, which do not appear to belong to any of the extant notebooks.

Accompanying the documents are two letters giving a bit of background to the manuscripts. The first is from April 1947 from Mr J Ritchie, ‘Nethercraigs’, Tighnabruaich, to his cousin Agnes Moncrieff Leys née Sandys. This letter gives a lot of information such as some of the experiences of James Wilson as a ship-captain: including being captured by Americans during the American War of Independence and then being detained in France for 18 months after which he was ‘persuaded to remain at home and join his father-in-law’s business’.

My husband came safely home in the month June in 1780 when being detained Eighteen month. My father proposed to him to drop this line of life in giving over all thoughts in proceeding again to sea and to become Maltster and brewer also from my fathers inability from his years of carring on his business by himself…” (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no1, page 43 – image below)

Rachel Wilson's account of changing her husband's occupation.

Rachel Wilson’s account of changing her husband’s occupation.

The letter also states that Rachel had about 13 children, ‘of whom she expressly states 9 died in infancy or early youth. This sad mortality was due not to any constitutional weakness, but to small-pox, scarlet fever and measles, which could not then be treated as they can now.’ Ritchie goes on to say that the Wilsons belonged to the Antiburgher section of the Secession Church and were fond of listening to the preacher Rev Adam Gib (1714-1788), and that of the surviving children, David Wilson (1782-), later became minister of the United Secession church in Kilmarnock. Making the personal connection, Ritchie states, ‘I remember being very hospitably entertained by his widow when I was a small boy.’

The manuscripts were eventually passed to New College Library in 1952 by a Miss G Woodward, librarian, who received them from Mrs Hilda Brochet Abercromby, sister of Agnes Leys who by then had passed away. It is clear from annotations made in the manuscripts that family members had read them with a good deal of interest.

At the end of the first notebook, Rachel writes

By this time I was with Child of twains and although subject to many threatning complaints yet my Shepherd who carries the lambs in his armes and Gently leads thos that are with young suffered no evil to befall he brought me in safety forward to the full time when in the 15 of March 1783 I was safely delivered of two living sons.” [William Wilson and John Frazer Wilson] (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no 1, page 48 – see image below)

Rachel Wilson's account of having twins.

Rachel Wilson’s account of having twins.

Perhaps Mrs Wilson’s manuscripts are not the most valuable or beautiful of those which we hold but they do give a clear and striking voice to a woman of both the 18th and 19th centuries.

Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator

Writing from the Holy Land, writing from the heart – Robert Murray McCheyne

A post from guest curator Amy Plender, PhD student, School of Divinity

The theme of this month’s student led display at New College Library is diary writing, particularly diarists writing about their experience of missions overseas. The display features items from the New College Library collections relating to Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) who was appointed by the Church of Scotland to be part of a deputation to visit Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East, with a view to future mission activity. Further details of his papers are available on the University’s Archives Online catalogue.

Robert Murray McCheyne’s diary from his trip to Palestine, 1838 (ref. MS MACCH1.8)

Robert Murray McCheyne’s diary from his trip to Palestine, 1838 (ref. MS MACCH1.8)

This diary was used for daily entries on McCheyne’s travels, with small sketches as well as notes on personal devotional techniques headed ‘Personal Reformation’. It also has a biographical section on the ‘Story of Robert Laing’ (perhaps a friend or fellow missionary), and an appendix on another missionary’s account of the trip. Continue reading

Steps towards equality in New College Library Class Photographs

A guest post by Chloe Elder, New College Library Special Collections Digitisation intern

From the depths of New College Library’s archives, a selection of class photographs from 1857 to 1930 has been digitised and uploaded to the Open Books website, accessible at openbooks.is.ed.ac.uk. The photographs show the students and staff of New College’s past, each of whom make up a part of the School’s long history. You may recognise, for example, Principal Robert Rainy, who lends his name to the College’s Rainy Hall, sat front and centre of every photo during his time as principal from 1874 to 1900. And behind Rainy and succeeding principals stand rows of students, ascending the same courtyard steps that today welcome over 400 undergraduate and postgraduate students to the School of Divinity.

New College Library Class Photo Winter Session, 1923-1924

New College Library Class Photo Winter Session, 1923-1924

Continue reading

“Sorry, Foakes Jackson, I am for real”*

Aside

Our colleague, Patrick Murray, has begun work cataloguing the W. F. Jackson collection, initially, as part of the Funk Cataloguing Project. This collection has been at New College for many decades but with the need to fill in accurate data about the material, it was soon apparent that no one knew very much about William Foakes Jackson or W. J. Jackson as he had carefully and clearly inscribed in each book.

The closest match that could be found was a Frederick John Foakes-Jackson, who was an eminent scholar of Judaism, something which connected with the first tranche of books. However, after that the trail went cold and, as the archivist, I was asked if I could give any advice on where to look next.

Away from the office, searches on Google, ScotlandsPeople and Ancestry.co.uk all drew a blank on proffering a sibling or son to Frederick John Foakes Jackson, who might have owned and donated these books.

In the New College Library Archives, there are boxes of library correspondence from throughout the 20th century some of which relate to the deposit of collections (ref. AA.2.1). As these records are in varying states of arrangement I decided to look at some of W. F. Jackson’s books for any other clues before delving into the correspondence.

The first couple of books seemed devoid of any details about the owner but, unexpectedly, out of the fourth book I looked at fell a scrap of an envelope on which was written: ‘[-] F Jackson, Suffolk House, 18 Suffolk Road, Edinburgh’ and postmarked 1929. The key to it all.

Scrap of an envelope found in the W. F. Jackson collection of books.

Scrap of an envelope found in the W. F. Jackson collection of books.

A quick visit to ScotlandsPeople searching for the death certificate for a W. F. Jackson after 1929 and there was William Fulton Jackson, in 1931, passing away at Suffolk House, 18, Suffolk Road, Edinburgh. That narrowed down the correspondence search nicely and quite quickly I found a note from his niece, Janet Cameron, depositing the records at New College Library (ref. AA.2.1.104a).

Suffolk House, 18 Suffolk Road, Edinburgh. 6th June 1934 Dear Dr Mitchell Hunter, It was the desire of my uncle, the late Mr W. F. Jackson, that should I wish to dispose of any of his books, his “Eastern Collection” be gifted to the Library of the Church of Scotland. As I understand these books will be acceptable, I hereby formally make the Gift, and I trust it will be convenient to keep them together as one collection, to be called the “W. F. Jackson” collection, and that they will be found useful by many students of our own Church. I am, Yours faithfully, Janet Inglis Cameron Dr, Mitchell Hunter, Librarian Church of Scotland.

Letter from Janet Inglis Cameron, niece of W. F. Jackson, to Dr Mitchell Hunter, Librarian, New College, making a gift of his “Eastern Collection” of books.

Transcript of letter:

Suffolk House,
18 Suffolk Road,
Edinburgh.

6th June 1934

Dear Dr Mitchell Hunter,
It was the desire of my uncle, the late Mr W. F. Jackson, that should I wish to dispose of any of his books, his “Eastern Collection” be gifted to the Library of the Church of Scotland.

As I understand these books will be acceptable, I hereby formally make the Gift, and I trust it will be convenient to keep them together as one collection, to be called the “W. F. Jackson” collection, and that they will be found useful by many students of our own Church.

I am,
Yours faithfully,
Janet Inglis Cameron

Dr, Mitchell Hunter,
Librarian
Church of Scotland.

To the railway historian, the name William Fulton Jackson will be familiar. He was born in 1855 to John Jackson, a grain merchant, and Mary Fulton, in 73, South Wellington Street, Glasgow. In 1883 he married Maggie McJannet Lattimer, at her home in 14, St James Street, Glasgow. In 1891 he was listed as a railway clerk living in Coltbridge Avenue, Edinburgh and by the 1901 census, he had become the General Manager of the North British Railway Company, living at 24, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh. It appears that Jackson was appointed as General Manager in 1899, after his predecessor, John Conacher, stepped down in the wake of a boardroom scandal.

Further internet searches revealed that some of his photograph albums had been deposited at Glasgow University Archives, and that he was an active member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

The 1911 census provides us with a mystery, outwith our remit, in that on the night the census was taken he and many others were staying in the same place as Arthur Conan Doyle and his family: “Rothsay” in Bournemouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England. Is this a connection or a coincidence?

Whatever the answer, after many years of this valuable collection of books being known as the “Foakes Jackson Collection” and thanks to an envelope scrap, finally we are able to give the real W. F. Jackson – William Fulton Jackson, Esq., the credit he is due.

Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator

Notes
As the books in the W.F. Jackson collection are catalogued their entries will become available on the University of Edinburgh’s discovery service: http://discovered.ed.ac.uk

University of Glasgow material:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/uofglibrary/sets/72157644176571389/ http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2007/july/headline_31062_en.html

*With apologies to hip-hop duo, “OutKast”.

Digital explorations in New College Library : James Kirkwood’s vision today

A guest post from Chloe Elder – New College Library Special Collections Digitisation Intern

Considering the ease with which most of us have access to information, it can be easy to forget the long way society has come in its efforts to provide resources for the public. For example, I’ve written this post on my very portable laptop in my Wi-Fi enabled flat and with my iPhone in constant peripheral vision. As we all know, before the days of the internet, our search for information required a trip to the library, but public libraries as we know them today did not exist before the middle of the nineteenth century. In the centuries preceding, the library has evolved from storehouses for records and archives, to ecclesiastical and academic cloisters, and the private collections of the elite and learned. And beginning in the late seventeenth century history, history saw a shift from the relative seclusion of these repositories toward a trend that supported the public dissemination of knowledge. One pioneer in this effort in Scotland was James Kirkwood, who is best known for his determination to provide Bibles to the parishes of the Scottish Highlands and for advocating for the establishment of parish libraries throughout Scotland in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

James Kirkwood's signature. MSS KIR, New College Library

James Kirkwood’s signature. MSS KIR 3.1, New College Library

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Mission to the Middle East : discovering collections

This week New College Library welcomes delegates of the 2016 conference of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the History of the Missionary Movement and World Christianity.

I’ve been discovering that New College Library’s unique collections include some fascinating materials from the Church of Scotland’s development of missions to Jews in the Middle East, in the nineteenth century. In particular we hold books, archives and objects relating to Rev. Andrew A. Bonar and Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, and a selection of items from these collections are now on display in the New College Library entrance. 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. Continue reading