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Following in the brilliant footsteps of Claire, Sarah and Joanne – we have been lucky to have Sarah Partington working on conserving the Lyell Collection. For 14 weeks, Sarah was able to finally tackle one series of records that had been assessed, but not worked on, and, to provide a wee bit more general TLC to the collection. An extra layer of care, as it were. Here, she tells us what that has involved: 

As the Charles Lyell Project continues, more is being understood about the collection. The entire collection is comprised of different accessions, made at different times. Careful interrogation of the different series is allowing us to understand how they fit together, and, how Lyell used them.

Lyell’s collection of Offprints is similar in scale to the two series of correspondence, demonstrating how collecting and reading different papers would help him stay abreast of the latest finds, research and thinking.  

An Offprint is a separate printing of a work that originally appeared as part of a larger publication, usually one of composite authorship, such as an academic journal,  magazine or edited boos. Offprints are used by authors to promote their work,and ensure a wider dissemination and longer life that might  be achieved by the publication alone. They are valued as being akin to the first separate edition of the work, and as they often are given away, may bear an inscription from the author. Historically, the exchange of Offprints has been a method of correspondence between scholars.

I began my Lyell journey by cleaning and rehousing the 18 boxes of Offprints collected by Lyell. Currently uncatalogued, voluminous, and densely packed in non-archival boxes, these records had been assessed, and found to be exhibiting signs of historic mould. This needed to be dealt with, as although historic and not active, it could ultimately pose a cross-contamination risk to other collections. These records could not be accessed in their current state – both by archivists, and by any potential users.

Surface dirt had to be carefully removed, following Health & Safety guidance.

Cleaning the offprints proved somewhat of a challenge (even for a mould aficionado like myself!).

In some cases, the biological damage was so severe that the paper had partially deteriorated. This complicated the cleaning process, because I had to mitigate further structural damage, whilst still ensuring the satisfactory removal of damaging mould. Throughout the cleaning process, I had to carefully to observe Health and Safety guidance and take precautions to protect my colleagues and myself.

I cleaned each page in the fume cupboard, eliminating mould using a museum vacuum on a low-suction setting, with an interleaving layer of mesh to prevent the loss of material.

An affected Offprint before cleaning. Working in the fume cupboard, all of the surface mould was removed.

After everything had been cleaned, I rehoused the offprints in acid-free boxes, separating out those that had been especially cramped in their original housing. Rehousing generally equates to more boxes! To support the greater extent of boxes, we rationalised shelving in the storeroom and created additional space 

Cleaning this series of the collection was time consumingbut the benefit of the newly cleaned items to the health and safety of the collection is immense. Now properly re packaged, and stored in a climate-controlled environment, work can begin to start to make them discoverable.

 

 

 

A conservator’s worst nightmare: the pocket folder! The contents can be damaged simply taking them out!

At the end of the Offprints series, 5 boxes were identified as being different; they were not Offprints but were actually manuscript material. This material was not housed in a suitable manner, with the usual, historical pocket folders having been chosen as the filing weapon of choice! Not only were these not up to archival standard, but they were also overfilled, and mostly contained items of a non-uninform size and type.

Our closer inspection confirmed that these boxes contain examples of Lyell’s editorial notes, his review of chapters, and included letters, drawings, engravings, notes, maps, as well as his original packaging, which was large sheets of contemporary newspaper.

The different format and sizes meant that there was a risk that items could fall out of sequence or get caught on the edges of the folder when removing or replacing material. To depose the evil pocket folders, I opted for acid-free triptych folders, which open out in such a way that the material is instantly accessible, therefore reducing the risk of damage occurring. I separated out the material into more than one folder where required, making sure that none of the folders were too overcrowded. Thinking about access, and as the items are still loose, we will create guidance for our Reading Room Team and users, to ensure folders are carefully handed over when being accessed.

