New College Library welcomes delegates to The Cultures of the Reformation: A Colloquium in Honour of Professor Jane Dawson on Thursday 1 June 2017. We have updated our current display of early psalm books and Scottish liturgy to include two new items.
A guest post from Eleanor Rideout, Helpdesk Assistant – New College Library
One of my favourite things about working with historical collections is the unexpected find, like this letter of Henry Cockburn to William Playfair discovered while shelving.
9 Dec 41
My Dear Playfair
No one can rejoice more cordially than I do; & chiefly on your account. It will do you so much honor, – to say nothing of anything else. It is the best recipe for all your ailments. Get it up while I have eyes to see, – & God bless you.
New College is currently deep under scaffolding for cleaning works so a message to the original architect stood out. Henry Cockburn’s name is also familiar – he was a prominent advocate for conservation in Edinburgh and nearby Cockburn Street is named for him.
I had hoped that Cockburn’s excitement was about New College itself, but swiftly realised that the key date of the 1843 Disruption rather prevented this. Checking Playfair’s entry in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects showed that at this time he was working on Donaldson’s Hospital. Getting final design approval seem to have been a difficult process but on 7 December 1841 his plans were finally accepted.
Cockburn for one was impressed: even before work was completed in 1852 he described the building as ‘of itself sufficient to adorn a city’. He lived to 1854, so did indeed get to see the result with his own eyes.
 David Walker, ‘The Donaldson’s Hospital Competition and the Palace of Westminster’, Architectural History, Vol. 27 (1984)
 Henry Cockburn, A letter to the Lord Provost on the best ways of spoiling the beauty of Edinburgh (1849)
During my initial survey of the New College Collections, it was immediately evident, although not surprising, that the majority of the archives stemmed from the work of men or their institutions. What it did mean, though, was that those collections which belonged to women stood out all the more.
Leaving aside the archives of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in which women missionaries play a significant role, there are three collections with a female provenance which immediately spring to mind.
The first of these are the papers of Betty Darling Gibson (1889-1973), who worked on the International Review of Missions with Joe Oldham (ref. GD5: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/85273). The second would be the papers of Margaret Duncan Campbell (ref. GD 37: (http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86251) while the third would be the papers of Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) (ref. MS WIL 3).
With this last collection, what struck me was that the author of the manuscripts was only referred to as “Mrs James Wilson, wife of James Wilson, ship’s captain, Leith”. As with Betty Gibson, whose biographical details were hard to find in the shadow of her friend and colleague Joe Oldham, I was keen to give Mrs Wilson her given name and dates for the record. Her contribution to history is a curious set of journals recording her religious experiences, including her attendance at church, interlaced with family history, notable events in her own family life and what she saw as evidence of God’s influence on her own life and the life of her family past and present.
The journals run to six notebooks, each of around 50 pages of manuscript, starting around 1771 and finishing in 1812, three years before she died. There are also a couple of loose sheets, which do not appear to belong to any of the extant notebooks.
Accompanying the documents are two letters giving a bit of background to the manuscripts. The first is from April 1947 from Mr J Ritchie, ‘Nethercraigs’, Tighnabruaich, to his cousin Agnes Moncrieff Leys née Sandys. This letter gives a lot of information such as some of the experiences of James Wilson as a ship-captain: including being captured by Americans during the American War of Independence and then being detained in France for 18 months after which he was ‘persuaded to remain at home and join his father-in-law’s business’.
“My husband came safely home in the month June in 1780 when being detained Eighteen month. My father proposed to him to drop this line of life in giving over all thoughts in proceeding again to sea and to become Maltster and brewer also from my fathers inability from his years of carring on his business by himself…” (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no1, page 43 – image below)
The letter also states that Rachel had about 13 children, ‘of whom she expressly states 9 died in infancy or early youth. This sad mortality was due not to any constitutional weakness, but to small-pox, scarlet fever and measles, which could not then be treated as they can now.’ Ritchie goes on to say that the Wilsons belonged to the Antiburgher section of the Secession Church and were fond of listening to the preacher Rev Adam Gib (1714-1788), and that of the surviving children, David Wilson (1782-), later became minister of the United Secession church in Kilmarnock. Making the personal connection, Ritchie states, ‘I remember being very hospitably entertained by his widow when I was a small boy.’
