Alice’s Adventures in the Rare Book Stacks

Happy 150th anniversary of the second edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

(This week’s blog post has been contributed by Tess Goodman, a doctoral student in the Centre for the History of the Book, who has been volunteering with us.)

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The second edition? Wait—what about the first edition? Well, the first edition of Alice, printed in 1865, was suppressed before publication. But don’t get too excited: this isn’t a tale of censorship. It’s a tale of quality control.
The 1860s are now sometimes called the golden age of book illustration. Cheap illustration technology was relatively new, and illustrated books were very, very popular. Even fiction for adults was usually illustrated: the first editions of works by Dickens and Thackeray, for example, were full of pictures. In the 1860s, even well-reputed painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Millais were producing work for books, and the average quality of illustration was higher than ever. Illustration could make or break a title.
Alice was illustrated by John Tenniel, a well-known cartoonist for Punch. The first copies were printed in the summer of 1865, and Charles Dodgson (who went by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll) began sending presentation copies to his friends before the official release.
But then Tenniel saw a copy. He thought that his illustrations had been badly printed. In fact, he found the printing so poor that he complained to Dodgson, who complained to the publisher, who canceled the entire edition. Macmillan reprinted all 2,000 copies. Dodgson sent letters to friends who had already received copies, apologizing for the quality. The rejected sheets were sold to a publisher New York, who published them in America with a new title page.*

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The second edition, published in 1866, was the first to appear in Britain. The pictures in this post are from Edinburgh’s copy of this edition, which is bound with a first edition of Through the Looking-Glass. Hopefully these pictures demonstrate what the fuss was about: these illustrations are spectacular.
Tenniel did forty-two illustrations for Alice. They were so popular that for Through the Looking-Glass, he did fifty. These pictures brought, and bring, joy to everyone who sees them—except their creator. Tenniel found Dodgson so pernickety and difficult that he almost refused to work on Looking-Glass; it took Dodgson and Macmillan years to convince him. Afterwards, he wrote: ‘with Through the Looking-Glass the faculty of making drawings for book illustration departed from me… I have done nothing in that direction since…’. ** (60). And he never did again.

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Nevertheless, we’re glad to have these books at Edinburgh. As you can see from these pictures, our copies are in slightly poor condition. But most children’s books are very hard to find in good condition: the children reading them don’t worry about preserving them for future generations. In the case of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, the binding might be rubbed and the joints might be shaky, but the printing is still impeccable.

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*That makes them the second issue of the first edition, if you are bibliographically-minded enough to care. The presentation copies that still had the British title page were the first issue of the first edition. Only fifteen are extant.
** Quoted in Sydney Herbert Williams and Falconer Madan. The Lewis Carroll Handbook: being a new version of A handbook of the literature of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson. Revised by Roger Lancelyn Green. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. P. 60.

The Greatest Gaelic Book Collector? Professor Donald MacKinnon (1839–1914), the University of Edinburgh, and the MacKinnon Collection

We have recently completed the online cataloguing of the MacKinnon Collection, of books of and about Scottish life and literature, and rich in books in Gaelic.  Our colleague and expert in Gaelic, Donald William Stewart, has contributed this guest blog about Donald MacKinnon and his books:

The Greatest Gaelic Book Collector? Professor Donald MacKinnon (1839–1914)

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Donald MacKinnon was born in 1839 in Kilchattan on the Argyllshire island of Colonsay. He was the first Professor of Celtic Languages, Literature, History, and Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh, and he made substantial contributions to every one of the fields listed in his title. MacKinnon occupied the chair from 1882 until he retired in summer 1914. He died a few months afterwards, on Christmas morning, at his home at Balnahard in his native island.

As a student at Edinburgh, MacKinnon enjoyed a dazzling career crowned in 1869 by the Hamilton Fellowship in Mental Philosophy, a grant of £100 allowing him three years’ further study at the university. Ironically, it was the Education Act (Scotland) of 1872, that ruthless destroyer of Gaelic schools, which was to give him his big break. After the Act was passed, Donald MacKinnon was appointed as the first Clerk and Treasurer of the School Board of Edinburgh.

