On trial: The Stuart and Cumberland Papers

I’m pleased to let you know that Gale Cengage are giving us trial access to their brand new digitised archive from State Papers Online, the Stuart and Cumberland Papers. This archive contains two remarkable collections from the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, which have been digitised for the first time and are available online in their entirety.

You can access this online resource via the E-resources trials page.
Access is available both on and off-campus.

Trial access ends 10th May 2018.

The Stuart Papers represent the correspondence and personal documents of the exiled members of the Stuart dynasty after 1688. These papers were acquired by George IV when Prince Regent, following the death of Henry Bennedict Stuart, Cardinal York, and were originally kept in the Prince’s Library at Carlton House. The collection tells the story of the lives of James II and his heirs with the majority of papers concerning the period 1713 to 1770, and provide an insight into Jacobite attempts to regain the throne. The later papers in the collection concern Cardinal York’s relations with the Vatican until his death in 1807. Read More

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On trial: Military Intelligence Files

I’m happy to let you know that British Online Archives (BOA) have given us trial access to their digitised primary source collection Military Intelligence Files: Land, Sea & Air, 1938-1974. This collection provides access to secret British government files produced by the intelligence branches of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force and will be of particular interest to those of you looking at the Second World War or the beginnings of the Cold War.

You can access this online resource via the E-resources trials page.
Access is available both on and off-campus.

Trial access ends 9th May 2018.

Screenshot from Royal Air Force: Weekly Intelligence, Jul 1940-Feb 1941 (Military Intelligence Files, British Online Archives).

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Thomson-Walker Internship – Round 5!

Our final Thomson-Walker intern introduces herself in this week’s blog post….

“I feel like a pastry chef!”: this was my first thought while trying to smear an even layer of a carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) poultice on a strip of lens tissue to remove a very thick residue of what distinctively smelled like coccoina (a marzipan-scented Italian glue, made from potato starch and almond paste). Being Italian, I couldn’t help but recognise the fragrance bringing back so many childhood memories. I didn’t imagine, back then, how difficult it actually is to remove this adhesive from the back of a 17th century print!

My name is Giulia, I have a Master’s degree in conservation of paper, book and photograph material, and I’m going to be the last intern working to conserve the Thomson-Walker collection of medical portraits. A little more than 600 prints of the 2,700 that constitute the collection still need to be removed from the acidic paper and board supports, and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes, so that they can be finally catalogued, digitized and studied by researchers.

Print from the Thomson-Walker collection prior to conservation

My interest in the issues regarding the removal of adhesives has grown since I obtained my degree. In November 2016, I did a two-month Erasmus traineeship at the Archives Nationales in Paris, where I treated a series of costume inventories drawn-up with a variety of inks, that had been glued to acidic cardboard, plywood and Masonite supports (it was quite tricky to remove them: if you’d like to read about it, you can find a post about this project here, if you know a little bit of French).

So when I came across the advert for the Thomson-Walker internship, I immediately knew it would be a project I would love to take part in. What attracted me most to this project was the incomparable opportunity of working on a vast collection of prints – the second largest in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe – which spanned over 400 years and varied greatly in the printing techniques. From a professional point of view, I knew the project was going to challenge my organizational, prioritising and time-management skills, and help me acquire some practical experience in making storage solutions. During my studies, and especially after graduating, I’ve been trying to gain experience on a wide range of paper-based materials, such as scrapbooks, set models, tracing papers and, for the past six months at the National Central Library of Florence, books. I still hadn’t had the chance to work on a large collection of prints, so when I was offered the position I felt like I was adding essential experience to my checklist.

Using a poultice to soften adhesive

Removing paper hinge using tweezers

When reading the advert and the previous interns’ entries (here, here, here and here), I was really impressed with the rich interdisciplinary approach the CRC internship programme was offering to recent graduates. By providing meetings with other professionals working at the CRC, tours of conservation studios in Edinburgh, and assisting with volunteers and outreach activities, a preview of what it really means to work as a conservator in a public institution can be gained.