The manuscripts were eventually passed to New College Library in 1952 by a Miss G Woodward, librarian, who received them from Mrs Hilda Brochet Abercromby, sister of Agnes Leys who by then had passed away. It is clear from annotations made in the manuscripts that family members had read them with a good deal of interest.
At the end of the first notebook, Rachel writes
“By this time I was with Child of twains and although subject to many threatning complaints yet my Shepherd who carries the lambs in his armes and Gently leads thos that are with young suffered no evil to befall he brought me in safety forward to the full time when in the 15 of March 1783 I was safely delivered of two living sons.” [William Wilson and John Frazer Wilson] (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no 1, page 48 – see image below)
Perhaps Mrs Wilson’s manuscripts are not the most valuable or beautiful of those which we hold but they do give a clear and striking voice to a woman of both the 18th and 19th centuries.
Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator
Since I started working with the New College Collections, one of my main aims has been to get the archives catalogues, which sit in a papery, five binder splendour in Library Hall, online. Up until now, with a few exceptions, it has only been possible to consult these catalogues in New College Library itself.
Created sometime in the 1990s, the archives catalogues and attendant indexes are a useful finding aid, however they do not meet archival descriptive standards and could not be added into the catalogue without a lot of extra work.
Bearing this in mind and the resources available, I have created PDF files of the catalogues, divided them by collection, added cover sheets with outline information and then created skeleton catalogue entries online containing a link to the appropriate PDF.
So far, I am probably about half way, with c.250 catalogue entries now available through the University’s Archives Online website: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk . The additions run alphabetically by collection reference (which in most cases is directly related to the collection provenance) from MS ADE (Adelpho-Theological Society) to MS BOW (Rev Archibald Bowie) and through from MS BOX 1.1 (Associate Burgher Theological Hall) to MS BOX 54 (Papers of James Fraser of Brea). There are also the more recently catalogued collections in AA4 to AA7 (Very Rev Prof John McIntyre, Very Rev Prof James Whyte, Rev Tom Allan and Rev Prof Alec C Cheyne), the Chalmers Papers (MS CHA), and those allocated a GD reference number some years ago such as the Oldham papers (MS OLD or GD2), papers of Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (MS MACCH or GD16), the Martin Papers (MS MAR or GD14), and the Denney Papers (MS DEN or GD27).
It should be noted that the MS BOX series is a miscellany, which seems to have come almost entirely from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In an attempt to make its contents more visible to users, it has been divided up into c.190 separate entries, highlighting where possible names of people, organisations and places, relevant dates and in some instances topics.
Admittedly, this solution is imperfect but it is most definitely a step forward. Only another 300 or so entries to go!
Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator
A post from guest curator Amy Plender, PhD student, School of Divinity
The theme of this month’s student led display at New College Library is diary writing, particularly diarists writing about their experience of missions overseas. The display features items from the New College Library collections relating to Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) who was appointed by the Church of Scotland to be part of a deputation to visit Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East, with a view to future mission activity. Further details of his papers are available on the University’s Archives Online catalogue.
This diary was used for daily entries on McCheyne’s travels, with small sketches as well as notes on personal devotional techniques headed ‘Personal Reformation’. It also has a biographical section on the ‘Story of Robert Laing’ (perhaps a friend or fellow missionary), and an appendix on another missionary’s account of the trip. Continue reading
New College Library’s collections provide a rich resource for and about Reformation theology and its readers. One of these readers was John Fisher [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535), bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr in the time of Henry VII and VIII. Tutored in Greek by Erasmus, Fisher was able to use Erasmus’s edition of the Greek New Testament (1). Like his contemporary, Thomas More, Fisher was an active opponent of Martin Luther in the theological debates of the 1520s.
New College Library holds two editions of Fisher’s response to Luther’s theology, Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio (1523).
On 14, 15 and 16 February 2017, the Cunningham Lectures at New College will mark the 500th Luther anniversary, with lectures by Professor Kaufmann covering Europe, Reformation and Luther.
New College Library holds outstanding Reformation collections that support the theme of the first lecture, Book, Print and Reformation. This includes examples of Luther’s pamphlets like the one below, from the early part of his career at the University of Wittenberg.
Each pamphlet, printed using the newly developed printing press technology, was cheaply produced and easily distributed, allowing the ideas they contained to spread quickly. Continue reading
A post by guest curator Suzi Higton, School of Divinity
The books of intrepid travel writers whose adventures span from Jerusalem to Cairo feature throughout the collections at New College Library and in particular, those gifted to the library by William Fulton Jackson. A selection from this collection is now on display in New College Library.