Admirers of Donald MacKinnon – and, it has to be said, on occasion Donald MacKinnon himself – have made much of his humble beginnings, but we should remember that talent often attracts sponsors. MacKinnon was fortunate to have caught the attention of two of the most influential figures in Scotland, men who just happened to be from Colonsay like himself. Advocate and judge Duncan McNeill, first Baron Colonsay (1793–1874), was the pre-eminent Scots lawyer of his time; while his younger brother Sir John McNeill (1795–1883), chairman of the Board of Supervision in charge of the operation of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, was the most powerful civil servant in the country. Long before the Edinburgh Chair of Celtic was finally established in 1882, MacKinnon’s patrons were unobtrusively promoting the merits of their candidate.

MacKinnon was certainly an ideal contender for the professorship: an excellent Gaelic prose stylist, an industrious contributor of columns to newspapers and periodicals, a man who participated to the full in the lively Gaelic-speaking community in the capital – and who would soon undertake arduous service on the parliamentary Napier Commission travelling around the Highlands enquiring into crofters’ and cottars’ rights. MacKinnon was also a popular teacher of a generation of Gaelic students, including the first women Celtic scholars in Scotland. In particular, as the pioneer Celtic Professor in Scotland, Donald MacKinnon had to lead the way and lay the foundations for future scholarly study of Scottish Gaelic. This he did with aplomb. His lectures defined and delineated Gaelic literature and history, as well as elucidating Gaelic place-names and personal names. His Gaelic Reading Books laid down a syllabus for elementary and advanced students in the language. Most enduringly, his Descriptive Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and Elsewhere in Scotland(Edinburgh: T. & A. Constable, 1912), the fruits of five years of research generously sponsored by John Crichton-Stuart, fourth Marquess of Bute (1881–1947), remains a crucial work of reference for both classical and vernacular Gaelic manuscripts in Scotland – including four then in MacKinnon’s own possession – more than a century after its publication. But, as the new online library catalogue to Professor Donald MacKinnon’s collection demonstrates, he should also be remembered as a great collector of books, Gaelic and Celtic.

At a complimentary dinner held in MacKinnon’s honour by friends at the Waterloo Hotel on 7 November 1883, marking the beginning of his professorship, the Rev. Dr Norman Macleod ‘presented to Professor Mackinnon a cheque for a sum subscribed by a few friends, who begged him to apply it in the purchase of books bearing on the subject of his Chair. (Applause.)’ [Edinburgh Evening News, 8 November 1883, 2]

The minister’s remark suggests that even before he became a professor, Donald MacKinnon was already well-known as a Gaelic book-collector. This is borne out by the Rev. Donald Maclean’s remarks in the introduction to his magnificent catalogue, financed by the Carnegie Trust, Typographia Scoto-Gaedelica or Books printed in the Gaelic of Scotland (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1915):

The late Professor Donald Mackinnon placed at my disposal very valuable bibliographic material which he had collected for many years before he became the first occupant of the Celtic Chair in Edinburgh. It is not possible for me to acknowledge fully my indebtedness to this collection. (viii)

In making MacKinnon the Typographia’s dedicatee, Maclean pays tribute to the professor’s assistance and encouragement – and to the breadth and scope of his Gaelic library.

MacKinnon’s collection had already been at the heart of a major Gaelic books presentation, one of the attractions, along with quaichs, silverware, tartans, and regimental uniforms and colours, shown in the Highlands and Islands display in the Fine Art Galleries at the great Scottish National Exhibition in Saughton Park between May and September 1908. During this time of the Scottish Celtic Revival, Gaelic culture, sports, and costumes loomed large in the Exhibition programme, alongside the helter-skelter tower, the switchback railway, the water chute, the Irish cottages, the Senegal village, the display of baby incubators, and diverse other attractions intended to educate, entertain, and astonish.

