Christmas is coming at New College Library

We’ve started getting ready for Christmas at New College Library! The Christmas tree is now up in the Funk Reading Room, and we have a display of Christmas carol books from the Hymnology Collections in the entrance to the Library Hall.

The Hymnology Collections grew out of the gift in the 1880s of two thousand hymnbooks from James Thin, the founder of the famous Edinburgh bookshop. This collection has been added to by gift, purchase and the re-organisation of other library books of a similar nature to form the special collection of over five thousand items we have today, which are currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Donation Projects. Primarily 18th & 19th century printed volumes, the collection covers sacred songs and poetry as well as hymns, including many items intended for children, both for Sunday School and home.

Currently on display we have :

 Hymn 2578Husk, W.H. Songs of the Nativity ; being Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern … London : J.C. Hotten, [1867]. Hymn 2578.



Hymn 2591





Christmas carols, hymns, etc. London : F. Pitman [18–?] Hymn 2591 With music for four voices, tonic sol-fa edition.



Hymn 2129


Hotten, John Camden. A garland of Christmas carols ancient and modern. Including some never before given in any collection. London : J.C. Hotten, 1861. Hymn 2129.  A bookplate marks this item as having come from the original James Thin Collection.





Hymn 2590


A booke of Christmas carols : illuminated from ancient manuscripts in the British Museum. London : Joseph Cundall [1846] Hymn 2590

Back to the future : New College Library’s history today

New College Library was pleased to host a visit from the Friends of Edinburgh University Library last week. As well as looking at a selection of Special Collections and touring the Library, the Friends listened to a presentation about the history of New College Library, and how this is relevant to work in the Library today.

Evidence for New College Library’s history is found in the library building, its shelves, shelfmarks and books, and in the New College Archives. Photographic records from the archives provide evidence of the changing library environment and the changing expectations of library users – there’s not a computer in sight in these images of New College Library from 1946 and 1970.

Library history helps us today in making collection management decisions.

The sacred and profane history of the world ... / by Samuel Shuckford, . ; Revised, by James Creighton, Published by William W. Woodward, 1824. New College Library  Z.2152

The sacred and profane history of the world … / by Samuel Shuckford, . ; Revised, by James Creighton, Published by William W. Woodward, 1824. New College Library Z.2152

For instance, this ambitious work of history was written by Samuel Shuckford in the eighteenth century, with this nineteenth century edition published as the first American edition of this work. The label inside the book indicates that it was donated to New College Library as part of the first appeal for books that came with the founding of New College after the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843.  The donor, Thomas Aikman, who had emigrated from Stirling to America in 1794, was clearly following religious affairs in his homeland closely and decided  that the principles behind the founding of New College were close enough to his heart for him to donate this book. While this work exists in multiple editions across the University, library history unlocks this copy’s uniqueness as evidence of donation to New College Library as an act of faith and the engagement of the Scottish Presbyterian community across the world.


New College Library Suggestions Book, 1844

We can also learn from New College’s library history of collection development. As we continue to develop student-led acquisitions at the University of Edinburgh Library, back in the earliest days of New College Library students were recommending books in this manuscript volume preserved in our archives.  Now of, course, students can make recommendations online at

In recent years the Funk Cataloguing projects have transformed access to Special Collections at New College Library, with over 30,000 items handled so far. But they are only one of several cataloguing projects to be carried out at New College Library. Back in 1893, a  team of student cataloguers who helped the Librarian, Dr Kennedy, produce the 1893 printed library catalogue. There are some fantastic photographic images of them in the New College Archive – here they are looking very decorous :

Dr Kennedy's Cataloguers, 1893

Dr Kennedy’s Cataloguers, 1893






And here they are, presumably finished the cataloguing!

Dr Kennedy's Cataloguers, 1893

Dr Kennedy’s Cataloguers, 1893


Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity