Exploring the Henry Dyer Collection

This short film uncovers one of Edinburgh Libraries’ hidden gems: the Henry Dyer Collection.

Edinburgh City Libraries received two donations from the Henry Dyer Collection in 1945 and 1955, gifted by Marie Ferguson Dyer in honour of her father.

These donations together consisted of 50 loose sheets of Japanese woodblock prints, a number of bound woodblock printed volumes, scrolls and a collection of late 19th Century Japanese photographs attributed to Baron Von Stillfried. The remainder of the Dyer Collection was gifted to the Mitchell Library (Glasgow) and Glasgow Museums (Nitshill).

Read more about Henry Dyer’s contribution to Edinburgh Libraries.

There are also a number of Dyer related exhibitions on our image database, Capital Collections, that are worth dipping into.

Watch this space for the second part of this film which explores the wonderful Moromasa scroll.

Christmas Quiz: Tolkien or Ikea?

Can you identify which words are characters from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and which are items of furniture from Ikea?

Take the quiz now!

This was one of the rounds in our annual Big Book Group Quiz, held in association with Blackwell’s Bookshop. Congratulations to winners “Two little ducks”, pictured below, this year’s book brains of Edinburgh.

2 little ducks


Level Up at Wester Hailes

lvlup5Level Up launched last year in Wester Hailes Library as a way to tackle low levels of reading among teenagers using the library. The library adopted an innovative approach to try to boost the reading habits among this group which tied reading into the more familiar territory of computer games.

We caught up with the level uppers at their AGM (yep, they take this seriously) as they plan the year ahead. A group of around 14 teenagers sit enthusiastically pitching ideas to Library Officer Tony Stewart for future activities and reward nights which include games tournaments, minecraft sessions to pizza nights and archery. The caveat being these must be earned through the accumulation of xp points they gain from reading.

lvlUp2Tony explains: “We brought  these two worlds together and in order to keep it as a group we made it weekly and based it around interesting activities for them to do and at the same time encourage them to take out books.  Gaining XP points as they take out books then creates a sense of achievement through reading.”

“The XP awarded to a book is based simply on how long the book is. Each list includes   5 short books/graphic novels, some of which are dyslexic friendly, and 5 longer books. This is to give those who have issues with reading the option of an easier read. Reading the shorter books means reading more books to reach the level cap but this adds to the sense of achievement in completing the level, encouraging them to try a longer book in the next.”

Like any game Level Up starts on “LvL1″. This consists of a list of 10 books, each with its own amount of XP reward. Once the player reaches the 1000 XP cap they can then move onto “LvL2” which has its own list of books and so on. Along the way the readers are given stickers to add to their reading journal to document their journey.

lvlUp4Tony says this approach has made a real difference: “We have seen higher borrowing levels in all the kids who take part and greater self-confidence and more enthusiasm for the library in general.”

“They all seem to have a feeling of ownership for the group as well which is one of the things we aimed to achieve. This has bonded the group quite tightly together.  They come to the weekly meetings now and take part in activities and now all leave with a few books tucked under their arms to get their xp points.

We have some who aren’t confident readers who are taking out books. They aren’t taking out tonnes or reading them all but even if they read a few I feel it makes a difference and we are making some progress.”

Everyone is also encouraged to share their new love of reading and discuss what they’ve been reading. This can take place during one of their weekly sessions or through a micro book review which they post to the Level Up twitter feed.  During our visit everyone is busy writing a love letter to the library, an event promoted as part of Book Week Scotland.

LevelUP Letters

Some of the boys taking part are happy to point out the benefits of the group:

Alex: I’ve been doing this for over a year. It’s great taking part in all the activities and games. I like building up my points and collecting the stickers and achievements for reading. It’s  good to come along to a group where you are rewarded for learning.

Daniel: You get different points for different books so there’s always something you can find to suit you. I’m currently on 595 xp.  I definitely take out more books now and where I never used to read much before and now sit at home and read for ages.

With the future year getting planned out so diligently it looks like Level Up has become a firm fixture in the regular events at Wester Hailes calendar and  is likely to expand out to some of the other libraries in the city.  If you are interested in taking part, ask in your local library for more details.