As well as rehousing these manuscript papers, I was able to look out for documents that needed a bit more TLC. After a little bit of training from Paper Conservator, Emily Hick, I was ready to start carrying out some basic interventive treatment, such as flattening folds and removing pins. I flattened folds manually with a bone folder and an interleaving sheet of bondina and, where appropriate, I used a ‘mister’ – a small hand held tool, used within the beauty industry which sprays a fine mist – to apply localised humidity to the paper, which could then be placed under magnets and left to flatten.

Manually flattening folds.

Sarah using a beauty mister to lightly flatten folds.

Folds shown before and after treatment. Much more relaxed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some original pins were still in place, which had started to corrode and were difficult to remove. Emily gave me a pair of pliers and gentle techniques to carefully wiggle them out without causing further damage to the paper. I replaced them with an acid-free paper slip to group pages together. In order to retain the integrity of the sequence, I ensured that nothing came out of order and the items were clearly stored with their original packaging. Any outsized items, or items that required further treatment, were flagged up in an Excel document.

Geared up for another rehousing spree, I then moved onto to the most recent accession in the collection, the Acceptance in Lieu material, consisting of 18 boxes. The strategy this time was to start at the end of this series, giving back a bit more time and care to this series of records.

Loose-leaf material, now held in an acid-free paper fold

Being given the opportunity to support access and research into the Lyell Collection through conservation work has been a real privilege. As an aspiring paper conservator, it has been great to add a few more paper treatment strings to my bow, and to apply my skills to a collection this significant. By working closely with the Lyell Collection, I have also learnt a lot about him and the way in which he planned, researched and worked. I’ll leave all of you lovely Lyell fans with what is possibly my favourite thing that I have learnt whilst focusing on Lyell and his correspondence… apparently Charles Darwin enjoyed a good moan to his pals now and then like the rest of us!

 

A big thank you to all the conservation people who have contributed their time and skills, and to our funders for ensuring Lyell’s records are in the best condition they can be. There is always more work to be done – but for now, we can look to start the work to make these records available to people.

 

Spending a wee while with Lyell 

Review 2022 and a look towards 2023

A lot has happened in 2022! Supported by both core and external funding, and with a return to more normal ways of working, we have been able to re-start and complete many of our plans.

Conservation

Sarah carefully treating minor folds

The care of the Lyell archives was our priority. Supported by external funding from the John R. Murray Charitable Trust, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust and others, professional Conservator Claire Hutchison worked on the collection from January – July 2022, along with two project interns, Joanne and Sarah M. We were able to slightly extend the conservation project, so a big thanks is due to Sarah P, who was able to clean Lyell’s Offprints and treat minor folds and tears found in his MS edits.

Digitisation

The University’s Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service have been making good headway, and we are 50% of the way there. At present, the digital images are hosted on the University’s image website Luna. You can use the left hand menu to select the Notebooks, select particular pages and zoom in on the detail – really helpful when deciphering Lyell’s handwriting. Mindful of any conservation needs, the team are able to also prioritise notebooks specially requested by researchers -so do get in touch –  the team are very much bolstered by enthusiastic responses!

Charles Lyell’s World Online

Hosting the digital images online is one thing, but we also want to enhance digital access online. Funding provided by the International Association of Sedimentologists has enabled us to bring a Lyell Website Developer onboard. We know that Lyell’s Notebooks are packed with information; this information can jump around from topic to topic, but also builds, from observation to noting queries he needs answers to. The Web Team are currently working to apply the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) that will allow the user to view the Notebooks, and flip seamlessly through the pages. Once this step is completed, we will explore what other functionality can be added to enhance the reader’s experience.

Cataloguing & transcription

We are using the Notebook indexes to create a catalogue entry – they are often written by Mary, they can run to 6 or 7 pages – or missing entirely!

We have two cataloguing priorities – the Notebook indexes, and one set of Lyell’s correspondence. As we now have a large amount of Lyell’s handwriting digitised, we can start to share out the work to remotely transcribe the indexes using the AI platform Transkribus. The transcriptions are not completely accurate and need to be manually checked, so it’s time consuming, but the results produce rich descriptions that will enable good searching. A small group of remote online volunteers are working away on this (and doing a great job – thank you!). Please get in touch if you would like to join us!