Among the books Professor MacKinnon donated to the exhibition, as listed by The Scotsman on 22 August 1908, were:

• the Irish translation, by Uilliam Ó Domhnuill, of the New Testament, first printed in 1681;
• the first edition of the New Testament in Scottish Gaelic, 1767;
• the first edition of the Old Testament in Scottish Gaelic, printed in four parts, in 1783, 1786, 1787, and 1801;
• a very rare copy of the Apocrypha translated into Scottish Gaelic for Prince Lucien Bonaparte by the Rev. Alexander MacGregor in 1860.

It should be pointed out here that MacKinnon was one of the scholars who revised the Gaelic Bible for the SPCK in 1902. The professor probably also contributed:

• James Macpherson’s Fragments of 1760;
• Ais-eiridh nan Seann Chánoin Albannaich, the Resurrection of the Ancient Scottish Language by Alexander MacDonald, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, the first purely literary publication in Scottish Gaelic, printed in 1751;
• Comh-chruinneachidh orranaigh Gaidhealach, the Eigg Collection, songs edited by Alexander’s son Ronald and printed in 1776;
• An Sùgradh, a small popular song collection from 1777;
• Gillies’ collection Sean Dain, agus Orain Ghaidhealach of 1786;
• the blind poet Allan MacDougall’s song collection Orain Ghaidhealach of 1798.

Now, not all of the major works listed above are found in the MacKinnon Collection today. This raises the possibility that the professor’s books arrived at Edinburgh University Library in two tranches. Whether during his later years as professor, or after his retiral, Donald MacKinnon may have donated to the Celtic Departmental Library at Edinburgh the canonical works of Gaelic literature on which his courses were principally based, works such as those mentioned above. His personal library, on the other hand, was bequeathed to his friend and fellow islander Dr Roger McNeill (1853–1924), Medical Officer for Argyllshire, a man whose remarkable research and tireless campaigning was instrumental in founding the Highlands and Islands Medical Service in 1913, one of the main forerunners of our National Health Service today. After McNeill’s death, MacKinnon’s volumes, probably augmented by those from the doctor’s own collection, were bequeathed to Edinburgh University Library. It would be an interesting and useful exercise to see how far we can relate the books in the MacKinnon Collection, and others in the university collections probably once owned by Donald MacKinnon, with the listings in Maclean’s Typographia.

In Professor Donald MacKinnon we have a scholar signal for the range of his interests and expertise even in an era noted for polymaths, a man celebrated by his colleagues and students, and remembered today for a number of crucial works of scholarship and reference. The MacKinnon Collection is one of the professor’s greatest legacies, allowing us to gain a clearer picture of one of Scottish Gaeldom’s most eminent scholars, and also, through him, a deeper understanding of Gaelic culture itself.

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition

And nor should they in this case! Although the author of the above volume is a Torquemada he is, in fact, Juan de Torquemada, uncle to Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada.

What makes this item interesting then? Well it’s not often the complete provenance of a book is known, especially one dating from 1485, however Questiones evangeliorum tam de tempore quam de sanctis from the Clement Litill collection is one such item.

It was first owned by William Scheves, second Archbishop of St Andrews from 1478 until his death in 1497. He gifted it to the friary library of the Domincans of Edinburgh. It was likely there that the horn title label, on the front of the book was added. This label strongly suggests that the book was held in a lectern library where the book would have been stored on a long, sloped reading desk with the cover upper most.

After the looting of the friaries of Edinburgh in 1559 it found its way into the hands of Clement Litill. His reputation as a collector would have seen the looters making a profit from their salvage of the libraries.

From there it went to the Kirk and Town Council of Edinburgh in 1580 along with the 275 other volumes that Litill bequeathed. This collection formed the first library of the University of Edinburgh, where it has been held ever since.

All this means that since the book was gifted to the Dominicans it has not moved more than a mile for almost five centuries!

A Suffragette Belt

The CRC has recently acquired a rare belt previously owned by a Scottish suffragette. The belt has already been attracting lots of interest on Twitter so we’ve been exploring where it sits in the context of Suffragette textiles and symbolism.

