Author Archives: abrodin

Archival Provenance Project: a glimpse into the university’s history through some of its oldest manuscripts

              My name is Madeleine Reynolds, a fourth year PhD candidate in History of Art. I am fortunate to be one of two successful applicants for the position of Archival Provenance Intern with the Heritage Collections, University of Edinburgh. My own research considers early modern manuscript culture, translation and transcription, the materiality of text and image, collection histories, ideas of collaborative authorship, and the concept of self-design, explored through material culture methodologies. Throughout my PhD, I have visited many reading rooms, from the specialist collections rooms at the British Library and the Bodleian’s Weston Library, to the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge and the Warburg Institute. Working first-hand with historical material has been crucial to the development of my work, and I was eager to spend time ‘behind-the-scenes.’ This internship was attractive to me because of the more familiar aspects – like the reading room environment and object handling – but it also presented an opportunity to expand my understanding of manuscript production and book histories, develop my provenance and palaeography skills, and understand the function of archival cataloguing fields as finding aids through my own enhancement of metadata.

Madeleine (foreground) and Emily (background) in the reading room.

              The aim of the project is to create a comprehensive resource list concerning the library’s oldest manuscripts, which contain material from the 16th– 20th centuries, in particular pre-20th century lecture notes, documents, and correspondence of or relating to university alumni and staff, as well as historical figures like Charles Darwin, Frédéric Chopin, and Mary Queen of Scots (to name a few). An old hand-list (dating from 1934 or before) was provided for the shelf-marks under consideration, and, using an Excel spreadsheet with pre-set archival fields, provenance research is being used to uncover details such as authorship/creator or previous ownership, how the volume came to be part the university’s collections, and extra-contextual information, like how the manuscript or its author/creator/owner is relevant to the university’s history.

A collection of black notebooks containing transcribed lecture notes from 1881-1883. The lectures were given by various University staff on subjects such as natural philosophy, moral ethics, rhetoric, and English literature and were transcribed by different students.

A great #shelfie featuring gold-tooling, banded spines, vellum bindings.

              In addition to enhancing the biographical details of relevant actors in the history of the university, the research into this ‘collection’ of manuscripts provides a deeper understanding of the interests, priorities, and concerns – political, religious, intellectual, etcetera –  of a particular society, or group, depending on the time period or place an individual object can be traced to. Inversely, thinking about what or who is not reflected in this subset of the archive is as informative as what material is present – unsurprisingly, a majority of this material is by men of a certain education and class. Though I would like to think of an archive as an impartial tool for historical research, I have to remind myself that decisions were made by certain individuals concerning what material was valuable or important (whatever that means!) to keep, or seek out, or preserve, and what might have been disregarded, or turned away.

              While there is a growing list of what I, and my project partner, Emily, refer to as ‘Objects of Interest’ (read as: objects we could happily spend all day inspecting), there are some which stand out, either for their content – some concern historical events pertaining to the university or Scotland more generally – or their form.

Dc.4.12 ‘Chronicle of Scotland’, front cover; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

Dc.4.12 ‘Chronicle of Scotland’, ‘Mar 24 1603’; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

              This manuscript (above), ‘Chronicle of Scotland from 330 B.C. to 1722 A.D’, is notable for its slightly legible handwriting (a rarity) and its subject matter – the featured page recounts the death of Elizabeth I, James VI and I’s arrival in London, and later down the page, his crowning at Westminster. Mostly, its odd shape – narrow, yet chunky – is what was particularly eye catching. To quote an unnamed member of the research services staff: ‘Imagine getting whacked over the head with this thing!’

              Of interest to the history of the university is this thin, red volume (below) containing an account written by William Playfair concerning the construction of some university buildings and the costs at this time (1817-1822). This page covers his outgoings – see his payment for the making of the ‘plaster models of Corinthian capitals for Eastern front of College Museum’ and his payment for the ‘Masonwork of Natural Histy Museum – College Buildings.’

Dc.3.73 Abstract of Journal of William Playfair, binding, cover; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

Dc.3.73 Abstract of Journal of William Playfair, expenditures; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

              Of course, you cannot understand the scope of the history of the University of Edinburgh without considering its ‘battles’ – by this, I mean the ‘Wars of the Quadrangle’, otherwise known as the Edinburgh Snowball Riot of 1838, a two-day battle between Edinburgh students and local residents which was eventually ended by police intervention. This manuscript is a first-hand account from Robert Scot Skirving, one of the five students, of the 30 plus that were arrested, to be put on trial.

Dc.1.87 Account of the snowball riot; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

              Finally, this object (below), from the first day of research is particularly fascinating – a box, disguised as a book, used to hold deeds granting the university with six bursaries for students of the humanities, from 1674-1678. The grantor is Hector Foord, a graduate of the university. The box is made from a brown, leather-bound book, that was once held shut with a metal clasp. The pages, cut into, are a marbled, swirling pattern of rich blue, red, green, and gold. The cover is stamped in gold lettering, with a gold embossed University library crest. There are delicate gold thistles pressed into the banded spine. Upon opening the manuscript, it contains two parchment deeds, and two vellum deeds, the latter of which are too stiff to open. You can see still Foord’s signature on one of them, and the parchment deeds are extremely specific about the requirements that must be met for a student to be granted money.

Dc.1.22 Deeds by Mr. H Foord, cover; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

Dc.1.22 Deeds by Mr. H Foord, inside of ‘box’ with all four deeds; Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh.

              The project has only just concluded its second month and we are lucky that it has been extended a month beyond the initial contract. Despite how much material we have covered so far, we are looking forward to discovering more interesting objects, and continuing to enhance our resource list. Stay tuned!

Volunteering at the CRC: Charlotte’s experience

Today we’re introducing Charlotte Holmes, a postgraduate student who is doing some volunteer work under the supervision of archivist Aline Brodin. Her main task is to catalogue and box-list two very different collections from our archives, the Archive of Illustrators Richard and Alison Douglas Tod (Coll-2029) and the Archive of productions of Varsity Vanities and various dramatic groups (Coll-1581). Volunteering with the CRC is a great way to gain some new skills and some practical experience while working with our heritage collections. Charlotte tells us about her background and her work in our reading room:

Hi everyone! My name is Charlotte, and I am a final-year PhD student in History. My thesis is entitled “Domestic Medicine in Early Modern Scotland, c. 1650 – c. 1750”. Before this course, I spent a few years in the “real world” after my undergraduate and masters at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and the University of Edinburgh respectively. My undergraduate degree was in History and French, concentrating on Western Europe and Africa, while my masters was in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. I am interested generally in the history of Scotland, medicine, and gender.