We’ve also recruited on site volunteers, who are able to visit the CRC reading room, and view records that are not digitised. They are working away on one tranche of Lyell’s correspondence, identifying the senders and enhancing description. So far we’ve encountered some eminent correspondents, including Lucas Barrett and Samuel Beckles – yes, we are at the ‘B‘s!

Beckles’ Pit at Durlston Bay, with Samuel Beckles wearing a top hat, directing operations. He is in touch with Lyell as soon as he starts finding specimens, Christmas 1856.

Looking ahead to 2023

As well as working on the website, plans are now in place for us to host what will be the first major exhibition on Lyell. This will be located in the Main Library Exhibition Gallery and will run from November 2023 to February 2024, so see you there! Lyell represents a huge topic – both in terms of scale and impact. The depth and breadth of the collection held at the University of Edinburgh offers a brilliant opportunity to show how he worked to develop and then promote his ideas. We’re also delighted to have secured funding to support a Lyell intern, who will focus on collating historical context and Lyell’s travels to populate both the exhibition and the website – more from them in 2023.

Thanks for all your support so far – enjoy the holidays when they come.

Pamela

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Guest Blog Author Tim Fedak

We are delighted to welcome Tim Fedak – a Curator and Palaeontologist based at Nova Scotia Museum – to our blog! Tim has been waiting ever so patiently for access to Charles Lyell’s Notebook number 104, documenting his visit to Nova Scotia in 1842 to view the geology and fossil trees at Joggins, and which ushered in a new era of geology….

 

 

 

 

Today, Nova Scotia is well known among geologists around the world for its important geology.  The Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site has a world class interpretive centre and regular tours of the famous fossil forests. The importance of that site, as well as the Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark on the northern shore of the Minas Basin, both find their beginning in 1842.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

 

In July and August of 1842, Charles Lyell was visiting Nova Scotia for a month of geology, to engage the local geologists and to examine the fossil forest that everyone, including Darwin would come to hear about.  The interactions he had and the insights he gained from walking along the shores of the Bay of Fundy shaped his observations and convictions about ancient trackways and life in the Coal Age.

Cliffs of South Joggins, Figure 18 from Charles Lyell’s Travels in North America, Vol 2. 1845.

Sir. William Dawson was born and raised in Pictou, Nova Scotia but he had studied at the University of Edinburgh in 1840-41. He was still just a young man passionate about geology and fossils when Lyell visited the province, and they shared insights and views of geology. When Dawson published his iconic Acadian Geology in 1855, he noted in the introduction:

The year 1842 forms an epoch in the history of geology in Nova Scotia. In that year Sir Charles Lyell visited the province, and carefully examined some of the more difficult features of its geological structure, which had baffled or misled previous inquirers.“  p6.

Dr. Ebenezer Fitch Harding, a community physician in Windsor, Nova Scotia, was another local geologist that Lyell interacted with, accompanying him to the geology sites and mud flats of the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy in the summer of 1842.

See more on this important period in Nova Scotia geology, including the links between Nova Scotia and Edinburgh, and Harding’s contributions to science in Tim’s article https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/scientia/2021-v43-n1-scientia05889/1078926ar/ 

Lyell’s trip to Nova Scotia is well described in Volume 2 of his ‘Travels to North America’ published in1845. However, when I first heard that the University of Edinburgh was attempting to purchase Lyell’s 294 Notebooks for archival research, I was immediately thrilled with the thought of what more he might have written during his visit to Nova Scotia. I then celebrated when the project was successful and have been waiting (somewhat) patiently since then.

In early September this year, I learned that Notebook 104 had been scanned and was now available online. I dropped everything and began to carefully make my initial examination of the notes and drawings of the scanned pages.  You can see my short presentation of some of the immediately interesting observations made about Notebook 104 at:

https://youtu.be/A1OxD0Hpqog

Joggins Sketch

The Joggins cliff sketch on page 48 was immediately of great interest and value. This illustration became the key that unlocked the understanding that the gypsum and limestone layers (now known as the Windsor Group) – were below the coal.

Detail of two preliminary sketches of the Joggins Cliffs in Lyell Notebook 104, p. 48.

Shubenacadie River

The notebook includes many important sketches of the work carried out along the Shubenacadie River, which included contributions from J.W. Dawson, William Duncan, Richard Brown and others.

Field Work, Travel Notes

I am interested in the people of geology and what it was like for them to carry out the work and attain their insights. I was particularly struck by the notes of the bags that Charles and Mary Lyell travelled with, and the supplies that they required. A very personal view into the travelling aspect of field work.

Mary Lyell

Mary Lyell being on this month-long visit to Nova Scotia is also incredibly interesting. It remains difficult to locate any records that describe her activities when they were apart. However, there are notes in Charles’ notebook, as well as in letters he wrote to Dawson that Mary was actively engaged in discussions of geology and conchology.

Extract from Letter from Charles Lyell, to William Dawson, Pictou, Nova Scotia, quoting “…Mrs. Lyell says…”

 

I am truly grateful for the opportunity that the University of Edinburgh and the project partners are providing in making these notebooks available for research. Here in Nova Scotia, this is a special way to celebrate 180 years since Charles and Mary Lyell where here exploring the geology and natural history of Nova Scotia.

I’ve mapped the Lyell’s travels in Nova Scotia using the information in Notebook 104, descriptions from Lyell’s Travels in North America, and links through to archived letters on this interactive timeline. Follow the hashtag #NS1842 and find additional information in this Tweet Collection #NS1842

Thanks Tim – it’s great to hear more about Lyell’s impact in Nova Scotia. We love your enthusiasm (and patience!).

 

“An epoch in history” – Charles Lyell in Nova Scotia 1842

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The Cockburn Geological Museum at the Grant Institute holds an extensive collection of over 130,000 geological specimens that reflect the whole spectrum of earth science materials, including minerals, rocks and fossils. Most of these specimens have labels – some have multiple labels, some of these labels are loose paper in the bottom of specimen boxes, while others are glued directly on to the rock or mineral. Some information is written on with red or blue paint. Some specimens have all of the above – some don’t have any labels at all.

There are several specimens at the Cockburn that are clearly marked ‘Sir C Lyell’ – in what looks to be his own handwriting – a good indication that they were originally part of his own collection.

Now that the University of Edinburgh has acquired Lyell’s 294 Notebooks, for the first time, in a long time, both the specimens and the documentary records, can be brought together to share the same space. The notebooks offer the chance to enrich our knowledge of the specimens, adding valuable context and insight into when and where they were collected, and what they were potentially used for.

Gillian McKay, Curator of the University of Edinburgh's Cockburn Museum

 

 

 

 

 

Using our now well-developed Lyell ‘next level’ palaeography skills, we feel ready to explore the links between specimens and the written information – but to get us started, we brought in the label expert!

Kate Bowell studies the Cockburn Museum's Lyell specimens.

 

Postgraduate researcher Kate Bowell is exploring the stories the National Museum of Scotland has told in their collection of 20,000 exhibition labels and how these stories have changed over time (See Kate’s blog here https://blog.nms.ac.uk/2021/12/14/a-history-of-exhibition-labels-and-the-stories-they-tell/ ). Her experience in studying the stories behind labels means she is the perfect person to help us start formulating a plan.

 

 

 

 

We were also pleased to have undergraduate student Will Adams join us. Currently in 4th year Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, Will’s interested in archives and how they relate to archaeological collections – he is also on the quest to find a dissertation topic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could we join forces to help each other out? What followed was a joyous 3 hour discussion – exploring the history of labels, the history of collections, why people collect, how people use labels, personal collection administration, split and movement of collections, the rise and purpose of museums – and how museums subsequently label items, both for use and for public enjoyment.

Lyell’s administration throughout his collection – his page numbering, indexing and the labelling of his specimens – show that he actively used them as a resource for his work. No actual catalogue exists – and so we have to start slowly working out how he kept his collection in order, and how he used specimens to aid his understanding. Now that the collections are together, it should be possible to start to see how it all linked up – and there is huge potential to learn much more about the specimens.

