The School of Divinity has recently been receiving praise for the MSc in Science and Religion programme. Visitors to the Given in Good Faith exhibition on the 6th floor of the Main Library in George Square can see how this excellence in the field of Science and Religion is also one of the key themes explored through the historic treasures of New College Library. From its foundation in 1843, the new Free Church of Scotland actively engaged in current learning and debate on scientific topics such as geology and astronomy, and Free Church ministry students at New College followed courses in natural science. This is one reason why New College Library’s Special Collections reflect this dialogue between religion and science.
The book above, part of the Natural Science Collection, was written by Richard Brookes (c. 1721–1763), a physician and author who published these striking animal illustrations as part of a series describing the whole of the natural world.
Botanist Jakob Breyne (1637-1697) wrote this treatise on 102 plant species from the Americas, East Indies and South Africa which has striking engraved plates by the Polish artist Andrzej Stech (1635-1697). Originally owned by Dr John Hutton (c.1659-1712), this book was once part of a lending library for the ministers of Dumfries, which now forms the Dumfries Presbytery Library Collection at New College Library.
Many of the scientific books in New College Library’s Special Collections are part of the donations given when the Library was founded in the 1840s, following the first Librarian, Professor David Welsh’s call for ‘private individuals’ to donate their libraries.
An example of one of these treasures is this first edition of Euclid (c.300 BCE), one of the first printed books in which geometrical figures occur. Erhard Ratdolt (1442-1528) was an early publisher of scientific and mathematical material. Printed in Gothic letter, with woodcut border round the first page and ornamented initial letters, the mathematical figures can be seen in the margins.
This volume is a Latin translation of Dialogo dei massimi sistemi by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The original publication of this text, which puts forward that the earth moves around the sun, caused Galileo to be tried and imprisoned for heresy. The book was placed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books until the nineteenth century.
Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity