Manuscripts on display for Elizabeth Melville Day

From Monday 16th June to Friday 27th June manuscript work by Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross is on display in New College Library. Two rare examples of early modern women’s writing are displayed together for the first time as part of the events around Elizabeth Melville Day on Saturday 21st June.

Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, was the first Scotswoman to see her work in print with the publication of her mini-epic ‘Ane Godlie Dreame’ in 1603.

She was the daughter of Sir James Melville of Halhill (1535/6–1617), the diplomat and autobiographer.  Elizabeth was at the centre of a network supporting the exiled and imprisoned Presbyterian ministers, and her strong Calvinist faith is expressed in her writings.

Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections La.III.347

Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections La.III.347

On display is a volume of original letters,  received by the University of Edinburgh in 1878 as part of the David Laing collection.  It contains two holograph letters by Elizabeth to her son James (dated 1625 and 1629), nine to Reverend John Livingstone (eight holographs and one 19th century transcription, dated 1629-32), and one holograph to the Countess of Wigtoun (1630), and is a unique source of information about the poet.

Mss Bru 2, New College Library Special Collections

Mss Bru 2, New College Library Special Collections

This volume is displayed together with the Bruce Manuscripts, from New College Library Special Collections. The Bruce Manuscripts contains twenty nine sermons on Hebrews XI, preached in 1590-91 by Robert Bruce,  Edinburgh minister. In 2002 Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter uncovered nearly 3500 lines of verse attributed to Elizabeth Melville contained in this manuscript.

Dr Joseph Marshall, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian & Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

The ‘Z’ Factor : New College Library’s rediscovered Special Collections

What are Special Collections? At New College Library we have Special Collections of books, archives  and manuscripts and a small collection of portraits and objects. Much of the book collections have been housed in Special Collections for decades, but we also have a growing collection of ‘new’ Special Collections.

This is the Z Collection, which is formed out of recent donations and out of New College Library books formerly in the General sequence  which were identified as Special Collections during a stock management exercise. We follow the critieria used by the Centre for Research Collections here at the University of Edinburgh, in particular that all books published before 1850 should be classed as Special Collections. The Z Collection, which numbers over 3,500 items, is currently being catalogued online as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects.

One example from the Z Collection is the Biographia scotica, a biographical dictionary compiled by John Stark of Edinburgh.  It contains engraved portraits of notable Edinburgh figures such as George Drummond, a Lord Provost of Edinburgh, George Heriot, whose name is still carried by one of the well-known schools in Edinburgh, and John Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms. The book bears the inscription of one Alexander Fortune with the date 1820 at the head of the title page and a bookplate presenting the book to New College from the library of the late James Wilson, merchant, 3 South Bridge (Edinburgh).