For example, one of the Cockburn’s specimens, and part of Lyell’s original collection is this amazing Agate, labelled in Lyell’s own handwriting:

We recognise Lyell’s distinctive ‘e’ – and the place name Mount Horne points us to British Columbia[1]. The specimen’s original owner is noted by Lyell as the Honourable C.A. Murray. In many ways similar to Lyell, Charles Augustus Murray was an author and diplomat,. He attended Oxford University, and spent several years travelling across Europe and America from 1835 and 1838, describing his experiences in popular books on his return [2].

We know Lyell visited British Columbia several times; the collection includes both Charles and Mary’s certificates recording their passing behind Niagara Falls to Termination Rock dated the 7th June 1842; and a card representing Columbia College dated 1853. As we are able to identify critical information – names of people, places, mineral types – on the labels – these can be cross-referenced to text in the notebooks, allowing us to focus in on the history of the specimens. Creating this framework of knowledge allows us to develop our hypothesis about how travel, collaboration, and collecting (or trading) specimens fed into the larger ideas of the time relating to “how the earth systems worked”.

CA Murray's specimen relating to Mount Horne, part of the Lyell Collection at the Cockburn Museum

Will’s presence also helped us see how he can add archaeological detail to the specimens. Lyell’s interests where wide ranging, and his exploration of the history of man resulted in him collecting neolithic objects ranging from tools to beads. Of course, we cannot be experts in everything, and with the collection of specimens being held by the Grant Institute, they have been categorised very much as geological specimens. Will’s contribution proved how collaboration with people who can view the objects with an “archaeological eye” adds significant detail to the objects. Our meeting provided him with the perfect opportunity to dive in and begin to think about a project combining his interest in archives and collections. Inspired, Will has booked into the CRC Reading Room to start looking at the collection in more detail, and is talking to his dissertation advisor to firm up a plan.

The benefits in bringing both the collections and experts together are tangible. Collaborative work will really enhance the Lyell collection – indeed, our afternoon spent considering label gave us a practical insight into how he himself worked and used the collection.

[1] https://www.mindat.org/feature-6081205.html

[2] Charles Murray (author and diplomat) – Wikipedia

Considering labels

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Conservator Claire turns to the dark side (but it all ends well).

I am now in my final week of the Lyell Project; time has flown by as myself and our exceptional interns have breezed through the plethora of material in this collection. Once they had finished their internships, my work turned to focus on some of the most challenging conservation work … the printed books!

Held within both the Lyell new accession and the University’s own collections, 22 printed volumes and a handful of special collection volumes were identified as being in need of interventive treatment. Several of the printed volumes had significant structural damage to their boards and spines. It was clear that through use, the tension the volume had undergone – that is the opening and closing – had led to this damage. I had to be careful that whatever method I chose to rectify this would be sympathetic to the remaining structure, and that new materials would need to be carefully introduced to support the volume structurally. All 22 volumes were at different stages of degradation; they all needed some form of structural repair to mitigate this damage. It was a similar picture with the special collection volumes, which were alike in binding style. This blog focuses on the worst of those bunch.

A small handful of the volumes were in the condition that you see Figure 1 below. Spines and boards were detached or even missing altogether. What was left, was falling apart, and the leather had little integrity.

Special Collections volume before treatment

Special Collection Volume before treatment (SC6373)

Figure 2- Diagram demonstrating the layers of the Honey Hollow technique

After some thought and research, I decided to use the ‘Honey Hollow’ technique to restore the structure of the volumes, which introduces new materials including a cast of the spine that acts as the new structure. The original spine is then attached to it, but no longer takes on any structural responsibility. This was the most feasible choice, as the condition and strength of the leather that was remaining was too poor. An illustration of the Honey Hollow technique can be seen in figure 2:

 

All book conservation work started with surface cleaning, consolidation of red rot and any corner repairs. Normally the first step is to lift the original spine piece from the volume. As this had already detached this was not needed. Once they had been safely stored, the casting could begin. The book was placed in a finishing press, and cling film was tightly wrapped around the spine to act as a barrier from any moisture whilst casting the spine. Pieces of 12gsm Japanese tissue were cut and attached layer by layer onto the exposed spine using wheat starch paste. Dependent on the width of the book, between 7-10 layers of tissue were required to make a strong cast.

Figure 3 – Casting of the spine using Japanese Tissue and wheat starch paste

Once the cast had dried, it was removed and trimmed. The book remained in the finishing press whilst the leather on the boards was carefully lifted using a leaf spatula. This is where the new Aerolinen fabric would be inserted. This fabric is commonly used in book conservation for both board reattachment and spine repairs. As it needed to wrap around the entire spine, a piece of the linen was pasted to the cast with a 1cm margin either side for insertion into the boards. The attachment to the spine needed to be strong, so EVA was the adhesive used for this part of the process.

Figure 4 – Left: Lifting of the board leather, Right: New Aerolinen cast

Aerolinen can be toned to make the original spine piece in other applications, however in this case it is best to cover the linen with a toned Japanese tissue of a heavier weight. A medium tone was chosen that could match the darker parts of the leather, rather than the lighter areas where it had degraded. Once attached and trimmed, it was now time to attach the original spine cover to the cast (making sure it was the right way up!).

Figure 5 – Toned Japanese Tissue cover of the cast

As often only two thirds of the original spine cover was left, some more acrylic painting had to be done to mask the toned paper. The degradation of the leather was much worse on the spine piece, so the toned Japanese tissue did not match it as well as the sides. After a little bit of painting, the overall look of the new cast was more in keeping with the original spine. All that was left to do was to repair any inner joints inside the book at the start and end of the volume with a light Japanese tissue.

Figure 6 – Special Collection Volume after treatment

The technique overall was a success; this volume and others like it are now safe to handle, and the repairs blend in with the original condition of the rest of the book. It was a really interesting technique to employ and, more importantly, a satisfying one.  This was a great experience for me to put both my ethical and technical skills to work to protect the volumes and retain what was left of the binding.

Claire

 

 

 

New blog from the Digitisation Service

Project Photographer John Sikorski attends to the process of setting a Lyell Notebook into the digitisation camera.

Its taking teams of multi-skilled people to open up the Charles Lyell collection! Read all about the Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service Team’s efforts to digitise the Notebooks on their latest blog here:

From Castles to Cradle: Photographing the Lyell Notebooks | Digital Imaging Unit (ed.ac.uk)

Its a long road ahead, but already 87 of the Notebooks are now completed and online. The images are being added to the University of Edinburgh’s Image website, LUNA, and you can find them here:

Search Results: All Fields similar to ‘Coll-203’ and Who equal to ‘Lyell, Charles (Sir)’ – University of Edinburgh

Thanks to all the CHDS staff – keep going!

Lyell staff update the Murray family donors

It was a great pleasure for some of the Lyell project staff to welcome the Murray family to the Library, and to show them how their generous support is allowing the archive to be conserved, digitised and curated. The repairs and bespoke rehousing of the notebooks were found to be particularly interesting.

John, Claire, Pamela, Susan, David and colleagues look forward to updating the rest of our supporters as well as welcoming further donors to Edinburgh in the months ahead.

Some of the Lyell project staff  post with John and Ginny Murray when they met at the University's Main Library

Hello from Pamela, new Strategic Projects Archivist

Strategic Projects Archivist, Pamela McIntyre started in mid January, and will be leading on the Charles Lyell Project. Pamela introduces herself, and shares her insight on the internationally significant Sir Charles Lyell archive.   

Hello! After training in a number of repositories across the UK I qualified as an Archivist from Liverpool University in 1995. My first professional post was a SHEFC-funded project to catalogue, preserve and promote the archives of Heriot-Watt University, and its then associated colleges – Edinburgh College of Art, Moray House and the Scottish College of Textiles. Since then, I’ve worked with local authority, private and business archives, and with fine art and museum collections. I have always really enjoyed the practical elements of archive work, and getting people involved, and consequently, I’ve diversified, working in the third sector with volunteers. My last post was Project Development Officer, Libraries. Museums & Galleries for South Ayrshire Council – some highlights of my time there include breaking the ‘Festival of Museums’ with a ‘Day o’ the Dames’ event (sorry, Museum Galleries Scotland!), hosting an amazing exhibition about the history of tattoos, and spending two days at Troon, Prestwick, Maidens and Girvan beaches in support of COP26. I’m thrilled to join Edinburgh University, getting back to my archival roots – and it’s safe to say, Charles Lyell and I are getting on great!