Born in 1855, Jackson, recently uncovered as the donor of the W. F. Jackson (WFJ) collection, was the General Manager of the North British Railway Company. His interest in and passion for travel, particularly the Holy Land and Egyptology is reflected both in his numerous books on the subject and detailed photograph collection which is held by the Glasgow University Library Archives.
When selecting books from the WFJ collection to display, the eye is immediately drawn to the books’ beautiful cover designs, maps and illustrations. Rambles in Bible Lands stands out, not just for its intricate artwork but for being aimed at a younger audience. Written by the Reverend Richard Newton, it was published initially whilst he was editor of the American Sunday-School Union, and is based on a series of letters written to Sunday-School World and A Child’s World whilst travelling through Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. Continue reading
Our colleague, Patrick Murray, has begun work cataloguing the W. F. Jackson collection, initially, as part of the Funk Cataloguing Project. This collection has been at New College for many decades but with the need to fill in accurate data about the material, it was soon apparent that no one knew very much about William Foakes Jackson or W. J. Jackson as he had carefully and clearly inscribed in each book.
The closest match that could be found was a Frederick John Foakes-Jackson, who was an eminent scholar of Judaism, something which connected with the first tranche of books. However, after that the trail went cold and, as the archivist, I was asked if I could give any advice on where to look next.
Away from the office, searches on Google, ScotlandsPeople and Ancestry.co.uk all drew a blank on proffering a sibling or son to Frederick John Foakes Jackson, who might have owned and donated these books.
In the New College Library Archives, there are boxes of library correspondence from throughout the 20th century some of which relate to the deposit of collections (ref. AA.2.1). As these records are in varying states of arrangement I decided to look at some of W. F. Jackson’s books for any other clues before delving into the correspondence.
The first couple of books seemed devoid of any details about the owner but, unexpectedly, out of the fourth book I looked at fell a scrap of an envelope on which was written: ‘[-] F Jackson, Suffolk House, 18 Suffolk Road, Edinburgh’ and postmarked 1929. The key to it all.
A quick visit to ScotlandsPeople searching for the death certificate for a W. F. Jackson after 1929 and there was William Fulton Jackson, in 1931, passing away at Suffolk House, 18, Suffolk Road, Edinburgh. That narrowed down the correspondence search nicely and quite quickly I found a note from his niece, Janet Cameron, depositing the records at New College Library (ref. AA.2.1.104a).
Transcript of letter:
18 Suffolk Road,
6th June 1934
Dear Dr Mitchell Hunter,
It was the desire of my uncle, the late Mr W. F. Jackson, that should I wish to dispose of any of his books, his “Eastern Collection” be gifted to the Library of the Church of Scotland.
As I understand these books will be acceptable, I hereby formally make the Gift, and I trust it will be convenient to keep them together as one collection, to be called the “W. F. Jackson” collection, and that they will be found useful by many students of our own Church.
Janet Inglis Cameron
Dr, Mitchell Hunter,
Church of Scotland.
To the railway historian, the name William Fulton Jackson will be familiar. He was born in 1855 to John Jackson, a grain merchant, and Mary Fulton, in 73, South Wellington Street, Glasgow. In 1883 he married Maggie McJannet Lattimer, at her home in 14, St James Street, Glasgow. In 1891 he was listed as a railway clerk living in Coltbridge Avenue, Edinburgh and by the 1901 census, he had become the General Manager of the North British Railway Company, living at 24, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh. It appears that Jackson was appointed as General Manager in 1899, after his predecessor, John Conacher, stepped down in the wake of a boardroom scandal.
Further internet searches revealed that some of his photograph albums had been deposited at Glasgow University Archives, and that he was an active member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
The 1911 census provides us with a mystery, outwith our remit, in that on the night the census was taken he and many others were staying in the same place as Arthur Conan Doyle and his family: “Rothsay” in Bournemouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England. Is this a connection or a coincidence?
Whatever the answer, after many years of this valuable collection of books being known as the “Foakes Jackson Collection” and thanks to an envelope scrap, finally we are able to give the real W. F. Jackson – William Fulton Jackson, Esq., the credit he is due.
Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator
As the books in the W.F. Jackson collection are catalogued their entries will become available on the University of Edinburgh’s discovery service: http://discovered.ed.ac.uk
*With apologies to hip-hop duo, “OutKast”.