DSCN0253The belt is made from a strip of ribbon, embroidered with enamelled motifs in the signature white, green and purple associated with the suffrage movement. It has a pink lining on the reverse and a gilt buckle fastening. The belt is in amazing condition despite some oxidisation of the silver in the ribbon, leading the silver threads to turn dark grey.

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Continue reading

Oh Christmas Tree!

Main Library Christmas Tree

Christmas has well and truly arrived at the Main Library with the installation of a 12 foot Christmas tree. This year we decided to use images from the CRC collections to decorate the tree – a selection of images (taken by the Digital Imaging Unit) was printed and library staff crafted them into beautiful paper decorations. The tree was then decorated by Exhibitions Officer, Emma Smith.

There is a poster on display next to the tree explaining what the images are, but if you’re unable to visit you can take a look at them after the jump… Continue reading

New Arts & Crafts Binding Acquisition

We are delighted to welcome a guest blog by art historian Dr Elizabeth Cumming, exploring an exciting new acquisition with a binding designed by Phoebe Anna Traquair.

The Psalms of David is the first Phoebe Anna Traquair HRSA (1852-1936) binding to be purchased by the university. Traquair was an outstanding Arts & Crafts artist in late nineteenth-century Scotland, working across a range of studio crafts and public art. She is perhaps best known today for her mural decoration of the Mansfield Traquair Centre and her equally extraordinary suite of four silk embroideries The Progress of a Soul in the Scottish National Gallery.

Book binding by Phoebe Anna Traquair, Guild of Women Book Binders, Bdg.s.40

The binding was made in 1898 while Traquair was busily working on both these artworks, and it joins an exquisite 1897 illuminated manuscript she made of details from the Song School at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. Traquair already had a working space in the Dean Studio, a former church near Drumsheugh Swimming Baths, and was one of half a dozen Edinburgh women who met there to work alongside each other on bookcover tooling. They included Annie Macdonald who persuaded a London bookseller, Frank Karslake, to form the Guild of Women Binders. The Guild, with member groups from across Britain, had regular selling exhibitions on his premises at Charing Cross Road from 1897 till after 1900. They were well known and showed their books at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900.

Book binding by Phoebe Anna Traquair, Guild of Women Book Binders (back cover)

Book binding by Phoebe Anna Traquair, Guild of Women Book Binders (back cover), Bdg.s.40

Traquair would have first selected and purchased a printed book, in this case a 1862 copy published by Samson Low, Son & Co. It was then bound in her choice of leather – this one is morocco, or goat’s skin – by T&A Constable, a commercial firm who were printers to the university. The plain leather was then worked on the bound book, using a knife first to outline the design before using broader blades to emboss it deep into the surface. The style used by the Edinburgh group, who never used coloured leathers, was said at the time to be a ‘revival of the monastic bindings of the Middle Ages’. Once completely embossed, including her signature (seen here as an upside-down monogram PAT at the foot of the front cover),Traquair would take her book to local silversmith J M Talbot to have a silver fastening made and applied: here only the mounts on the front and obverse have survived: the central silver bar fixing has been replaced at some date by a simple leather strip.

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Detail, Bdg.s.40

The story of David also features in the artist’s Mansfield Traquair Centre decoration. She specifically turned to the ‘musical’ subject of the Psalms of David on several occasions, beginning by illuminating the text as early as 1884: those pages were also bound in 1898 (Scottish National Gallery). On the university binding David, the ‘Son of Jesse [and] King of Israel’, is variously represented as boy shepherd and harpist; as warrior, with the head of the giant Goliath; as lover, watching Bathsheba washing; and finally as king. The figural designs give the cover an animated sense of narrative common to much of her work.

Song School St Mary, Gen.852

Song School St Mary, Gen.852

Learn more about Phoebe Anna Traquair through these links:

Bohemian Protest on Display

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To commemorate the 600th anniversary of the death of Church reformer Jan Hus (d.1415), the Centre for Research Collections is currently displaying the Bohemian Protest, a document surrounded by the seals of 100 members of the Czech nobility in protest at Hus’ treatment at the hands of the Council of Constance.

Hus had travelled to Council to lobby for religious reform, protected by a safe-conduct pass from the Emperor – but on his arrival he was seized and executed as a heretic on 6th July 1415. This document is dated 2nd September 1415 and contains the names and seals of 100 member of the Bohemian nobility – it has come to represent the cause for religious freedom.The Bohemian Protest after conservation.

It was acquired by theologian William Guild (1586-1657) while he was on the continent during the British civil wars, and subsequently bequeathed to the University of Edinburgh. The manuscript was written on vellum and the weight of the 100 wax seals makes it very fragile. This is the first time it has been displayed since receiving modern conservation treatment and rehousing.

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The document can be viewed in high resolution on the University of Edinburgh Image Collections.

The Bohemian Protest is one of the University of Edinburgh Iconic items – you can learn more about this collection of objects on the Iconic webpages.

 

Fran Baseby, CRC Service Delivery Curator

Old Books, New Discoveries: The Tale of a Feather

Our blog post today comes from History of the Book student and CRC volunteer Allie Newman.

The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is home to over 300 examples of Western medieval manuscripts, ranging from single leaves and fragments to large bound tomes. While it can certainly be said that this collection represents some of the oldest material in the library, it cannot be said that everything in the collection has been exhaustively examined, even given the items’ relatively long existences. Despite the great age of the items, they are still producing new discoveries in terms of textual content and physical structure, both of which inform our understanding of their individual histories and book history as a whole. I recently made a very interesting, if very tiny, discovery that could hopefully shed some more light on the medieval scribal and artistic processes.

MS 33, a 15th century illuminated Dutch gradual (or songbook), is a large and somewhat unwieldy volume, and is known as the source of the illuminated piper that graces the logo of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library. The piper is actually part of a richly decorated floral border that surrounds a page of music, further embellished by a large illuminated initial (folio 10 verso).

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Art for Industry in the 19th Century

Within the Edinburgh College of Art Rare Books collection are a number of manuals or instructional books which were published for the purpose of encouraging good design practice in both artisan and industrial production. This is not surprising when we consider the history of the college. Established as the Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh in 1760, the purpose of the college was to provide train designers working in the manufacturing industry, such as pattern designers or engineering draughtsmen.

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In the 19th Century there was a concern that the mechanised manufacturing processes which contributed to the industrial revolution were having a negative impact on the artistic quality of design for industry. This resulted in the publication of numerous books and journals providing guidance and inspiration for designers. Two books, The Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament & Costume and The Art-Workman show the different approaches authors and publishers took. Continue reading

Visualising the Scott Monument

In Semester 2 this year, we had a number of first-year architecture students visiting the CRC to research historic Edinburgh buildings. There have been enquiries about Old College, New College, and the National Museum of Scotland, but the most popular building by far has been the Scott Monument. Designed by local (and self-taught) architect George Meikle Kemp (1795-1844) and constructed between 1840 and 1846, the monument is a defining feature of Edinburgh’s New Town.

The CRC’s Corson collection of books by and about Sir Walter Scott contains plenty of books about the Scott Monument, including Thomas Bonnar’s Biographical Sketch of George Meikle Kemp (1892), as well a few oddities (a Scott-themed thermometer and even a bar of soap!). Further information about the Corson collection is available online. 0030068d Two bars of soap illustrated with the Scott Monument and Edinburgh Castle. One of the most distinctive images of the Scott Monument in our collection is an early calotype, circa 1845, taken by Edinburgh photographers D.O. Hill and R. Adamson. 0012164c The calotype process, developed by Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, used silver iodide to produce paper negatives; these were then printed onto silver chloride, or “salted paper”. The original prints are extremely sensitive to light but we have digitized our entire collection of about 700 Hill and Adamson calotypes. You can view them online here: http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/UoEcar~4~4

Anne Peale, CRC Evening Assistant