I’m so impressed with the work that’s been done so far. I want to thank the previous staff for all of their efforts.

I am new to Geology, and one of the ways I get to know collections is by searching for subjects I do know about – using family names or places I know. Lyell travelled extensively, and whilst this may well influence my forthcoming holiday plans – it was particularly reassuring to find and read about his trip to the Isle of Arran – a place I love.

From Hutton’s visit in 1787, many geologists have visited Arran. Robert Jameson published his account in 1798, followed by John Macculloch in 1819. Geologists from overseas also visited, and Lyell had studied von Dechen and Oeynhansen’s accounts of 1829. As Leonard Wilson notes in his book Charles Lyell: the Years to 1841:

With its granite mountains and numerous dikes of traprock intersecting and altering stratified sedimentary rocks, Arran was a veritable laboratory for Lyell’s study of hypogene rocks and for the confirmation of his metamorphic theory.

Charles and Mary Lyell stayed at Arran for the first two weeks of August 1836, a trip chronicled by Lyell in Notebooks 62 and 63. Notebook 62 is digitised, and available on the University of Edinburgh’s LUNA image website. From page 60, Lyell noted their plans – arriving in Glasgow, a meeting with Hooker, and stop offs at both the Hunterian and the Andersonian – then plans his trip around the island.

Notebook No.62 p.60 plans for travel round the island of Arran

He then began an analysis of the geology of the island, posing questions, and offering amazing drawings.The pages of the notebooks are packed with details, almost at a breath-taking pace.

Notebook No.62 p.62

 

Notebook No.62 p.63

Lyell immediately made connections with what he saw in Arran with Forfarshire, Fife and Antrim, whilst taking the details of experts and mineral sellers resident in Glasgow, and making another simple line drawing showing the skyline of Goatfell.

By page 66 he is making significant notes entitled ‘Elements’, culminating in what appears to be the proposed structure of chapters for his book.

Wilson adds to the context of that trip; Mary met Lyon Playfair on the boat across – Andrew Ramsey later joined the party. Playfair accompanied Mary on the beach collecting shells, whilst Ramsey and Lyell geologised. At the end of their trip to Arran, the Lyells returned to Kinnordy until the 28th September. Wilson notes:

It was a long rest and summer vacation – a complete break from London, foreign travel and scientific meetings. During the preceding four years Lyell had worked through three editions of the Principles, three tours on the continent, one long trip through Sweden, and all the duties and demands of the foreign secretaryship and presidency of the Geological Society. Mary had acted in part as his secretary and assistant. She wrote many of his letters, helped to catalogue shells, and protected him from visitors. She had accompanied him on his excursions on the continent often under extremely primitive conditions; she had been abandoned in hotel rooms while Charles was off geologizing; she was often lonely. The vacation was for her too a chance to revitalise. When they arrived back at 16 Hart Street Lyell wrote to his father “Everyone is quite struck with the improvement in Mary’s health & appearance’.

I know Mary Horner Lyell as the daughter of Leonard Horner, who by setting up the Edinburgh School of Art in 1821 laid the foundations for Heriot-Watt College. It’s a small world. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with Mary, whose intelligent support to her husband is evidenced in the Lyell Collection by copious correspondence from when they first met.

Mary Elizabeth (née Horner), Lady Lyell
by Horatio Nelson King
albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s
NPG x46569
© National Portrait Gallery, London

I have not come across any mention of Ailsa Craig! However, I have found a reference to Kilmarnock, a topic for a future blog! Familiarisation – to some extent – achieved, it’s now time to decide priorities, to create projects, to engage with people, and to continue the aims of opening up the Lyell collection to all.

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An update from Project Conservator, Claire

My name is Claire Hutchison and I am very proud to introduce myself as the Lyell Project Conservator at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. I am a Paper Conservator who has worked extensively across archives in Edinburgh on a number of archival projects. My work has led me to become a specialist in fragile formats, such as transparent papers, newspapers and wet press books. This is not my first time working at the CRC; I was lucky enough to be an intern in the conservation studio twice in my career.

I have learnt a lot about Lyell and his dedication to recording his findings since starting. It’s a very personal collection, and it’s clear that they were cherished by Lyell. The labels and indexes are beautifully written and constructed; one can only dream of having the same patience and dedication with their own notebooks. As a Conservator, I was also impressed to find examples where Lyell had hand sewn his index pages into the notebooks. It’s a wonderfully consistent collection which has been a pleasure to conserve. It’s also been made clear to me since starting just how sought after this notebooks are as requests have been flying in; researchers are keen to start connecting those dots across the collection.

Conserving the Notebooks prior to digitisation was imperative in order to prevent loss or further damage to the bindings. The 294 Notebooks were in varying levels of condition, however, overall they were stable with very few requiring intense treatment. It was clear from the flexibility of the spines that they had been well used and heavily manipulated by Lyell on his travels. The adhesive Lyell used to apply his labels and covering material was starting to fail. The earlier Notebooks suffer from red rot – commonly found in vegetable-tanned leathers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The leather will become dusty, and the fibrous structure will deteriorate, resulting in the damage or complete loss of the leather binding.

Reattachment of covering material before and after

Internally, it was clear that Lyell had held and bent the spines to write into positions that had caused splits to form between the signatures of the text block. If not treated, these will worsen with handling and ultimately lead to loose pages or whole sections of the text block detaching fully from the binding. Lyell used either graphite or ink within his notebooks, so gelatine has been used to ensure that no bleeding or movement of the corrosive iron in the ink occurred. A strip of Japanese paper was applied to repair this inner joint and prevent further splitting (see example below).

Setup and attachment of inner joint repairs

In some rare instances, further intervention was needed where parts of the spine were lost and the sewing was exposed. This required lifting back the leather of the boards either side of the spine and inserting a repair to stabilise the structure. Layers of Japanese paper were applied to the spine and built up to the required thickness of the leather. Then a final layer of toned Japanese paper was applied to the top, blending in with the rest of the spine piece.

Spine repairs before, during and after treatment

Thanks to generous funding from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, two 8-week interns have started working on the Lyell Project. They are helping to assist in the overall efforts of the project, but also have been given their own branch of the collection to work on. Sarah MacLean is currently working on the 1927 donation of letters of correspondence. Joanne Fulton has been given the task of rehousing Lyell’s collection of Geological specimens. This month, my work on the project will continue with the conservation and rehousing of the printed material in the collection, such as Lyell’s own copy of the ‘Proceedings of the Geological Society’.

Stay tuned for more conservation updates soon!

 

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Project Re-boot!

The last few years has seen us all face challenges and embrace change – and the Charles Lyell Project is no different. The Project has said farewell to Elaine and Elise – and we thank them both so much for all their efforts and wish them well. We also need to thank existing University of Edinburgh, CRC and Digital Library staff for keeping the aims and objectives of the project alive – and we can report that there’s been significant progress on recruitment, funding, digitisation, and in conservation.

So – more blogs are GO!

Starting with conservation, we are delighted to signpost you to two brilliant blogs, detailing the work of the fantastic Interns who have been working on the Lyell papers and specimens.

Supported by Project Conservator Claire (her blog forthcoming) the Intern’s light but expert touch has greatly enhanced the health and well-being of the collection. Find out more here:

Righting Letters – Conserving the Lyell Collection | To Protect and (Con)serve (ed.ac.uk)

and

Homes for Rocks – Rehousing the Lyell Geological Specimen Collection | To Protect and (Con)serve (ed.ac.uk)

Reverse of an envelope addressed to Charles Lyell, part of the Acceptance in Lieu deposit. Photograph taken by Sarah McLean.

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