Celebrating women pioneers for ordained ministry in the Church of Scotland

Dr Elizabeth Hewat, first woman to receive a PhD from New College, who argued for women’s ordination

This blog post is written by Dr Lesley Orr, School of Divinity

In the year in which the Church of Scotland has welcomed the Very Revd Susan Brown of Dornoch Cathedral as its new Moderator of the General Assembly, the Church also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.

On Wednesday 22 May 1968, the Fathers and Brethren of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted by a  large majority to extend eligibility of ordination to Ministry of Word and Sacrament to women, on the same terms as men. New College students, graduates and staff played a significant role throughout the half century when the question of women’s role, rights and equality in the Church was one of the most persistent and controversial issues for debate – not only in the Assembly but in wider Church and Scottish society. During this fiftieth anniversary year of women in ordained ministry, a commemorative project has been based at New College, supported by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues and in partnership with the Church of Scotland Ministries Council. Publications and photographs which tell a little of these events are currently on display in New College Library. But the story goes back much further.

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

Christmas is coming at New College Library

We’ve started getting ready for Christmas at New College Library! The Christmas tree is now up in the Funk Reading Room, and we have a display of Christmas carol books from the Hymnology Collections in the entrance to the Library Hall.

The Hymnology Collections grew out of the gift in the 1880s of two thousand hymnbooks from James Thin, the founder of the famous Edinburgh bookshop. This collection has been added to by gift, purchase and the re-organisation of other library books of a similar nature to form the special collection of over five thousand items we have today, which are currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Donation Projects. Primarily 18th & 19th century printed volumes, the collection covers sacred songs and poetry as well as hymns, including many items intended for children, both for Sunday School and home.

Currently on display we have :

 Hymn 2578Husk, W.H. Songs of the Nativity ; being Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern … London : J.C. Hotten, [1867]. Hymn 2578.

 

 

Hymn 2591

 

 

 

 

Christmas carols, hymns, etc. London : F. Pitman [18–?] Hymn 2591 With music for four voices, tonic sol-fa edition.

 

 

Hymn 2129

 

Hotten, John Camden. A garland of Christmas carols ancient and modern. Including some never before given in any collection. London : J.C. Hotten, 1861. Hymn 2129.  A bookplate marks this item as having come from the original James Thin Collection.

 

 

 

 

Hymn 2590

 

A booke of Christmas carols : illuminated from ancient manuscripts in the British Museum. London : Joseph Cundall [1846] Hymn 2590

Behind the Scenes at New College Library #ILW2014

Objects for innovative Learning WeekA guest post from Liz Louis, student on the MLitt in Museum and Gallery Studies at the University of St Andrews and volunteer at New College Library Object Strongroom. Liz presented on a selection of New College objects as part of the Behind the Scenes at New College Library Innovative Learning Week event.

I want to show you some of the highlights of the collection and also how the resources which New College Library can provide us with are invaluable to my research.

New College Library’s impressive holdings on Thomas Chalmers, chair of theology at Edinburgh University and first Principal of New College include many portraits of Chalmers in the form of paintings, photos and prints. As an art historian, the Wax Relief Portrait of Thomas Chalmers is interesting because it is intensely sculptural and ‘photorealistic’: with wax best suited to imitate human skin and most eerily similar to the moment of arrested life.   No paper trail for the original paper has been discovered as of yet, although I have found a label which suggests that the portrait was made by Mme Tussaud’s. We do know that it was given to Prof Hugh Watt (Principal 1946-50) by Margaret Macphail, who was given the object by her friend who inherited it from Chalmers’s goddaughter.

Many objects in the strong room reflect the nineteenth century interest in sciences. The album with dried plants has a handwritten inscription on first page: In Memoriam / A Flower, a Plant, or a Weed, / gathered from every place/ mentioned in the Bible / which I visited in Palestine / 1852 / W.D. (William Dickson) 1852.  This makes it particularly interesting for us: we’re not often lucky to have name and date of objects ON an object. We know that it was donated by his sons to complete New College’s Dickson collection of objects related to Middle East. It was addressed to John Duns (Professor of Natural Science at New College, 1864-1909). To a modern eye one thing that stands out is that the names written in pencil next to the plant never refer to the plant itself, but always to the place where it was found, e.g. ‘Place where they stoned Stephen’; ‘Gethsemane’.

New College Library’s objects collection contains other objects collected by travellers to  the East, and the written accounts of their experiences are equally marked by the influence of their reading & knowledge of the Bible. One of these is Bonar’s Bible, a Bible dropped in (and subsequently retrieved from)  Jacob’s Wellin Samaria near the city of Sychar (north of Jerusalem). We know about this because the owner, Andrew Alexander Bonar, documented the event in his Narrative of a Visit to the Holy Land, and Mission of Inquiry to the Jews[1] This trip to Middle East in April 1839 was the first mission sent by Church of Scotland to Palestine, making Bonar’s Bible part of the story of the Church of Scotland’s efforts to convert the Jews. [2]

CasketAnd finally one of our favourite objects, a casket presented to the Rev. John Sinclair McPhail.  It contains an illuminated letter from the Members of the United Free Presbytery of Skye congratulating McPhail on his 50th anniversary of being ordained, praising his devotion and adherence to the Church’s Principles as well as his personal qualities and ‘sound wisdom’.
It’s one of the few objects in the collection that we know when and where it was made thanks to the marks. We know where because of the Assay mark is applied by the Assay Office as a guarantee for the purity of the precious metal (here: silver) according to national and international  standards. The casket’s mark has three towers with one at front and two at back, the symbol of the Edinburgh Assay Office. We know when from the assay mark,  indicated by a single letter and font – here,  sans serif Y: probably 1880-1. And we know who made it from the maker’s mark MC&Co = Mackay,Cunningham and Company, Edinburgh, in the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition, the sovereign’s head, (in this case profile of Queen Victoria) aka duty mark certifies payment of tax to the Crown; Scottish thistle=silver standard mark: Sterling .925 for Edinburgh.