Charlotte working in our reading room.

My position with the Centre for Research Collections is as a Box-Listing Volunteer. As it says on the tin, I have been listing what is in the boxes for two collections: the Richard and Alison Tod fonds and the Varsity Vanities fonds. Richard and Alison Tod were Scottish children’s book illustrators throughout the 20th century and the Varsity Vanities fonds contain photographs and programmes from Edinburgh University student theatre productions from the mid-20th century. Most of my role involves thinking about what researchers need to know about items in the collections: are the photographs or artwork in black and white or colour? Can we determine the year in which the item was created? Then, I enter this data into ArchivesSpace with other archival descriptors such as the call number.

A student acting in a Varsity Vanities play, 1940s (Coll-1581)

Varsity Vanities programme, 1940s (Coll-1581)

I took this position because I wanted to learn some basic archiving practices. As a researcher, I only look at the published side of the catalogue and I wanted to learn how it worked from the back end. I have certainly learned how much is involved in cataloguing items: it was challenging at first to fight my instincts to analyse them and to remain as objective as possible. But there were pieces in both collections that involved some subjectivity and further research. For example, there were racial depictions that are now commonly understood to be harmful to sections of society. So, I got to stretch my research muscles as well as exercise some subjectivity within the archiving process. It made me remember that there is a very human side to archival objectivity.

Booklet by Alison Tod entitled “Bunnikin’s Adventures”, with original illustrations, 1935 (Coll-2029/2/3/1)

Booklet by Richard or Alison Tod entitled “Fairyland Tales: Googoo’s Gamp”, 1939 (Coll-2029/2/1)

What I am leaving with from my time at the CRC is an incredibly positive learning experience. Everyone that works there, including and perhaps especially the front of house staff, are helpful and supportive. My supervisor, Aline is extremely patient and explains everything well and thoroughly. When I’m in, she makes a point to come say hi. I also have a regular table in the Reading Room, which is infinitely funny to me because of course my regular table wouldn’t be at a coffee shop or pub, but in a nerdy environment! Anyway, if you are interested at all in archives and history, I would highly recommend volunteering for the CRC. It’s worth climbing the six flights of stairs, I promise!

If you are interested in volunteering with us, you can find all the relevant information, including how to be added to our mailing list, on this page: Volunteers and Interns | The University of Edinburgh  

In popular culture, archives sometimes have a cryptic reputation: if some filmmakers were to be believed, in the middle of dust and darkness would rest ancient manuscripts and parchments containing secrets about the occult and the mystic, jealously kept by a lone archivist (or a librarian, since they often appear to be interchangeable)[1]. Even though archives do hold fascinating, touching, thought-provoking materials in a myriad of shapes and forms, any archivist would tell you that such a description is a bit more glamorous than the reality…or, is it? It turned out manuscripts can hold supernatural secrets, as I discovered in a mysterious (and bibliographic) quest started on a rainy autumnal Saturday…

Two years ago, while looking for something to do to entertain my French guests, I had found a web page describing an abandoned castle in the woods near Gifford, a small village 40-minute away from Edinburgh. It seemed like a lovely walk – and even better, a part of the castle was said to have been built in the 13th century by demoniac goblins summoned by a necromancer! Talk about intriguing. The three of us set off. The starting point of our walk was a little path heading into the woods in the middle of the countryside, near a lonely, faded Victorian house. This was a particularly rainy and quiet day; and our directions were not very clear – soon, we were lost. We knew the castle was there somewhere, ancient and hidden, but our position at the bottom of a small valley prevented us from seeing anything other than trees and colourful foliage. Eventually, we met three other walkers who sent us in the right direction. They smiled knowingly when we told them we were looking for Yester Castle, and told us they had left candles inside the vault, “for the atmosphere”… Even more intrigued, we continued our quest, passing a number of old stone bridges hidden by the autumn leaves: perhaps this trail used to be followed by the castle’s inhabitants and visitors?

One of the bridges on the way to Yester Castle.

Finally, after an ultimate bridge curved over the river running at the bottom of the glen, we caught sight of a stone wall at the top of a hill. There it was! We had found our castle! And thanks to the rain, we had it for ourselves. The first edifices we encountered were an impressive tall wall, and the ruins of the stone keep. The castle had been built in the middle of the 13th century by the Laird of Yester Hugo de Giffard (or Hugh Gifford), descendent of a Norman immigrant who had been given land in East Lothian during the reign of David I[2].

The tall wall leading to Yester Castle.

A remaining tower.

We soon spotted stairs descending into a cold, large, dark chamber. That must be it – the vault supposedly built by the same Hugo de Giffard, a man who left an ambiguous trace in historical records. Officially, we know he was one of the Guardians of the young Alexander III of Scotland; and one of the Regents of the Kingdom appointed by the Treaty of Roxburgh on 20th of September 1255[3]. However, he also had the reputation to be a warlock and a necromancer, and according to the legend he had summoned hobgoblins to build a subterranean vault under his castle, known as Bohall or Goblin Ha’, that he subsequently used for his demoniac activities.

The former entrance (?) of the vault.

The stairs leading down to the vault.

After wandering around the ruins for a while, we discovered a small entrance behind the castle, enabling us to enter the chamber by crouching through a narrow corridor in complete darkness. The size of the vault is still impressive today. The ceiling is high, and reminded me a stony, upside down rib cage. At one corner of the room there were stairs going down even more deeply into the ground. We were not disappointed.

Inside the Goblin Ha’.

Once back to the safety of our home, far from any threat of goblins or medieval wizard, we tried to learn more about this incredible place. Finding a trustworthy source for the occult legend surrounding Hugo de Giffard was not easy. The original citation on which a large part of Hugo’s dark reputation seems to have been built was quoted in his Wikipedia page as follows: “Fordun thus speaks of him in noting his death in 1267: “Hugo Gifford de Yester, moritur cujus castrum vel saltem caveam et dongionem arte demoniacula antiquae relationes fuerunt fabricatas,” (vol.ii, p. 105).” [4]. The quote can be translated as: “Hugo Gifford of Yester died. His castle, at least his cave and his dungeon, was said to have been formed by demoniac artifice”. The Wikipedia page for Yester Castle presented the same idea: “14th century chronicler John of Fordun mentions the large cavern in Yester Castle, thought locally to have been formed by magical artifice.”[5] This was very vague – there was no indication of the work where the quote had been found, and which edition… We decided to get to the bottom of things. After all, we thought, the ruins of a castle built by demoniac forces during the middle ages are only cool if it can be supported by genuine contemporary evidence, not some hearsay on Wikipedia!

