Last summer, I spent five days photographing the skeleton of William Burke to document recent conservation as a record for future collection care. The remains had been conserved and cleaned for the first time since the 1800s and the skeleton was going on display at the National Museum of Scotland for their 2022 exhibition “A Matter Of Death and Life“. I also photographed the life and death masks of Burke, Hare and Robert Knox (“the man who buys the beef”).
Have you ever been stuck for a good nursery rhyme to tell your kids? Or needed a cure for a headache that just will not go away? Or perhaps you’ve found yourself wondering – what is the best way to protect my butter from being cursed by witches? If the answer to any of these questions is yes (or possibly “why would a witch curse my butter?”) then let me introduce you to the collection recently digitised by our Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service team that can answer all these questions and more – the Maclagan Manuscripts.
James Skene was a close friend of one of Scotland’s greatest and most influential writers. By profession he was a lawyer, but he was also a keen amateur artist. Skene and Scott first met as fellow Advocates at the Scottish Bar and were brought together by their common love of German literature. They were subsequently joint co-founders of the Light Horse Regiment and the pair formed a close friendship.
This particular album appears to have fallen into obscurity over the years, as it had been in private collections and out of public view. Skene made these sketches for Scott to use as a reference or aide-memoire when writing his novels. Knowledge of its existence does not appear in any research or exhibitions relating to Scott or Skene. We were very fortunate to have this new acquisition and it was a pleasure to personally handle this beautiful album and see every drawing up close.