Iconic Photography


Clement Litill’s 1580 bequest charter

Part of our remit in the DIU has been to work through a list of ‘Iconic’ Items from the collection in our spare time. Over the years we have completed the digitisation of some outstanding manuscripts and collections in this way, from the Hill and Adamson photographs (a personal favourite- see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/jl5w63) to the wonderful Laing Album Amicorum (see http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/6oh338 ).


Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake from the Hill and Adamson Photographs


The Tower of London from the Van Meer Album Amicorum in the Laing Collection

However, in recent years we have struggled to keep up this work with increasing pressures on our time. So I was delighted when, after a recent review, it was decided that we can dedicate a day a week to the Iconics. Furthermore, the review is also expanding this list from the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection to incorporate some of the other outstanding collections and archives within the CRC. Priorities for digitisation are also being reassessed and the first step has been to ensure that all items have at least one photograph. Yesterday, colleagues delivered the last items from the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection so that I could take these record shots. It really was a trolley of treasure!

Adam Smith's annotated copy.

Adam Smith’s annotated 1557 copy of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium by Copernicus

Amongst other things, Adam Smith’s annotated 1557 copy of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, a Hugh MacDiarmid manuscript and perhaps the item that started it all off- Clement Litill’s 1580 bequest charter on which the Library was founded.

Some days (in fact most!) I love my job.

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer

Adam Smith's annotated copy.

The intricate binding of Copernicus De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

3 thoughts on “Iconic Photography

  1. Peter Freshwater says:

    Great to see these, and thank you, but …

    Howe do you define ‘iconic’, and who defines the icons?

    How about throwing this open, and inviting users to nominate their favourites?

    I would nominate the bindings included in the Bindings Collection. At present there is no listing or catalogue of what the Bindings Collection consists of. A labelled folder of Binding images would be a great help.

    • diu says:

      A very good question Peter, and something that is being discussed in the review! One of the reasons that we wanted to take at least one shot of each is the possibility of setting up a voting system with a blurb about each and asking users for their opinion on what to do next. As for who defines them as ‘iconic’ in the first place, this currently comes down to the curators and archivists of the different collections, although opening this up to other specialists is also being talked about. Additionally, we are gathering statistics from which items are most visited in our image database, to help ascertain what the public most wants to see.

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