Unwrapping the Martin Hall Collection

This January we began cataloguing work on the MR Collection from New College Library’s Special Collections. This sequence contains much early and rare material, and carries the shelfmark MR because at one time these books were housed in the Martin Hall in New College.

Image courtesy of Paul Nicholas

Image courtesy of Paul Nicholas

We were really excited to find this lovely item, Historia apostolica illustrata : ex actis apostolorum et epistolis Paulinis. Published in seventeenth century Geneva, the author Louise Cappel writes about the works of the apostles, and Paul in particular. What’s immediately striking about it is that it is covered with a vellum wrapper (waste parchment) with beautiful manuscript lettering.

Image courtesy of Paul Nicholas

Image courtesy of Paul Nicholas

While further research is required on the wrapper, it appears to be a medieval liturgical text. The back cover (pictured) is in honour of St. Nicholas, with his name appearing in the line with the musical notation.

Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Paul Nicholas – Funk Cataloguer

Elizabeth Lawrence – Rare Books Librarian




Travel back 500 years with rare Hebrew book from New College Library

 Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman ... [1514]

Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman … [1514] פירוש התורה / להרב רבינו משה ב״ר נחמן.

This early commentary on the Pentateuch, published in 1514 has travelled all the way to Latvia to be part of the exhibition “1514. The Book. 2014“. On display until April 2015 at the National Library of Latvia, the exhibition includes 80 books published in 1514. Why 1514? The exhibition creators identified 1514 as a year of great change, 60 years after Gutenberg and on the cusp of the Reformation in Europe. The exhibition is “an opportunity to view the European cultural space in terms of a single year”.

The author, of this work, Perush-ha Torah,  was Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman or Nahmanides (1195-1270). He was a Spanish rabbi and leading scholar of Talmudic literature in the mediaeval period. This book is just one of the early works of Jewish scholarship in the Dalman-Christie collection of Hebrew books, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects at New College Library.  The Dalman-Christie Collection was transferred to New College Library in 1946 from the Church of Scotland Hospice in Jerusalem.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Dal-Chr 15r

Imagining Noah’s Ark : Special Collections on display at New College Library

Noah’s Ark has been in the news lately with the recent block buster film Noah. Currently on display in the entrance to New College Library is a nineteenth-century imagining of Noah’s Ark, in a work by Edward Wells (1667–1727), a Church of England clergyman and educationist.Ark

This image from An historical geography of the Old and New Testament (1809) shows a fold out engraved illustration of the ‘Inside of the Ark‘. Wells has attempted to provide a rational plan of how all the animals required could be fitted into Noah’s Ark.  The text on adjoining pages details the precise numbers and nature of the species considered to be housed in each area.This book is part of the Natural History Collection at New College Library, numbering about 175 books. This dates from the early days of New College, where ‘Natural Science’ was taught until 1934. The collection includes examples of the mid-nineteenth century controversies over evolution and natural selection, with geology particularly well represented. The collection was catalogued online as part of the Funk Projects.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Missionary to the North – The Paterson Bible Collection

Testamente nutak : Kaladlin okauzeennut nuktersimarsok. Copenhagen, 1799. New College Library PAT 53

Testamente nutak : Kaladlin okauzeennut nuktersimarsok [Eskimo Bible]. Copenhagen, 1799. New College Library PAT 53

In early 2014 we began work to catalogue the Paterson Bible Collection, as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects at New College Library. This collection of over 300 Bibles in a huge variety of languages and scripts represents the interests and life’s work of John Paterson (1776–1855). Paterson was a Glasgow trained missionary for the Congregational Church, who originally intended to serve in India but instead forged a career in northern Europe (1).

Bible. New Testament. Estonian

Piibli Ramat, se on keik se Jummala Sanna [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Peterburri Linnas, 1822. New College Library PAT 60

His work involved translating and printing portions of the scriptures into Finnish, Georgian, Icelandic, Sami, Latvian, Moldavian, Russian, Samogitian, and Swedish. First based in Sweden, where he founded the Finnish Bible Society, in 1812 Paterson moved to St Petersburg, where he was involved in the work of what became the Russian Bible Society.  In later life he returned to Scotland where he continued to be active in the Scottish Congregational Church, but was also involved with early attempts to produce Bibles for the blind, in a precursor of Braille writing (2).

Meije Issanda Jesusse Kristusse Wastne Testament [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Riga, 1686

Meije Issanda Jesusse Kristusse Wastne Testament [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Riga, 1686 New College Library PAT 58



The Paterson Bible Collection reflects the linguistic spectrum of his Northern European work, but also includes Bibles in languages as diverse as Amharic, Armenian and Ethiopian.  It was received by the National Bible Society of Scotland in 1957 from A. G. C. Baxter of Gilston, Largoward, Paterson’s descendant, and subsequently gifted  to New College Library in 1991.



(1) G. C. Boase, ‘Paterson, John (1776–1855)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/21533, accessed 19 Feb 2014]

(2) Alexander, James M. (1974) ‘Title John Paterson, Bible Society Pioneer, 1776-1855.  The later years – 1813-1855, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, vol viii, p196.

Chinese rare books on display for Peking University at Edinburgh Day

Inglis-23New College Library was part of the University of Edinburgh’s Peking at Edinburgh day on Monday 18 November with a display of Chinese items from our Special Collections. These included the beautiful Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Inglis 23). This is a classic treatise of calligraphic art on silk, by calligraphers Wen-Yuan T’ang and Chin-Ch’ang in 1682.

Inglis 20Also on display was Robert Morrison’s Chinese New Testament (Inglis 20). Robert Morrison (1782–1834) arrived in China in September 1807, on the commission of the London Missionary Society first to learn Chinese, and then to make a Chinese translation of the Bible.


CSWCWe were also pleased to have on display a rare item from the Centre for the Study of World Christianity Archives, an Imperial Edition of the New Testament. Thank you to Dr Alexander Chow for providing this information about the item :

“This is a rare edition of the New Testament presented by a group of female missionaries to the Empress Dowager Cixi, on the occasion of her 60th birthday in 1894. The Bible is a Shangdi edition of the Delegates Version, printed in classical wenli Chinese by the American Bible Society. This particular copy was presented to the Church of Scotland missions hospital by the American Bible Society in October 1903. There were 250 copies of this Bible printed.”

In the beginning was the word : Bibles at New College Library

Yesterday we were pleased to welcome staff and students on exchange from Dartmouth College, USA to a classroom session viewing items from New College Library’s historic Bibles collection. Examples included a 1478 early Bible Latin manuscript version from our Incunabula Collection and our very earliest printed Bible, a Greek New Testament printed in Strassburg in 1524. The English Reformation was well represented by a Cranmer’s Bible (1541), a Matthew’s Bible (1549), a Bishop’s Bible (1585),  a 1599 Geneva Bible and a 1611 King James version.

Our 1579 Bassandyne Bible has particular Scottish significance. Bassandyne was a Scotsman, who lived in Edinburgh in a house beside John Knox’s. He printed the first Bible published in Scotland, a Geneva version which became the regular pulpit Bible throughout Scotland.

The rich diversity of Bibles at New College Library was also shown by the  Polyglot Bible – The Antwerp (1569), which contains the Bible text in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. This was produced under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, at the suggestion of the famous printer, Christopher Plantin.  Printed in Antwerp, it was sent to Spain by sea  but the ship was wrecked and most of the volumes perished with it, only some 200 being rescued. Of these New College Library possesses one complete copy in excellent condition. The Polyglot Bible relied on the Bomberg Bible for its Hebrew text, which we were also able to have on display. New College Library holds the 1545 or second edition of the Bomberg Bible in its Dalman Christie Collection, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Projects.

Ancient Language Encyclopedias from Brill now on trial

Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and LinguisticsTrial access is now available to the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online, and the Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics, published by Brill.Access is via the eresources trials page or via Brill Reference Online.

The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day.

GreekThe Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (EAGLL) is a unique work that brings together the latest research from across a range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of Ancient Greek. It is an indispensable research tool for scholars and students of Greek, of linguistics, and of other Indo-European languages, as well as of Biblical literature.

The trial access period ends on 10 December 2013.


New College Library’s Torah Scroll

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

New College Library’s Torah Scroll (Pentateuch) was on display to visitors today in the Funk Reading Room.

Scrolls such as these are an integral part of Jewish communal life, being read in their entirety in a yearly cycle. The portions of the masoretic texts are divided into weekly portions and their reading in communal worship is followed by a set reading from the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.

This scroll is no longer suitable for ritual use, as it is no longer bound onto its original etzim (rollers) or clothed in its original protective and decorative garments. Some letters are damaged, indicating its non-kosher status. Conservation work was undertaken in 2008 to ensure that the scroll was preserved in an appropriate state for study and teaching, and it received new rollers and new box. The funds for this work were raised by the New College Library Book Sale.

The provenance of the scroll is not known, but it may have come to the Library at the same time as other objects from Jewish religious practice in the New College Library objects collection. These include a phylatctory or tefillin,  a small, black leather cube-shaped case made to contain Torah texts.

New books at New College Library – September

For and Against DavidMark as StoryNew College Library has a regular display of new books at the far end of the Library Hall, close to the door to the stacks.

New in this month is For and against David : story and history in the books of Samuel / edited by A. Graeme Auld and Erik Eynikel, available at  BS1325.52 For.

Also new is the 3rd edition of Mark as story : an introduction to the narrative of a gospel by David Rhoads, Joanna Dewey and Donald Michie, at BS2585.2 Mar.

These titles were purchased for Biblical Studies at the School of Divinity, Edinburgh University.

You can see an regularly updated list of new books for New College Library on the Library Catalogue – choose the New Books Search and limit your search to New College Library. Here’s a quick link to new books arriving in the last few weeks. A word of caution – some of the books listed here may still be in transit between the Main Library (where they are catalogued) and New College Library, so not on the shelf just yet.

New Cambridge History of the Bible – and more

New Cambridge History of the BibleCambridge History of Religions in AmericaThe online version of the New Cambridge History of the Bible  : From 600 to 1450  by Richard Marsden, E. Ann Matter is now available to University of Edinburgh users via the Library catalogue. It joins other Cambridge Histories ebooks which are available via the catalogue, such as the Cambridge History of Religions in America, ed. Stephen J. Stein.