Now I have almost finished my second week at the studio, and I’m really getting into the work routine and trying my best to keep a rhythm. But then I stop for a moment, I focus on the gentleman who’s staring back at me from the small 17th century print I have just finished treating, and I can’t help but contemplating how gorgeous his portrait looks….

Print from Thomson-Walker Collection

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Living Icons: Keeping with the “Archival Liveness” of the University’s Iconic Items

Jami’ al-Tawarikh, f.14v detail

As the other blog posts that I have written for the DIU will attest to, I repeatedly find myself drawn to archival artefacts and stories that show the always “in-process” nature of archives[1]. While the word archive might initially bring to mind shelves full of preserved books and artefacts, collections kind of frozen in time and stoically telling a particular story, those working in archives will attest instead to the truly dynamic nature of archives. In fact, Tom Schofield et al. have introduced the term “archival liveness” as a concept that “promotes a view of the archive as a set of on-going professional, institutional and technical processes and precipitates a focus on the different kinds of temporality embodied within these” (“Archival Liveness”, 2015). What the idea of archival liveness gets at is that as our socio-technological, historical, and cultural moments change, so too does our ability to engage with archives. Cataloguing must be done to make an archive discoverable and searchable, but this costs time and money, and so archives exist at different stages of complete or incomplete cataloguing. Moreover, as time passes, archives typically grow, or sometimes shrink if things are lost, and they are remediated through various preservation, restoration, and, in our current digital world, digitization processes, all of which requires new forms of discovery and engagement with the archived collections. Archives are therefore always embedded within shifting networks of mediation and distribution. Read More

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Travelling Images: Venetian Illustrated Books 2

This week our Venetian illustrations turn theatrical, with an illustrated copy of the plays of Plautus, and we welcome as guest blogger, the exhibition curator, Laura Moretti, of the University of St. Andrews. 

 

Titus Maccius Plautus (c.254-184 BC), Comedies, edited by Bernard Saraceni, and Giovanni Pietro Valla. (Venice: Lazzaro de’ Soardi, 1511).  Edinburgh University Library JY 1082.

The comedies by the Roman dramatist Titus Maccius Plautus (c.254-184 BC) were the subjects of a period of rebirth during the course of the fifteenth century. This was due – along with the favor that theatrical plays by Roman authors saw as a genre during the Renaissance – to the fact that twelve comedies by Plautus were rediscovered in the first half of the Quattrocento. Together with the eight already known at the time, the group of twenty comedies came to constitute a fundamental corpus for the theatre in the following decades, being represented with great success in Rome, Milan and Ferrara. They were reworked, modified, and translated into vernacular. Besides being copied in several manuscripts, from the beginning of the 1470s also printed editions started to appear. The texts were edited and commented by various authors, including Giorgio Merula, Ermolao Barbaro, Angelo Poliziano, Giovan Battista Pio, Filippo Beroaldo.

The present edition was published in 1511 by Lazzaro de’ Soardi. Active as a printer in Venice between 1490 and 1517, he published about fifty editions, especially Latin classics, religious texts, and works of ascetic, theological and philosophical character. The commentary by Bernardo Saraceni and Giovanni Pietro Valla had already been published in Venice in 1499 by Simone Bevilacqua. The Soardi edition, though, was the first one fully illustrated, presenting a full-page woodcut of a theatre and numerous woodcuts throughout.

 

A theatre seen from the viewpoint of the actors

This illustration already appeared in a previous edition of comedies by the Roman dramatist Terentius (c.195/185- c.159? BC), published in 1497 by the same Soardi. It is a rare image of a theatre seen from the unusual point of view of the actors. The audience sits on semicircular stalls, and is dressed in contemporary fashion. One actor is performing at the centre of the scene, while another oneis entering from a lateral door on the right.

The 1511 edition is completed by 316 woodcuts of scenes from the comedies. The illustrations are not designed individually, but composed assembling smaller blocks. The resulting images generally present the names of the characters in scrolls aligned at the top – also repeated underneath – and normally four, but sometimes up to six elements combining: one to six characters, one to two doors, one or tree trees, and one to four thin rectangular floral borders. It is possible to notice many repetitions of the individual elements, although the resulting illustrations are always different.

Detail of illustrations from the comedy Amphitryo

Opening from the comedy Aulularia

 

The above-mentioned 1497 edition of Terentius also presented woodcuts illustrating the scenes, but they were crafted individually.

 

From 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s hand-coloured edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

 

 

Opening with illustration from 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s hand-coloured edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

These illustrations might look more coherent and better manufactered to our eyes than the ones from the 1511 edition, but in the latter, perhaps less refined and accurate, we can notice some elements of extreme relevance for the history of the printed book. In a period in which the industrialisation of the printing process was still in its infancy, these images represent the sign of a tendency and a way of thinking in terms of reproducibility, reuse, and flexibility.

Something similar, although more elaborated, already appeared in the edition of the comedies by Terentius published in Strasbourg in 1496 by Johannes Grüninger. This particular edition also presented in the titlepage the representation of a “theatre”, and might have inspired Soardi.

 

Johannes Grüninger’s 1496 edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt.

 

Titlepage from 1496 Johannes Grüninger’s 1496 edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt.

 

In the 1551 edition, while the characters often simulate some sort of stage action, the trees and – especially – the doors confer a sense of spacial recession, giving to the illustrations a three-dimensional effect and a stage-like appeareance, even if still pretty schematic. The page is composed presenting the original text in the central section, together with the illustrations, while the commentary unfolds around them.

Title page with previous ownership inscription

The book formed part of the collection of Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), who studied at the University of Edinburgh and was Chair of Moral Philosophy there from 1785. His library included the books of his father Matthew (1717-85), Professor of Mathematics at the same institution. The collection passed into the hands of Dugald’s son Matthew (c.1784-1851), who bequeathed it – along with many of his own books – to the United Service Club in London. In 1910 the whole collection was transferred to the University of Edinburgh. It contains 3,432 titles in some 4,000 volumes, covering many topics, but is particularly strong in political economy, moral philosophy, and mathematics. There are a large number of presentation copies reflecting Dugald’s wide circle of acquaintances and admirers. The younger Matthew Stewart added some early printed books (there are 33 incunabula in the collection) and works on oriental subjects. A signature of a previous owner is visible on the titlepage; the Rare Books staff think it may be an institution – S[ancti] Ip[politi?] … but at the moment I am not able to identify it.

Dr Laura Moretti (University of St Andrews)

Further reading:

Fully digitised copy of the 1511 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s edition of Plautus comedies, digitised by the Bavarian State Library is available here.http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/resolve/display/bsb10195815.html

The 1496 Johannes Grüninger’s edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt, is available here.http://tudigit.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/show/inc-iv-77/0001?sid=094bbe50d4659af0b4134f5d1d57ff78

The 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München, is available here.http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0005/bsb00058998/images/index.html?id=00058998&groesser=&fip=eayaxdsydyztsxdsydeayawxdsydsdasqrsxdsydewqxs&no=2&seite=1

The 1499 Simone Bevilacqua’s edition of Plautus comedies, with commentary of Saraceni and Valla, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München, is available here.http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0006/bsb00064398/images/

The full catalogue record for the Edinburgh University Library copy is here: https://discovered.ed.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44UOE_ALMA21104958570002466&context=L&vid=44UOE_VU2&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US

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Michael Servetus: Christianismi Restitutio

Title:Michael Servetus een Spangiard Amsterdam, 1607.
Shelfmark: JZ 439

Bound to the stake by the iron chain, with a chaplet of straw and green twigs covered with sulphur on his head, with his long dark face, it is said that he looked like the Christ in whose name he was bound.  Around his waist were tied a large bundle of manuscript and a thick octavo printed book. The torch was applied, and as the flames spread to the straw and sulphur and flashed in his eyes, there was a piercing cry that struck terror in the hearts of the bystanders…’Jesu, thou Son of the eternal God, have mercy upon me.’ (Michael Servetus: Humanist and Martyr, Fulton, John F. 1953)

These were the last words of Michael Servetus, physician and theologian, condemned to death in 1553 after being branded a heretic.

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Sticky Situations

Last week our Project Conservator, Nicole Devereux, wrote about how she had uncovered an unusual sticky situation among the Patrick Geddes Collection photographs.  Rising to the conservation challenge, Nicole explored some fascinating and experimental conservation processes in order to resolve this particular problem.  Read more about Nicole’s work here.

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New College Library opening until 10pm trial

 

New College Library

New College Library’s opening hours are being extended for a trial period. The Library continues to be open on a Sunday afternoon, 12-5pm throughout this semester. From 9 April to 24 May 2018, New College Library will be open until 10pm in the evening, Monday to Thursday.

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Thomson-Dunlop Research and Conservation Internship

Our blog this week comes from Michela Albano, who recently spent four weeks working with our Musical Instrument Conservator, Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet…

Thanks to the Thomson-Dunlop Research and Conservation Internship, I had the opportunity to spend four weeks in the autumn of 2017 at St Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum. This provided me with an amazing experience in an energetic and supportive environment where the deep knowledge of musical instruments preservation is fruitfully combined with a welcoming and enthusiastic team.

The project I undertook was driven by the interest in, but lack of knowledge of, two rare musical instruments in the University’s collections known as “violins without sides,” “rib-less violins” or “flat violins” (I strongly suggest you to come and see these instruments at the Museum as they are quite unusual!). There are only three such instruments known and all of them are currently held in Scotland: two at St Cecilia’s Hall and a third at Dean Castle in Kilmarnock. What a fortunate coincidence.

“Ribless”, “without sides” or “flat” violins on display at the St. Cecilia’s Hall Museum

Overall, little is known about these intriguing instruments and this project aimed to clarify dating, provenance, and attribution, as well as to try and establish their function within a musical context. To reach these outcomes, the instruments were investigated using both historical and scientific approaches. The scientific analysis of the instruments was my main task.  I used photographic documentation both in the visible light range and under UV induced fluorescence to learn about the materials used in the violins’ construction, understand their current condition, and to see evidence of prior conservation and repairs. Next, Computed Tomography (CT) scanning allowed for the analysis of the inner structure of the instruments, shedding light on the manufacturing processes. In addition, these CT images were used for non-invasive dendrochronological investigation to figure out the age of the wood – thus clarifying the dating of the objects. Finally, I carried out spectroscopic and microchemical analysis on the materials used in the violins’ construction. This provided information on the oils and the resins used by the maker for the varnish. The results of this study, combined with the historical research being completed by a fellow intern, will provide more information of these mysterious objects.

Violin in visible light

Violin in UV light. When UV light is absorbed by certain materials, it is reflected towards the eye as longer wavelength visible radiation (visible light). The presence of fluorescence may assist with materials identification, detecting damage or surface coatings, and uncovering areas of previous restoration. The colours of the observed fluorescence will depend mainly, but not only, on the material.

This internship has been a special experience for me, both professional and personally. I have gained valuable skills which will be highly beneficial for my career development. Moreover, this internship allowed me to meet great people and work in a very positive and supportive environment. I have learnt a lot about musical instruments whilst acquiring conservation knowledge through hands-on experience. Discovering the amazing treasures in the wider CRC collections has shown me the advantages of the cooperation between great teams of conservators and museum professionals in a well-connected and collaborative environment. Finally, as an intern from Italy, this experience not only provided growth on a professional level, but was an amazing opportunity to learn about Scottish culture and to discover Edinburgh, a truly fascinating city. I am excited to see the final results of the project and I look forward to future collaborations with St Cecilia’s Hall and the University of Edinburgh.

Details in visible light

Details UV light

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Travelling Images: Venetian Illustrated Books at the University of Edinburgh

We have a micro exhibition, of illustrated books from Renaissance Italy, running in CRC from 13th April to 15th June.  This is in collaboration with Linda Borean of the Università degli Studi di Udine and Laura Moretti of the University of St. Andrews, and their project: Venetian Renaissance prints, drawings and illustrated books in Scottish collections. https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/venice-in-scotland/

There are very many wonderful illustrated books from Venice in our collections; far more than we have space to exhibit.  Over the next few weeks we will be posting about the ones we have included, and some that we couldn’t fit in.  On 16th April Laura will be giving a talk in CRC.  We plan to get out everything we have blogged about for that.

Laura will be posting further information on the blog of her current project Thinking 3Dhttps://www.thinking3d.ac.uk/

Our first post is by Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian

Girolamo Marafioti (1567-1626) De arte reminiscentiae,  (Venice : Jo Baptistam Bertonum, 1602.)  (Edinburgh University Library: EE.13.36/1)

“The art of memory” survives in the modern world mostly in the form of self-help books and motivational training courses, but it actually has a long and distinguished history, back to classical antiquity.

Classical lawyers and politicians, needing to be able to make lengthy, formally-structured speeches from memory, used the techniques of artifical memory.  In their imagination they would turn each of the points of their speech into a strong visual image, and then arrange the images in order within a structure they could easily remember.  Typically this would be a building, either real and familiar, or created in the imagination for the purpose.

These techniques remained in common use well into the seventeenth century.  In a culture where public affairs were still largely conducted orally, the ability to speak fluently, persuasively and at length, in public, was vital to a professional career.  As well as being useful to lawyers and politicians, artificial memory techniques were useful to students, whose academic exercises and examinations were largely based around oral disputations.  The techniques were popular with the Friars, whose lives were dedicated to preaching and teaching religious knowledge, and who had to be able to explain complex doctrine accurately.

The technique of artificial memory was passed down from Classical antiquity through three texts – Cicero’s De Oratore, an anonymous handbook Ad C. Herennium, and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.  In the Middle Ages it was refined, improved and expanded on.   This continued into the Renaissance, where artificial memory was often elaborated to the point that it became an intellectual game, rather than a practical technique.  The Renaissance had a fascination for imagery, symbolism, emblems and hidden meanings, and keen interest in imposing a structure on knowledge.  The symbolism of artificial memory very easily plays to all of these, and elaborate symbolism and word games can easily be incorporated into it.  In some Renaissance examples of artificial memory it is difficult to tell which is the material to be memorised and which is the structure supposed to hold it.

This little handbook was written within this late tradition.  Instead of using locations in a building as the places to lodge the memories, it uses both sides of both hands to create 92 places, each marked with a symbol – which had itself to be memorised before it could be used as a tool to remember anything else.

Many of the illustrated books which have been included in the project Venetian Renaissance prints, drawings and illustrated books in Scottish collections are high-quality, luxury productions.  This little book was produced with quite different ambitions.  It was intended for a relatively popular market – it was reprinted several times, including in an Italian translation – and the illustrations are entirely practical and very necessary to explain the text.

It is not clear how this copy reached Edinburgh, but in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it passed through the hands of two bibliophiles, or bibliomaniacs.  First came Charles-Louis Van Bavière, (1767-1815), Secretary of the Academy and Faculty of Law, Brussels.   His professional life seems not to have preoccupied him much: he was a dedicated bibliophile with a reputation for having an eye for a bargain, and for finding unlikely treasures in improbable-looking sales.  After his death, his huge library was sold at auction over 22 days, in Brussels in 1817. 

This sort of sale undoubtedly appealed to the book’s next owner, the antiquarian and legendary bibliomaniac Richard Heber (1773 – 1833), whose vast library, collected all over Europe, and housed in half a dozen separate locations, was sold after his death in a series of sixteen sales, in England, France and Belgium, realizing the then enormous sum of more than £60,000.  Books from both these scattered collections are in wide circulation today, readily identifiable from their owner’s bookplates and ink stamp.

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