The source was said to be Fordun – so we assumed at first that the quotation was from the Chronica Gentis Scotorum (“Chronicles of the Scottish people”) written by the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun in the 14th century[6]. This work was one of the first attempts to relate the history of the Scottish people, from its mythological origins to the death of David I in 1153. Which meant, of course, that it could not have mentioned Hugo de Giffard and his Goblin Ha’, built in the middle of the 13th century… We hit our first hurdle. To make matters more confusing, Sir Walter Scott himself mentions Hugo de Giffard and the infamous Goblin Hall in his book Marmion, published in 1808[7]. We wondered – was the quote just an imaginative addition from a 19th century author to give more credit to a local legend, inspired by Walter Scott’s novel? It seemed all the online mentions of this particular extract stemmed from the same inaccurate Wikipedia citation, copied and pasted in various websites. No recent scholarly publications available online seemed to examine the legend.

However, while reading more about Fordun and his chronicles, we did find a clue: in 1440 Fordun’s Chronica Gentis Scotorum was continued by a Scottish abbot named Walter Bower born around 1385 at Haddington in East Lothian, which is only a few miles away from our mysterious castle[8]. Ah! Could it be that the mention of the Goblin Ha’ was in Bower’s writings, rather than in Fordun’s chronicles? Bower, having grown up in the region, would have known about the local legend. The combined texts from Fordun and Bower are called the Scotichronicon, and are an invaluable source of Scottish history. Fordun was also commonly cited as the main author, especially in older sources, which would explain the mix up in the Wikipedia pages. The only edition available online was the Joannis de Fordun Scotichronicon: cum supplementis et continuatione Walteri Boweri, edited by Walter Goodall and published in 1759. Our Latin quote was in vol. 2, p. 105 – this seemed like the probable source of the Wikipedia entry, which mentioned a “vol. ii, p. 115”. Goodall’s work was for a long time the only complete edition of the Scotichronicon, and is based on Edinburgh University Library’s very own copy dating form 1510 (MS 186)[9]…

This is when I thought – why content yourself with a transcription when you can check the original source directly? I was at the time working with postgraduate students on a project to produce an online catalogue of our Western Medieval Manuscripts, so I took the opportunity to have a look at MS 186. I retrieved the medieval book, which is of an impressive size – it is one of the few manuscripts in our collection which still have its original binding, and I must say, it did look like my idea of an ancient esoteric grimoire full of dark secrets! I then located the capitulus X, liber 21 as instructed by the 1759 edition, and…. There it was! The very same sentence in Latin, about Hugo de Giffard and his vault built by Hobgoblins.

MS 186, with its original binding. The book measures 41 cm x 25 cm.

Original text in MS 186 – transcription in Latin – translation in English (from Scotichronicon, 8 volumes, ed. by D. E. R. Watt (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987))

I later put our Wikipedia editing training to good use by fixing the entries and clarifying the source and the author of the quote. This marked a satisfying ending to our quest for truth – we could rest easy knowing that our mysterious castle was an authentic ghoulish lair, and that we had done our part in disseminating knowledge through accurate bibliographical sources – could any archivist ask for more?

Aline Brodin, cataloguing archivist at the Centre for Research Collections.

References:

[1] Oliver, A. Daniel, A., “The Identity Complex: the Portrayal of Archivists in Film.” in Archival Issues 37, no. 1 (2015): pp. 48-70.

[2] Ritchie, Robert L. G., The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1954), p. 276.

[3] William Anderson, The Scottish Nation: Or The Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland, vol. 2 (Edinburgh and London: A. Fullarton & co., 1862), p. 298.

[4] “Hugh de Giffard” (last edited in 2019), Wikipedia, Available at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_de_Giffard (Accessed: October 2018).

[5] “Yester Castle” (last edited in 2020), Wikipedia, Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yester_Castle (Accessed: October 2018).

[6]  “Fordun, John of”, in Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 10, ed. By Hugh Chisholm, 11th edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911). pp. 643-644.

[7] Scott, W., Marmion, 10th edn (Edinburgh: Archibald Contsable, 1821), p. 157.

[8] Watt, D. E. R., “A National Treasure? The Scotichronicon of Walter Bower”, in The Scottish Historical Review, Volume LXXVI, 1: No. 201 (April 1997), pp. 44-53.

[9] Scotichronicon, 8 volumes, ed. by D. E. R. Watt (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987). See in particular, ‘Introduction’ to Volume 1 and Volume 8.

Cataloguing the correspondence of Thomas Nelson & Sons (cont.)

Our intern Isabella has now finished her 10-week placement at the CRC, during which she was box-listing part of the records of Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. Her thoroughness and fine attention to details made her perfect for the job. Luckily for us, Isabella enjoyed her placement so much that she decided to keep working on the collection as a volunteer! We are delighted that she is going to keep doing excellent work on this great collection. Here are a few more of her great finds.

Isabella working in the CRC reading room.

1. Jane Borthwick Letter: While every other letter in this bundle is written in black or dark blue ink, with edits often made with red ink, Jane Borthwick writes a letter here in an aesthetically appealing purple ink. The letter concerns a manuscript which she was enlisted to read, review, and recommend for either publication or rejection. Unfortunately for the author, Ms. Borthwick found the piece too dull to be printed. On the back of the letter there is slight evidence of handling where several ink stained fingers held the letter. While the marks are slight and it cannot be determined if these are the product of Jane herself, an employee of Nelson & Sons or of a later cataloguer or archivist, it stands as evidence of this letters connection to the people that have interacted with it, carrying its handling history on its surface.1. Jane Borthwick’s letter

2. R. Anderson Letter: A letter from R. Anderson displaying discoloration of paper, dust and dirt – Some of the correspondence we are working to catalogue requires light conservation methods before we can return them to storage. In this letter from an R. Anderson, one side shows how protected and covered paper ages as that side has been stored firmly pressed against another letter, while the other side reveals how long-term exposure to the elements of stacks can fade, damaged and color the paper. In order to attempt to combat this issue a small dry sponge is used to wipe away what dirt or dust can be wiped away, however, due to the age of the ink on the paper we must be careful not to take any of the ink off the page itself. This then becomes a conundrum of whether to maintain the precision of the ink or to treat the residue before it becomes a larger and more expensive issue.

2. R. Anderson’s letter

3. French Postcard: Here we have a postcard from Vienna written entirely in French. Unfortunately, our cataloguer does not read French and so help was requested from a fellow student from the Book History and Material Culture course, Eleanor Cambridge, as well as the cataloguer’s supervisor and resident Archivist with the Center for Research and Collections, Aline Brodin. The emersion of this postcard from the collection allowed for cooperation between postgraduates as well as Archivists to engage in a multi-national approach to decipher another element of the archive. This opportunity not only demonstrates the way archivists and cataloguers often work in tandem in order to contextualize information and collections, but it further speaks to the multi-national nature and reputation of Nelson & Sons.

3. French postcard

 4. J. A. Bains Letter: Pictured here is part of a collection of nine letters sent from one J. A. Bains on highly personalized stationery decorated with fastidiously carved print images on one side. Despite the intricacy of the prints on the stationary, their appearance is not entirely a surprise as if you look to the right-hand side of the image you will see that Mr. Bains was a bookseller as well as a Stationer. Mr. Bains interactions with Nelson & Sons was such that he had been writing a biography on the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen and was very determined to see his piece published with their company alone. This sentiment was made plain to Mr. Brown, a manager at the company, in the final line of Mr. Bains letter from May 12th, 1896 writing, ‘I am determined that Messrs. T. Nelson & Sons shall publish it – even if I have to wait for months or years! I have spent too much labor (even if amateur) too much money and wandered too many miles to gather information to let it fall through.’ Bains was a jovial correspondent, often using exclamation points in his letters, reasserting that he would have no one else publish his work but Nelson and Sons, and on two occasions joking that if Nansen, who was on expedition at the time of these letters, did not return then his book would be the first biography published and probably a roaring success. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown did not return his enthusiasm as he rejected the opportunity to publish the work, multiple times, and so Mr. Bains took his biography to Walter Scott Publishing Co. Ltd. and the book was published in 1897.

4. J. A. Bains’s letter

 5. Sophia Caulfield and Audrey Curtis Letters: Many of the manuscripts sent to Nelson & Sons were full of differing content and came from a variety of people throughout a number of countries. Audrey Curtis and Sophia Caulfield were two of those authors. Ms. Curtis submitted her manuscript of ‘a tale of the Huguenot persecution in France about the date 1685’ while Ms. Caulfield wrote about ‘little-known curiosities in the department of Natural History’ of London. Each woman worked on historical and amateur scientific novels. Curtis herself had previously been published by the National Society for her short story entitled “The Artist of Crooked Alley” as well as for her story for children titled “Little Miss Curlylocks”. Each woman was a fairly accomplished author by the time they came across Nelson & Sons for their publications with Ms. Caulfield identifying herself as one of the original writers for a popular magazine aimed at young women interested in science and politics. As well Ms. Caulfield included a written resume with her manuscript to Nelson & Sons of all that she had worked on which included compiling a dictionary of needlework, textiles, and lace, as well as editing magazine articles, and her latest book which had been shown at the Chicago “World’s Fair” as well as the ‘Great Paris Exposition’.

5. Audrey Curtis’s Letter

6. Rev. F. Docker Letter: The Reverend F. Docker, pictured here, was a religious short story author who sent several stories for potential publication to Nelson & Sons in 1896.  Along with his letter and his manuscripts he included a newspaper clipping from The Christian Age newspaper bearing one of the stories which he had written as well as his picture. If you peer at the heading of the paper, you will see that it is identified as No. 1,268. -Vol. XLVIII.-26. and was published in ‘London, Wednesday, December 25, 1895’ meaning that the story Reverend Docker submitted to the publishers was in fact a Christmas installment.

6. Rev. F. Docker’s Letter 

7. Miss M. Douglas Letter: Here we see another example of Nelson & Sons enlisting the help of an expert for practical scientific publications. M. Douglas was a woman who worked with Nelson & Sons when producing a new book about Arctic Exploration. She was the designated reader and critic for the configuration and aesthetic design of the maps illustrated in the book. Unfortunately, this letter does not give the reader any more background as to her work but rather it does prove she showed a high proficiency for spatial relations, math, and geography in order to conceptualize and stylize maps for the Arctic which in 1896 was still a relatively unknown climate. In her letter here she shows a high understanding of Polar currents as well as a strong familiarity with the literary histories of Arctic Exploration.

7. Miss M. Douglas’s letter 

8. Ernest Ingersoll Book Submission: In 1896 Ernest Ingersoll submitted to Nelson & Sons his story entitled “A Railway Stowaway” which had previously been published in the United States by the well-known publishers of Harper & Brothers. In his letter Mr. Ingersoll offers Nelson & Sons ‘all rights outside the United States’ to the publication. While many authors include a full manuscript along with their letters, which they either request to be returned if they are rejected for publication, a gamble if the author has not written out or commissioned printed copies, Mr. Ingersoll included a small pocket copy of his story which was printed in the style of the Harper Collins 1882 edition. This particular copy was hand bound as you can see from the string threaded through the center pages and came complete with illustrations. The size of the copy enabled it to stay with the letter in this case, instead of the manuscript being returned or archived in a different location within the collection. This inclusion allowed us to not only understand the background of this submitted manuscript but also to collect the priority piece of knowledge that Nelson & Sons were offered sole rights to this piece for every publication outside of the United States. Unfortunately, Nelson & Sons decided to reject the offer. However, Mr. Ingersoll did not give up entirely and instead sent them a copy of one of his other stories entitled “The Ice Queen” which had been well received in the United States and which Harper & Brothers were willing to negotiate on copyright purchasing and illustrations expenses. While the last photo in the below series is not included in any copy of Ingersoll’s printed work, it is a wonderfully interesting example of marginalia which mimics medieval style. Referred to as a manicula, the hand design which was used to draw attention to specific passages, is used by Ingersoll here to identify the final paragraph of his letter.

8a. Ernest Ingersoll

8b. Ernest Ingersoll

8c. Ernest Ingersoll

8d. Ernest Ingersoll – manicula

 

Cataloguing the correspondence of Thomas Nelson & Sons

Last January, our intern Isabella started a 10-week placement at the CRC, as part of her MSc in Book History and Material Culture. Using our online system ArchivesSpace, she is cataloguing part of the records of Thomas Nelsons & Sons Ltd., a British publishing firm founded in Edinburgh in 1798. So far, she has been dealing with correspondence, advertising material, and printed material relating to publishing, all dating from the end of the 19th century. Here are some of her most interesting finds:

1. W. H. Allen & Co. Copy

1. W. H. Allen & Co.: Pictured above is a beautiful embossing from the stationary of W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd., a London based bookseller and publisher. The company were ‘publishers to the India office’ as can be noted on the seal. The coordination of a lion and a unicorn most likely represents the company’s work across Scotland and England.

2. There are three letters from one Mrs. Allan enquiring about the potential for her 15 year old son to take up an apprenticeship with Nelson & Sons. She describes her son as being a naturally gifted illustrator and when the company takes a bit long to reply she sends further letters describing how she and her son are ‘wearing of waiting’ for a response. Though the company eventually accepted samples of the young Mr. Allan’s work, he was not offered an apprentice position.

3. Lady Aberdeen Insignia

3. Lady Aberdeen Insignia: Pictured above is the signet of Lady Ishbel Aberdeen who wrote to the offices of Nelson & Sons on September 14th 1896, sending several copies of Canadian literary reports and magazines as well as personal letters inquiring as to whether the company would wish to send any penny or bargain literature they may have the copyrights for to Canada as she believes the country is in desperate need of ‘good, cheap literature.’ She speaks about her children’s magazine “Wee Willie Winkie” named after the Scottish fairy tale as well as the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). Lady Aberdeen was the founder of the NCWC, an advocate for the creation of the Victorian Order of Nurses as well as a well-known supporter of the Canadian suffrage movement. The signet is a blue embossed crown containing her initials wrapped together with a vine-esque tie (information on Lady Aberdeen acquired via the Canadian Encyclopaedia).

4. Frank Mahony (1)

4. Frank Mahony (2)

4. Frank Mahony (3)

4. Frank Mahony (4)

4. Frank Mahony (5)

4. Frank Mahony (6)

4. Frank Mahony: Pictured above are six printed illustrations from illustrator Frank P. Mahony. Mahony was an artist from Melbourne Australia whose work was used in the construction of the ‘New South Wales Reader’ a larger and heavily documented project undertaken by Nelson & Sons transcontinentally in congress with several agencies in Australia including leather workers, booksellers, and authors. As can be seen, the copies of the illustrations have been warped from years of being curled into a scroll-esque form at the centre of a group of letters and cost projections for the ‘New South Wales Reader.’ In order to examine each paper with minimal damage, two glass weights are placed at the edges of the copy pictures to examine them as a whole without compromising the form the paper has taken over years of storage.

5. Oxford University Press

5. Oxford University Press: This letter addressed to Nelson & Sons is a copy of a letter from the University Press of Oxford requesting manuscript materials for the Presbyterian Hymnal with Tunes, a project which was spearheaded by Reverend James Anderson of Toronto. The initial correspondence regarding the publication of the Presbyterian Hymnal between Reverend Anderson and George Brown of Nelson & Sons deals mostly in obtaining or paying license for the use of tunes from other previously published hymnals. The various letters sent between the two men gives a glimpse into the nature of musical copyright laws and penalties in 1896 both in Canada, where the Reverend Anderson was based and in Scotland where Nelson & Sons offices were. The publication of the hymnal went on to be so successful that the University Press of Oxford requested to take up the publication of the piece as well.

6. Schwebius signature

6. Schwebius letter: Much of the cataloguing done for this archive requires some previous exposure to palaeography, or the study of dated handwriting. However, sometimes in deciphering particularly unclear script a second opinion or cross referencing is required to confirm the context of a letter in order to properly interpret the piece. For this letter, the name Schwebius, though written twice, was not entirely apparent in its spelling. The content of the letter referred to the sale of a foundry and various machines from a leatherworker in New York. The cataloguer referred to a digitized directory from the library of Hoboken, New York which not only lists the recipient of this letter, a George Schwebius, but mentions details of his business which were substantiated by the letter from the Nelson Archive. Corroborating information across archives and databases allowed not only for the correct spelling of the sender’s name to be identified but gave further insight into the transactions between the sender and Nelson & Sons.

7. George Brown’s signature

7. George Brown’s Signature: In 1896 Nelson & Sons decided to invest several substantial sums which were guaranteed by an American investment firm. Their correspondence with the American firm was directed to a Mr. Stewart Tods and concerned the investment of two separate sums of more than 10,000 dollars each. The letter, though entirely concerned with business, reflects the genial nature of professional signatures from the time. Here George Brown, a manager at Nelson & Sons, signs ‘Believe me, Yours Faithfully’. Though the letter concerns references to significant sums of money and is a reflection of a transaction, the signature is incredibly genial and far more affectionate than would be used in the same manner of business today.

8. Nelson & Sons employed a vast number of employees who all were integral to discovering, creating, and marketing literature. From travel writers to leather testers, Nelson & Sons often employed numerous professionals to vet their literature including Jane Macgregor and Jane Borthwick. Though each women worked with the company under other supervisions at various periods, Jane Borthwick was a translator of German hymns as well as a writer of English hymns, a collection of letters in this archive reveals that these two women were also engaged as test readers for the manuscripts sent to the company. Many of the letters sent by Borthwick and Macgregor reference literature they have been sent which contains female protagonists, from which it could be inferred that Nelson & Sons were recruiting female employees for female driven literature.

The Thomas Nelson collection (Coll-25) on our online catalogue: https://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/2/resources/85801

Link

Re-discovering a forgotten songwriter: the archive of Louisa Matilda Crawford.

Daisy Stafford, CRC intern who catalogued the papers of Louisa Matilda Crawford, talks about her experience.

This summer I was offered the opportunity to undertake an archiving internship in the Centre for Research Collections, cataloguing the personal papers of Louisa Matilda Crawford, a nineteenth century songwriter. Other than her name and occupation, little information about Louisa was known. Through two months of close examination of her archive, I was able to stitch together a narrative of Louisa’s life. Here’s what I found…

Louisa Matilda Jane Crawford was born on the 27th September 1789 at Lackham House in Wiltshire. She was the daughter of Ann Courtenay (d. 1816) and George Montagu (1753-1815), an English army officer and naturalist. Louisa was related to nobility on both sides of the family; her maternal grandmother, Lady Jane Stuart, was the sister of Scottish nobleman John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and Prime Minister to George III. Her father, meanwhile, was a descendent of Sir Henry Montagu, the first Earl of Manchester and also the great-grandson of Sir Charles Hedges, Queen Anne’s Secretary.

Papers of Louisa Matilda Crawford. Coll-1839 (picture from the seller’s catalogue)

Louisa had three older siblings; George Conway Courtenay (b. 1776), Eleanora Anne (b. 1780) and Frederick Augustus (b. 1783). Little direct information is known about Louisa’s childhood, but it must have been turbulent; in 1798 Montagu left his wife and family and moved to Kingsbridge in Devon to live with his mistress Elizabeth Dorville, with whom he had four more children. It is here that he wrote his two pioneering works, the Ornithological Dictionary; or Alphabetical Synopsis of Birds (1802) and Testacea Britannica, a History of British Marine, Land and Freshwater Shells, which saw several bird and marine species named after him, most notably Montagu’s harrier. The family’s disapproval of his relationship with Dorville ultimately cost him his ancestral home. On the death of his unmarried brother, James, the will stipulated that he would not inherit Lackham House, but had only “a rent charge of £800 a year subject to which the estates were left to his eldest son, George, for life.” The ensuing lawsuit between the pair resulted in huge debts which cost the family the estate; as Louisa wrote in The Metropolitan Magazine in 1835; “The thoughtless extravagance of youth, and the unwise conduct of mature age, caused the estates to be thrown into chancery” (vol. 14, pp. 308-309). Louisa reflected on seeing the native woods of her family home cut down upon its sale in a later poem (Coll-1839/7 pp.415-416):

Those brave old woods, when I saw them fall,

                Where they stood in their pride so long,

The giant guards of our ancient hall,

                And the theme of our household song;

I wept, that one of my Father’s race

                Could forget the name he bore,

And turn the land to a desert place,

                Where an Eden bloom’d before.

Louisa began courting Matthew Crawford, a barrister of Middle Temple, in 1817. Many of the papers consist of love letters and poems exchanged between the pair during this early period of their relationship, including three locks of hair, presumably Louisa’s. In 1822 the couple were married and Louisa moved to London, although their continued correspondence evidences that Matthew spent much of their marriage away working in the North of the country. It is then that Louisa began to earn an income through song writing and poetry, although the couple always struggled financially and frequently appealed to their wealthier relatives for aid.

Much of Louisa’s work appeared, often anonymously, in magazines and journals, was sold to publishers, and was set to music by composers Samuel Wesley, Sidney Nelson, Edward Clare and others. She frequently contributed both poems and prose, including several “autobiographical sketches”, to London literary journal The Metropolitan Magazine (which has subsequently been digitised by the HathiTrust and can be fully searched here). Many of her songs and poems related to historical events and persons; songs titled “Anne Boleyn’s Lamentation” (Coll-1839/7 p. 285) or “Chatelar to Mary Queen of Scots” (Coll-1839/7 pp. 381-382) are written from the point of view of famous queens. One poem (Coll-1839/3/1/9) tells the story of Frederick the Great (1712-1786), King of Prussia, who, in order to deceive his enemies as to his position during the Seven Years’ War, commanded that no light should be kindled throughout his encampment. However, a young soldier lit a taper to write a letter to his new bride. The second stanza reads:

His head was bent in act to write,

                The memories gusting o’er him –

When through the gloom of gathering night,

                Stood Frederick’s self before him!

Oh sternly spoke the Monarch then

                His doom of bitter sorrow

“Resume the seat – Resume the pen

                And add “I die tomorrow.”

Other poems in the collection are more personal, including reflections on her childhood and family, such as “The Home of Our Childhood” (Coll-1839/7 pp. 17-18) and “On the Death of a Sister” (Coll-1839/7 p. 394). Many verses are addressed to her husband Matthew; one poem (Coll-1839/1/2/5) dated 23rd July 1817 and titled “To Him I Love”, begins:

Oh! Doubt not the faith of a heart which is thine

Nor cast on its feelings a thought thats unkind

For believe me thine image whilest life shall be mine

Cannot fail to be cherish’d and dear to my mind

Like a miser I hoard in my hearts hidden core

Every look every word that from thee I receive

And never ah! never till lifes dream is o’er

Will the love which I bear thee be alter’d believe

Coll-1839/1/2/5. Poem addressed to Matthew Crawford titled “To Him I Love” in the hand of Louisa Matilda Crawford, 23 July 1817.

Matthew often responded with poems of his own, and seems to have played a collaborative role in Louisa’s writing. She frequently included stanzas of her work in letters to him, asking him to look over and edit them.

Louisa’s most successful song, “Kathleen Mavourneen,” was set to music by composer Frederick Crouch and enjoyed wide success in America where it was popularised by Irish Soprano Catherine Hayes on her international tours. Recordings of it still exist, and a version by Irish tenor John McCormack (1884-1945) can be found on youtube here. No original version of the song is amongst her papers, although there is a poem titled “On hearing Miss Catherine Hays [sic] sing “Kathleen Mavourneen!”” (Coll-1839/3/1/17). However, the song was frequently attributed solely to Crouch, or erroneously to Annie, Julia, or Marion Crawford.

Coll-1839/3/1/17. Poem titled “On hearing Miss Catherine Hays, sing “Kathleen Mavourneen!” by Crofton Gray” in the hand of Louisa Matilda Crawford, 1837-1857.

Louisa arranged her poems into small series, and the collection includes ten stitched booklets with titles such as “Irish ballads” and “Scotch songs”. Attempts to track down her work can be seen in correspondence with her publishers. In an undated later to magazine editor Mr Emery (Coll-1839/1/1/22) she requests copies of her published songs, writing; “I am not wanting them to give away, but to have them bound up in a volume since I find it impossible to keep single songs…I am going to beat up for recruits in all quarters where my bagatelles have been published, in order that I may have a little memorial to leave to those that will value the gift when I am gone.” A notebook containing 165 poems and songs neatly written in Louisa’s hand seems to be the result of these efforts.

Some outlying items in the collection initially seemed not to relate to Louisa at all, including a 17th century indenture on vellum, recording the sale of a messuage or house between waterman Thomas W Watson and master mariner Josiah Ripley of Stockton-on-Tees. However, a bit of biographical research revealed the answer. Many of these miscellaneous items reference Bayley and Newby, a firm of solicitors operating out of Stockton-on-Tees in the 19th century, which may explain the presence of the indenture. Matthew Crawford’s first cousin, William Crawford Newby (1807-1884) worked at the firm, and it seems that, since the couple were childless, their papers passed to him upon their deaths and thence on to his heirs. The latest item in the collection (Coll-1839/1/3/16) is a 1930 letter by William’s son, who writes:

I enclose a manuscript book written by Mrs Crawford including many well-known songs…Mrs Crawford was a Montagu of the Duke of Manchester family and died in 1857. She was married to Matthew Crawford a barrister. They had independent means which however they frittered away. My late father who was a 1st cousin of Matthew Crawford’s assisted them from time to time and their M.S.S. came to him on their death and through him to me. I am not anxious to part with them, but I am an old man and my family may not attach the same importance to their possession.

