Victorian travels in the Middle East

Fancy a trip back in time to the Middle East of the late 1800s? Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections is a stunning collection of early travel photographs capturing these exotic lands which were far beyond the imagination of the British public of the time.

Mosque of Sultan Ahmed

Mosque of Sultan Ahmed, Istanbul

By the 1860s, British tour operators such as Cook’s Tours were offering package tours to the Middle East encompassing destinations such as Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Wealthy gentlemen (including King Edward VII) embarked on these tours to learn about the ancient cultures, history, and religions of these mysterious faraway lands.

Parthenon, Athens

Parthenon, Athens

As the tourist trade grew, photographers from all over Europe flocked here, keen to document this different world. Some set up studios to produce prints specifically for the tourist trade, much like a modern travel postcard, many of which can be seen in this collection.

View of the bridge in Istanbul

View of the bridge in Istanbul

Did you know the Great Sphinx of Giza was not fully uncovered until the 1930s?

The Sphinx and the pyramids, Egypt

The Sphinx and the pyramids, Egypt

Browse this wonderful travel album and you’ll trek though the ancient ruins of some the world’s earliest civilisations, get lost in the bustling streets of old Constantinople, and escape the heat whilst marvelling at the exquisite interiors of the ancient mosques.

‘Things seen, sometimes personal’ work by Andrew Guest

On display at the Art and Design Library, until 31 July.Poster image

Andrew Guest writes:

I started making ceramics in 2004 while working in Newcastle, where I attended classes at the wonderful pottery studio at Bensham. After moving back to Edinburgh in 2009 I used the workshop at the South Bridge Centre run by the Pottery Users Group (PUG) but I now mainly work from a studio at home.

My first exhibition, ‘Signs of the Times’, was held in the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne in February 2014. It consisted of 21 plates celebrating language used for announcements in the media and on the streets, and the mysterious language of the TLA (Three Letter Abbreviation) used as shorthand in contexts such as finding a friend, fighting a war, or as the coded private language of many professions or bureaucracies.

This exhibition has an expanded series of plates celebrating language but also a series of vases and one work consisting of 32 separate pots. The plates are formed on plaster moulds, cast from a Mason plate of about 1890, and a Spode plate of about 1850. The letters are then inlaid with liquid clay. The vases are made from slabs of clay, into which dried stems of plants have been rolled, and the subsequent indentation filled with liquid clay. The image is revealed when the excess clay is scraped back before the slab hardens. The pots are built from casts of the blister packs of every pill I have used in the past 3 years or so.

The starting-point for all the work is an appreciation of the ordinary, or a fascination with a waste product, whether in human language, the natural beauty of the dried stem of a plant, or the spent casing of a highly industrialised medicine, where each shape has been made by the fingers of the person as they push the required medicine from its packaging.

The plates and vases are made from white or red earthenware clay, with different coloured clay slips, and a transparent glaze. The pots are made from a white earthenware casting slip, and a tin white glaze.

Break a record this summer

Need to know more? Visit the official site or ask about the challenge at your nearest library.

Dyslexia Chatterbooks celebrates another year

Our Chatterbooks group for youngsters with dyslexia recently had its annual knees up celebrations and the ‘special guest’ Mr Bookbug caused a stir when he arrived to present certificates and yearbooks to each member.


Parents and siblings enjoyed stories, songs, drama and games giving them a taste of what the group gets up to on a monthly basis!

The group meets in the Central Children’s Library on the last Tuesday of each month and is for children from Primary 4 upwards.

To cater for those moving up to senior school a new group has recently started, REDit! Senior 1-3 pupils with dyslexia are welcome.

We meet on the second Tuesday of each month, on the Mezzanine, Central Library. If you are interested in finding out more about either of these popular groups, please contact

Scottish Art at the City Art Centre

Art and Design Library staff recommend a visit to the City Art Centre this summer to see Scottish Art: People, Places, Ideas.

Samuel John Peploe, ‘Still Life with Melon and Grapes’

With a thematic approach, exploring people, landscape, still life and abstraction, the exhibition looks at how artists have interpreted these subjects over the past 250 years.

To get the most out of this free exhibition we suggest a guided tour. Tours run Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11am and 3pm.

And if you want to investigate further any of the featured artists take a trip to the Art and Design Library or borrow some of the books on this list.

Which travel guide should you choose?

Holiday booked and ready to go? Which guidebook are you taking? Which guidebook should you be taking?

Indeed, in the age of Trip Advisor, is there even a need for travel guides? While it could be argued that most of us go online for hotel and restaurant reviews, there’s still a massive demand for travel guides, a fact borne out by the fact that they are among the most borrowed non-fiction books from libraries (and probably among the most travelled books too, come to think of it).

So which one should you go for? Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Insight Guides, Eyewitness, Footprint…?

Of the general guides, the two big beasts are Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. Both have their champions and detractors. We wouldn’t recommend one over the other but would offer these three pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t take anyone’s word about what’s ‘best’. Take a look at both to see which you prefer.
  2. Don’t be blindly loyal to one brand. Just as every holiday is different so is every guidebook.
  3. Finally, and most importantly: other guide books are available! So let’s look at some of them.

Many people prefer foregoing pages of closely typed text for the colourful Eyewitness Guides. Marketed as the ‘guide that shows you what others only tell you’, page after page of glossy colour photographs and three-dimensional cutaways give you a sense of exactly what to expect when you get there.

One potential drawback to the Eyewitness books (and the similar Insight Guides) is weight. These can be fairly hefty, so if you’re not keen on lugging one of these round a historic city centre you might be better with their smaller sibling, the pocket-sized Top 10 series.

(Or, lighter still, you could of course download your travel guide from OverDrive)

Written by locals, the stylish Time Out guides have a strong emphasis on shopping, entertainment and nightlife. Colourful and informative, these are particularly good for city breaks.

For the more adventurous, Footprint guides are aimed at ‘independent travellers looking to get off the beaten track’ and Bradt champion more unusual destinations such as Suriname, Malawi and Kyrgyzstan. They also have a different take on some more familiar locations so you’ll also find guides to areas such as Suffolk or Dumfries and Galloway.

For the active traveller, Sunflower focus on walking and touring holidays and the Cicerone series is aimed at trekkers, cyclists, climbers and mountaineers.

In conclusion then, the guidebook you choose should reflect what you want out of your holiday – whether your emphasis is on activities, sightseeing, budget backpacking, getting to grips with the language or enjoying the nightlife.

Borrow a selection from the library to find the one that best suits your needs.Then, enjoy your trip!

‘Design a birthday cake’ competition winners

Tayo (age 9)

Wester Hailes, Sighthill & Ratho Libraries celebrated 125 years of Edinburgh Libraries with some help from local children, as together we received over 250 entries for our ‘design a birthday cake’ competition.


Patrick (age 5)

The colourful entries included some very imaginative designs, many featuring books and people reading.

Brogan (age 11) Sighthill Winner

Brogan (age 11) Sighthill Winner

There were rainbow arches, multi-tiered showstoppers and flavour combinations that might challenge top pastry-chefs (including ‘carrot & strawberry’, ‘grapes’ & more traditional ‘chocolate & sprinkles’)!

Iona (age 7) Ratho Winner

Iona (age 7) Ratho Winner

The winners representing each branch are Oliwier (aged 8, Canal View Primary P4B), Brogan (aged 11, Sighthill Primary P6) and Iona (aged 7, Ratho Primary P3).  Each will be getting a goody-bag of prizes.  Congratulations to them and thanks to everyone who took part. Here’s to the next 125 years!


Oliwier (age 8) Wester Hailes Winner