Student interns in Stack III this summer

Over this summer, our three student interns, Thomas, Holly and Mila have been hard at work behind the scenes in New College Library’s Stack III. Their task was to work with the X Collection, a collection of large (folio) early printed books. Over the years this collection had gathered a layer of dust, which our interns carefully removed with a museum book hoover. Having our interns handling each of these books was also a great opportunity to learn more about them, and to understand how the collection was composed in terms of date, language and place of publication. These details were logged using methodology adapted from projects on collections in National Trust Houses.

We’re delighted to say that that our interns have tackled three full bays of the X Collection, and cleaned and logged over 1600 books. We now know that the collection (as logged so far) is almost entirely pre-1800 in date, predominantly in English and Latin and pretty equally split between European and UK imprints. All this information will help us to develop future projects to catalogue this collection online.

It was a pleasure to work with our student interns, and through their enthusiasm to rediscover these collections. Hope to do it all again next year!

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity.

With thanks to Margaret Redpath, NCL Library Services Manager and Karen Bonthron, ECA/NCL Helpdesk Team Lead

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.

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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.

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

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

‘W’ Collection provides a window into the world of eighteenth-century India

One of the current Special Collections cataloguing projects at New College Library is the W4/5 section which includes works on ecclesiastical history and theology. In this collection we were pleased to discover three volumes of the Halle reports, a Protestant missionary magazine from a Danish mission to India in the eighteenth century.

Image from : Dansk-hallensiske mission (Tranquebar, India) Der Königl. Dänischen Missionarien aus Ost-Indien eingesandter ausführlichen Berichten. Erster ( -neunter) Theil. 1718-1772 New College Library W.169-171

Image from : Dansk-hallensiske mission (Tranquebar, India) Der Königl. Dänischen Missionarien aus Ost-Indien eingesandter ausführlichen Berichten. Erster ( -neunter) Theil. 1718-1772 New College Library W.169-171. Image courtesy of Paul Nicholas

Advised by Dr. A. H. Francke (1663–1727), a professor of divinity in the University of Halle in Saxony, King Frederick IV of Denmark sent two missionaries from Halle to Tranquebar in India. In all over 60 missionaries were sent from Halle in the course of the eighteenth century, and they published their reports as Der Königl. Dänischen Missionarien aus Ost-Indien eingesandter ausführlichen Berichten. Continue reading

Last chance to see! Given in Good Faith : Scripture

The Given in Good Faith exhibition, which highlights some of New College Library’s treasures in the context of the exhibition themes of church history, worship, scripture and science is now in its final weeks at the Centre for Research Collections. If you haven’t been to see it, now is the time before it closes on 29 July!

New College Library’s collections reflect the essential place that the study of scripture has always held in the New College curriculum, as well as the study of Biblical languages to allow first hand engagement with Biblical texts. Complementing the Biblical texts are Biblical commentaries, from the Christian and the Jewish faith communities, in both printed and manuscript form. 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.

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

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

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Given in Good Faith : Science

The School of Divinity has recently been receiving praise for the MSc in Science and Religion programme. Visitors to the Given in Good Faith exhibition on the 6th floor of the Main Library in George Square can see how this excellence in the field of Science and Religion is also one of the key themes explored  through the historic treasures of New College Library. From its foundation in 1843, the new Free Church of Scotland actively engaged in current learning and debate on scientific topics such as geology and astronomy, and Free Church ministry students at New College followed courses in natural science. This is one reason why New College Library’s Special Collections reflect this dialogue between religion and science.

Brookes, Richard. A new and accurate system of natural history ... London: J. Newbery, 1763. Nat. 109

Brookes, Richard. A new and accurate system of natural history … London: J. Newbery, 1763. Nat. 109

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