This would seem to account for how the papers came to be in the possession of the bookseller and for the few items relating to the Newby’s present in the collection.

Louisa died in 1857, the cause unknown, although Matthew refers to a long affliction of heart disease supplemented by attacks of Bronchitis in an 1846 letter (Coll-1839/2/6). Despite her obvious talent, and the clear enjoyment she derived from her work, she received little notoriety for her song writing during her lifetime and even less so after her death. Alongside gaining invaluable archival skills during this project it has been a pleasure to think that I have been able to increase the visibility of Louisa’s work and make her collection available to interested researchers. Although separated by over two centuries, I have come to know more about Louisa than any person living, and that is a great privilege.

You can see the catalogue of the papers on ArchivesSpace: https://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/2/resources/86789

References:

Cleevely, R. J. “Montagu, George.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online, 23 Sep. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/19017. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

Crawford, Louisa Matilda Jane. The Metropolitan Magazine. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

  • “An Auto-Biographical Sketch. Lacock Abbey.” Vol. 12, Jan-Apr. 1835, pp. 400-402, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433081737904;view=1up;seq=412.
  • “Autobiographical Sketches Connected with Laycock Abbey.” 14, Sept-Dec. 1835, pp. 306-318, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433081737888;view=1up;seq=322.
  • “Autobiographical Sketches.” Vol. 22, 1838, pp. 310-317, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.319510007530342;view=1up;seq=325.
  • “Autobiographical Sketches.” Vol. 23, Sept-Dec. 1838, pp. 189-194, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433081737839;view=1up;seq=203.

Cummings, Bruce F. “A biographical sketch of Col. George Montagu (1755-1815).” Zoologisches Annalen Würzburg, vol. 5, 1913, pp. 307–325, http://www.zobodat.at/pdf/Zoologische-Annalen_5_0307-0325.pdf. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

“Kathleen Mavourneen.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathleen_Mavourneen. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

Pratt, Tony. Two Georgian Montagus: the manor of Lackham. Wiltshire College, second edition, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/y7tpp39h. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

Urban, Sylvanus. “Obituary – Rev. George Newby.” The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 26, 1846, pp. 100-101, https://tinyurl.com/yatonw6n. Accessed 19 Jul. 2018.

Written by Daisy Stafford, July 2018.

Link

A more personal take on our archives…

As any archivist knows, you can sometimes stumble upon archives with an unexpected and personal connection: this was the case for me when I found out that in the Special Collections of the Library was an album containing 175 photographs and postcards showing my home city, Caen, before and during the Second World War (Coll-164)… It immediately reminded me of my own grandparents, who had lived through the occupation, the bombing and finally the liberation of this medium-sized Norman city. They would always tell me stories about life during the war, and describe the way Caen looked before it: indeed, about 80 percent of the city was destroyed, in particular during the controversial bombing raid that preceded the ‘Operation Charnwood’ in July 1944. 

Aerial view of Caen after the bombings in July 1944 (Coll-164/4)

As you can see in the picture, the city was ravaged. The central area around the castle, St Pierre Church, and the neighbourhood called îlot St Jean were particularly affected. Post-war Caen looks like a field of ruins, and I was moved when I browsed the album for the first time and saw the full extent of the devastation.  When it happened my grandmother, who was around 15 at the time, had taken shelter in a town a few kilometres away; but my grandfather was there and took part in the rescue effort to help searching the rubbles for survivors. He was only 18.

Looking through the album, I was able to recognise a few familiar buildings amid the destruction: churches, streets, houses, the castle… I knew exactly where these were and what they looked like now. I found the comparison really interesting, and this is why I decided to do a little before/after photo shoot when I went home for the Christmas holidays.

St Pierre Church and surrounding area (Coll-164/58)

I started my little project on a sunny winter afternoon. Walking past my old university, I remembered that one of the nearby avenues was called ‘Avenue d’Edimbourg‘; and I finally understood why! Edinburgh was one of the cities that sent help and supplies to Caen after the bombing raid. The album is testimony to this connection: it was donated by John Orr, Professor of French at the University of Edinburgh and founder of the Caen-Edinburgh Fellowship. The latter was set up after the war to help the inhabitants of Caen by sending food, clothes, and supplies to the devastated city. John Orr himself organised for books to be sent to the library of the University, which was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt from scratch, and for this he’s also had a street named after him.   

Street signs named after John Orr.

Call for donations to Caen from the papers of Professor John Orr held in the Special Collections (Coll-77).

I soon arrived in the city centre. The most noticeable building in Caen is its massive castle, founded in 1060 by William the Conqueror. It was used as barracks between 1789 and 1945, and occupied by German troops during the War, which explains why it was targeted by bombings. Some buildings and parts of walls were damaged, but most of it survived in decent condition. The same cannot be said for the houses build alongside its walls…And so, after the clearing of the ruins, the castle reappeared, and it was decided to restore and showcase this millennium-old building that overlooks the city. The words of my grandmother came back to me: ‘We didn’t even know we had a castle because there were so many houses around it! After the war it came a bit as a surprise…’  

Castle of Caen seen from St Pierre Church. The surrounding buildings which were hiding it for centuries were not rebuilt after the war. (Coll-164/61)

Maison des Quatrans. The buildings which were in-between the house and the castle have been destroyed. (Coll-164/71)

But not everything was completely destroyed in Caen! Our old town centre, the Quartier St-Pierre (‘St Pierre neighbourhood’), still has many original features. The Church, for starter – the tower was destroyed and then rebuilt, and is now being cleaned to restore its original white-yellowish colour, darkened by pollution. The buildings around it, however, went up in smoke. La Rue Montoire Poissonerie (Montoire Poissonerie Street), for example, has vanished.  

St Pierre Church from Rue Montoire Poissonerie (now an apartment building). (Coll-164/11)

On the other hand, the main street of the neighbourhood, la rue St Pierre, has been more or less spared, and the old stands alongside the new. In the picture below you can see the busy Place St Pierre, full of shoppers and tourists, with the church Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue in the background and a beautiful half-timbered house from the 15th century. They miraculously survived, and are now being restored to get their lively colours back!  

