A guest post from Chloe Elder – New College Library Special Collections Digitisation Intern
Considering the ease with which most of us have access to information, it can be easy to forget the long way society has come in its efforts to provide resources for the public. For example, I’ve written this post on my very portable laptop in my Wi-Fi enabled flat and with my iPhone in constant peripheral vision. As we all know, before the days of the internet, our search for information required a trip to the library, but public libraries as we know them today did not exist before the middle of the nineteenth century. In the centuries preceding, the library has evolved from storehouses for records and archives, to ecclesiastical and academic cloisters, and the private collections of the elite and learned. And beginning in the late seventeenth century history, history saw a shift from the relative seclusion of these repositories toward a trend that supported the public dissemination of knowledge. One pioneer in this effort in Scotland was James Kirkwood, who is best known for his determination to provide Bibles to the parishes of the Scottish Highlands and for advocating for the establishment of parish libraries throughout Scotland in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
James Kirkwood’s signature. MSS KIR 3.1, New College Library
I arrived in Long Beach on Tuesday 14 June, after a 22 hour journey, and checked into the conference hotel at Long Beach, California. I was there to attend the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) conference 2016, and I was fortunate enough to have the support of my institution, the University of Edinburgh, and a professional development grant from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Scotland.
View from my hotel window
My key objective was to share New College Library Edinburgh’s unique story and talk about our recent work unwrapping its hidden collections through cataloguing projects in my conference paper. I was also keen to experience the wider library, information and knowledge sector context of theological libraries in the US, as many of the postgraduate students I meet come from the USA. Learning about collection management in theology and religious studies was also important, particularly raising my awareness of new digital resources in theology and religious studies. Finally I wanted to hear more about the US approach to library projects, including partnership working and working with decision makers. Continue reading
The Given in Good Faith exhibition, which highlights some of New College Library’s treasures in the context of the exhibition themes of church history, worship, scripture and science is now in its final weeks at the Centre for Research Collections. If you haven’t been to see it, now is the time before it closes on 29 July!
New College Library’s collections reflect the essential place that the study of scripture has always held in the New College curriculum, as well as the study of Biblical languages to allow first hand engagement with Biblical texts. Complementing the Biblical texts are Biblical commentaries, from the Christian and the Jewish faith communities, in both printed and manuscript form. This is the first page of an illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as Rashi’s Commentary on Deuteronomy. Rashi was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), an acclaimed French medieval scholar, whose explanations of scriptures were valued for their precision and simplicity.
Yitzchaki, Shlomo. Commentary on Deuteronomy, undated. MS BOX 25.2