Follow Level Up and read reviews on twitter: @LVLUPxp

Topical chat with the Owls

Libertus Owls have been meeting weekly at South Neighbourhood Office and Library at 40 Captain’s Road for over a year. We caught up with founder member Marie to find out more about the group.

What are Libertus Owls?

We are a friendly over 50s group who like to chat about current affairs, local news and topical issues.The group discuss events in the news over the past week, excluding politics and religion.

Libertus Owls

How do you prevent discussions from becoming overheated?

We aim to stay friendly with no major altercations. That doesn’t mean to say that we don’t have disagreements. Of course we do.  Everybody is entitled to their own slant on life, but we’re always willing to listen and sometimes learn from opposing views. One discussion always leads to another discussion, and keeps everything lively.

Sounds great. Can anyone join?

The group, at the moment, has about 6 core members with visitors coming and going.  We have room for a few more, so why not drop by the library and join us for a chat and coffee on Wednesdays at 10am?

Contact the Owls through South Neighbourhood Office and Library.

Another mysterious gift!!

mystery giftChristmas came early to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library this week when an anonymous donor left a mysterious gift on the shelves.


Along with a tiny coffin containing a doll-like figure, modelled on those found on Arthur’s Seat  in 1836, was a card inscribed with the following:


To Edinburgh City Libraries

— A Gift —

For the folklore, history, archaeology, supernatural…

“‘I’m Jamie, Dr Brodie. Do you remember me?’ Rennie blinked; swallowing hard to suppress the nausea surging upwards from his boots on its way to crash into the roof. A pounding giddiness took immediate possession of him, making it difficult for him to focus on anything; every image, including the old man and his mute partner now blurred as blurred again as they were during the mighty tremblings of the device. 

‘I… I’m afraid I do not know what you mean sir – are you not a lad from Patrick…’ Rennie was reeling, desperate for any respite. The reply was immediate. 

‘You must remember “Daft Jamie” sir, the lad you murdered in Edinburgh last year in your first experiment with your scientific machine'”

We’ve established that these words are taken from Christopher Wallace’s novel ‘The Resurrection Club’, but more remains unknown.

Is this the latest gift of the legendary Edinburgh Mystery Book Sculptor? Or do we have a copycat on our hands?

We’re not sure. But we’ve a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this…

What do you think? Do let us know.

And if you’d like to see the coffin for yourself visit the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library where we’d be delighted to show it to you.

Three reasons for liking the Oxford DNB’s 10th anniversary competition

1. It’s pretty easy really (unless you don’t have a library card – then it’s pretty much impossible)

2. You’ll learn a lot as you’re doing it.

3.The prizes are decent (an iPad 4 or £100 of books)

That’s got to be worth a few minutes of your tea break, surely?

Here’s the link and if you who don’t yet have a library card here’s how to fix that.

Closing date is Friday. Good luck.

What the best-dressed gal was wearing and reading in 1799

The Lady’s Monthly Museum was launched in 1798 by a society of ladies and included illustrations like these from the ‘Cabinet of Fashion’ as well as literature and theatre reviews, letters to the editor, poetry, articles on female historical figures and ‘charades’ (or poetic riddles). It was rather wonderfully subtitled, a ‘Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction: Being an assemblage of whatever can tend to please the Fancy, interest the Mind, or exalt the Character of The British Fair’.
Morning and afternoon dress, 1799

Women’s magazines have changed over the years with the changing ideas of women’s role in society. In the 18th century, women’s magazines were stimulating as women participated in social and political life. Then in the 19th century when domesticity was idealised, women’s magazines became rather more lacklustre. In the late 1800s, women’s magazines started to broaden their outlook again.

Fashionable full dress, 1799

Along with The Lady’s Magazine and La Belle Assemblee, The Lady’s Monthly Museum was typical of late Georgian and Regency era magazines in Britain. The three titles merged in 1832, but publication ended in 1847. They were superseded by titles such as The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine, The Female’s Friend, Home Chat (and in the United States from 1867, Harper’s Bazaar).*

Browse more Georgian fashion illustrations from this delightful volume at Capital Collecitons, or for up to date sartorial tips for the party season, we advise downloading the latest ladies’ and gents’ monthly magazines from Zinio – free from Your Library.

*source: History of Publishing, Britannica