Place St Pierre and its 15th century half-timbered houses. (Coll-164/18)

Place St Pierre and Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue Church. (Coll-164/38)

As a medievalist, I still regret the loss of the Rue St Jean, a once beautiful street full of hôtels particuliers and ancient half-timbered houses just like the one in the picture above. One of the only original buildings still standing is the very curious Eglise Saint-Jean – which has the particularity of being completely wonky! Our very own modest Pisa Tower, which is leaning because Caen was built on unstable grounds. Everybody thought this fragile building would never last – little did they know it would be the only monument to survive the raid of St-Jean street.  

Eglise Saint-Jean, which is much sturdier than it looks…(Coll-164/72)

Sometimes, there was nothing to save but a section of wall, a half-collapsed doorway, the base of a pillar…left as a memory, a reminder of what the city had gone through: 

Saint-Gilles Church, now a small park. The only recognisable feature is an archway. (Coll-164/36)

Saint-Julien Church before, during and after the bombings. (Coll-164/45 and Coll-164/48)

Like many French towns and cities, old Caen was full of narrow, dark medieval streets that would add a lot of charm to a city nowadays. I remember lamenting about the destruction of these quaint quarters – some of the largest boulevards in Caen have actually been shaped by American bulldozers –, and my grandfather replying: ‘it was dark and dirty before, very cold and inconvenient. It’s nicer now. They did a good job rebuilding everything’. The inhabitants rebuilt their home with the very typical Caen stone, which has a light and warm yellow colour, and the new blends in with the old. The city may not be as beautiful as other French towns spared by the war, but it is a nice place to live, where history has left its mark.  

Our archivist doing some fieldwork…

Description of the album on ArchivesSpace: https://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/2/resources/312

Aline Brodin, cataloguing archivist, 6 June 2018.

Special thanks to Clément Guézais and Inès Prat for their help in taking and editing the photographs.

Earlier this year, our two interns Sarah and Devon spent a few months re-housing and listing the papers of the Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), recently donated to the CRC. They share their experiences with us.

Sarah Hendriks:

When I was about eight years old my violin teacher gave me a new piece of music and said, ‘now you get to play a real piece’. It was Joachim’s Hungarian Dance No. 4 and I loved it. It’s remained one of my favourite pieces to play and its folksy, vibrant style inspired my later love of other composers like Bloch and Kreisler.

Despite loving his music, I knew relatively little about Joachim the man until I took on this internship at Special Collections. By going through the collection I discovered so much about Joachim, his family, his music, and his life. I also got to meet his relatives and talk about the collection and hear their recollections of the items. Matching the stories to the items I’d been reading and examining for the last two months reinforced the human aspect of the material I’d been working with: such a rare experience!

Over the last three months I’ve catalogued what feels like hundreds of newspaper clippings, notes, concert programmes, photographs, and music. I’ve had the chance to brush up my German whilst reading the mountain of obituaries and anecdotes about him, his violins and his performances. There were also notes about his life in Hungarian and a poem in French on the occasion of his death. Buried amongst the newspaper clippings was a handwritten account of a family holiday: I’d never read a more touching portrait of the man.

Postcard of Joseph Joachim in a fake car with the Mendelssohn brothers, 1890-1907 (Coll-1711/5/5)

The highlights for me, however, were the photographs. Joachim apparently loved a joke and you can see this in the picture of him in a fake car. The images also captured his pensive side, reading his letters in front of a fire or concentrating on some German verse. A particularly special picture for me is the one of Joachim with Nellie Melba, a fellow Australian whose alma mater I also attended. Apparently they were great friends with an equally adventurous sense of fun that often perplexed those around them. I like to think you can see a touch of this camaraderie in their portrait.

Working with archives is, for me, always exciting. You never quite know what you’re going to come across or discover and so often the material hasn’t been examined in a long time. The Joachim archive was so full of delights and surprises and it exceeded all my expectations. This internship has been a wonderful experience and one I would highly recommend. It would not have been possible without the generosity of the Joachim family and the support of the Special Collections Team and I’d like to thank them both for the opportunity. I’ve learnt so much about the practical side to archive management and processing, but also had an awful lot of fun learning about a hero in the process. I can’t wait for the next one!

Signed image mounted on card of Joseph Joachim and Nellie Melba, taken by Guigoni & Bossi, Milan, late 19th/early 20th c. (Coll-1711/5/7)

Devon Barnett: 

I wanted to be an Archive Intern so that I could learn first-hand the processes behind turning a collection of items into an organised and usable resource. As a Music graduate, it was an added benefit that the archive I would be working on centred around an important figure in classical music – Joseph Joachim. While working on the Joseph Joachim collection I have learned how to box list items, how to identify anything that may need to be sent to conservation, how to think about what items may be useful and beneficial to be digitised, and how to best categorise, arrange, and reference the items as well as a collection of books.

Image of Joseph Joachim playing cards outside a coffee shop, 1890-1907 (Coll-1711/5/12/5)

I have also learned a lot about Joseph Joachim, both his musical output and his personal life. Shockingly, I had never heard his name even once in my entire four years of studying a music degree and I did not know that he is owed at least in part for helping Johannes Brahms to find success and for helping Clara Schumann to care for Robert Schumann in his final years of critical mental illness. My favourite item of the collection by far was a letter written in 1907 by Donald Francis Tovey. It was written to an unspecified ‘Mrs Joachim’ and concerned the recent passing of Joseph Joachim. The letter is beautifully and poetically written, and really shows the loss felt by the music world. The letter is also important for its personal connection to Edinburgh. Tovey was a composer, musician, musicologist, and close friend of Joseph Joachim. Tovey became the Reid Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music (from which I have just graduated), and at which there now exists the position of Tovey Professor and the award of the Sir Tovey Memorial Prize for outstanding promise shown in composition or performance. As the university is home to not only the Joseph Joachim collection but also a collection of Tovey’s large collection of books and music scores, this letter is significant and relevant to both, tying them nicely together to both each other and the university.

Letter to ‘Mrs Joachim’ from Donald Francis Tovey on the subject of Joseph Joachim’s death, 1907, p.1 (Coll-1711/1/2/5) (click here for a higher resolution image)

Letter to ‘Mrs Joachim’ from Donald Francis Tovey on the subject of Joseph Joachim’s death, 1907, p.2 (Coll-1711/1/2/5) (click here for a higher resolution image)

Their fantastic work has enabled us to create a great resource on our online discovery platform, ArchivesSpace. Click here to see the catalogue.