All of this shows how objects can begin to tell us stories if we know how to read them. So why are we doing all of this?
Firstly, to establish and record the collection that New College Library holds. This should enable collaboration with other institutions through shared knowledge and resources, and also enable preservation of sensitive objects and information about them as ethical obligation towards future generations (so nobody has to do my job all over again). Revealing the hidden stories should enable the University student and staff community to access basic information on objects as part of their own research, and make objects available to researchers for exploring new topics.


[1] Rev. Andrew A. Bonar, D.D., & Rev. R. M. M’Cheyne, Narrative of a Visit to the Holy Land, and Mission of Inquiry to the Jews (Edinburgh: William Oliphant & Co., 1878), pp.211.2

[2] Michael Marten, Attempting to Bring the Gospel Home. Scottish Missions to Palestine, 1839-1917 (London & New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2006), pp.9-26.12.

Happy Birthday New College Library

Seventy six years ago on the 8th of October, New College Library, Edinburgh, was formally opened to students and staff in its current building, the former Free High Kirk. The earth under the church floor had been excavated to allow the three stackrooms below the Library Hall.

The New College Archive preserves this original admission ticket to the inauguration ceremony, as it also preserves the suggestions books, committee minutes and account books of the business of New College Library since its foundation back in the 1840s.  The ticket bears the arms of Edinburgh University on the left and the Church of Scotland’s burning bush emblem on the right. This represents the union which had been effected in  January 1935 of the Church of Scotland’s  New College with the University’s Faculty of Divinity in the New College building.

Another Book Sale success at New College Library, Edinburgh

New College Library held another successful Book Sale of duplicate volumes and unsuitable donations this Freshers week in the David Welsh Reading Room, New College Library. We’re pleased to be able to tell you that we raised over £1200! All proceeds will go to support New College Library funds. Previous book sales have supported new book purchasing, rare book conservation and archive listing projects.

The Book Sale would not be able to happen without the support of helpers from the New College postgraduate student community, who staffed the sale and helped with setting up and clearing away. A big thank you goes out to them!

Students and staff often ask what will happen to the unsold stock. This year some books will be going to the  Josophat Mwale Theological Institute (JMTI), in Zomba, Malawi, courtesy of Dr David Reimer. Other stock is being collected by St Columba’s Hospice Bookshop, Edinburgh.

New College Library welcomes the Yale-Edinburgh Conference

The Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh is hosting the Yale-Edinburgh Group Conference on the History of the Missionary Movement and World Christianity this week, with the theme of  Religious Movements of Renewal, Revival, and Revitalization in the History of Missions and World Christianity.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
The distinguishing marks of a work of the spirit of God : applied to that uncommon operation that has lately appear’d on the minds of many of the people in New-England ; with a particular consideration of the extraordinary circumstances with which this work is attended. Edinburgh : 1742
New College Library B.b.c.17/1

We have set out a small display of pamphlets from New College Library’s Special Collections on the theme of revival in the display case in the Funk Reading Room. The display includes this pamphlet on the  revival & awakening of the Holy Spirit in New England, United States.  The author, Jonathan Edwards, was a prominent American preacher and theologian, who was closely involved in the spiritual revival of the 1730s, the Great Awakening. His pamphlet deals with the revival’s controversial  phenomena : the swoonings, outcries and convulsions of believers overwhelmed by their powerful spiritual experiences.

This pamphlet was catalogued recently as part of the Pamphlets Cataloguing Project, funded by the Funk Donation. A similar item is also held by Yale University. University of Edinburgh users can read it online via Eighteenth-Century Collections Online.

Scotland’s Methodists

I’ve had two enquiries in the last few weeks about Methodists in Scotland, from individuals researching their family history – it seems to be a hot topic!

Fortunately New College Library  recently received Scotland’s Methodists 1750-2000 by Margaret Batty, as a donation from the author. It’s just been catalogued and is available at BX 8285 Bat. On reference, we also have  Oliver A. Beckerlegge’s United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits 1797-1932, and enquirers able to visit the library can browse the shelves of church history books at LC class BX, and in the old UTS sequence, LX, which contain other titles about Methodism. 

Much useful information on researching Methodist individuals can be found on the website for the Methodist Archives at John Rylands University, Manchester e.g  http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/searchresources/guidetospecialcollections/methodist/using/indexofministers/

Archives relating to the Methodist Church in Scotland are also held by the National Archives of Scotland http://www.nas.gov.uk.

Following in the footsteps of the New College Librarian

Spent some time this morning sculling through the New College archives looking for correspondence about some of the New College Special Collections, the Dumfries Presbytery Library and the Longforgan Free Church Ministers’ Library. There’s a fascination to leafing through the thin typewritten sheets that measured out the business of New College Library over the decades. One envelope contains the daily diary notes of the New College Librarian for the autumn term (no semesters then) of 1965 – jottings and tick lists of meetings about the finances, measuring up the space needed for new periodicals, noting library staff who’ve gone home feeling ill.  Other letters are handwritten enquiries to the Librarian, and his replies –  “Dear Miss Grant, I have very little to tell you about the revival of the use of the saints names as dedications of Church of Scotland Parish Kirks …” this said, the letter went on to give a full page of information. My life as a librarian is measured out in e-mails, with paper letters like these occasionally lurking at the fringes.