William Channing’s lost closes of Edinburgh

Central Library holds three bound volumes of William Channing’s ‘Sketches in Edinburgh‘ which give his artist’s impression of tenement life in the mid 19th century. His drawings are glimpses into the past down the narrow closes and alleyways of the city’s streets and Old Town. We see higgledy-piggledy houses and tenements towering skywards, laundry hanging from windows across the walkways and local characters talking in the streets.

Brodies Close, High Street

William Channing is a little-known artist today, although it’s thought he worked as a professional theatre scene painter. Some of his drawings give an insight into his drawing technique with guidelines still visible on the paper. Many views are duplicates with first the initial sketch followed by the finished watercolour drawing. Although it’s clear the images were sketched from life over 150 years ago, there is a freshness and contemporary feel to many of his drawings.

Henry Gray’s Close, Leith

Channing’s beautiful sketches are particularly valued for their representation of the architectural elements and details of buildings and closes now much changed or long since disappeared.

You can view all three volumes of the sketches on Capital Collections :
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 1
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 2
Wm. Channing’s Sketches in Edinburgh – volume 3.

Passport belonging to John Morison Inches

One of the things that Libraries lend most frequently are travel guides, but we have in our collections much more than just books about travel. We house prints, photos, travelogues, timetables, tickets and ephemera, including perhaps surprisingly, some historical passports.

Before the age of photographic ID, the passport was a standard printed form emblazed with the Royal Coat of Arms and stating:

We, Sir Edward Grey, a Baronet of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a Member of His Most Britannic Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council…


Request and require in the Name of His Majesty, all those whom it may concern to allow — to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford — every assistance and protection of which — may stand in need.

Staff in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection recently uncovered one such passport made out to Mr John Morison Inches, a British subject travelling in Europe, accompanied by his wife Mrs Margaret Morison Inches.

Passport of Mr John Morison Inches

Who are the persons named in the passport? We turned first to the Library’s resources and the Scotsman Digital Archive where we found John Morison Inches obituary in its edition of 5 May 1914. We also found details of his will published in The Scotsman on 12 June 1914 where he left an estate of £49,095.

Mr John Morison Inches was well-known in Edinburgh in his time. He was a brewer and ran J & J Morison, the Commercial Brewery in the Canongate. He was traveling with his wife Mrs Margaret Inches on a possible business trip in 1911 to Moscow in pre-Great War and pre-1917 revolutionary Russia. He died soon after this trip in 1914 and left his business to his widow until his son John Morison Inches took over. Although, Margaret remained heavily involved in the business operations for many years. The brewery would eventually evolve into Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

The passport  is currently on display in the Reference Library at Central Library.

April’s Art and Design Library Exhibition

Room Time, an exhibition of paintings by Marcus Oakley opens on 3rd April in the Art and Design Library. The exhibition of new drawings explores the artist’s interest in the potential of the line across a variety of formats. The artworks investigate the infinite possibilities of hand-drawn systems to construct and manipulate space, and manifest lightness, density and structure.

Marcus lives and works in Dunfermline, although he is originally from Norfolk, a coastal county in south-east England. He studied at Camberwell College of Art, and since graduating with a BA honours in Visual Arts in 1996 he has been working as a graphic artist on various projects including book illustration, products, textile design and packaging.

Here’s what he has to say about his artistic inspirations:
“My influences include folky, harmonic and melodic music of all kinds; the pastoral and folkloric delights of the countryside and the various eccentric beasts and humans that inhabit it; the joys of cycling; the stimulations of tea; the dizzy geometries of architecture and design – and overall the wonders of making stuff.”

The exhibition runs from 3rd to 29th of April.

Big Library Read – Digital Book Group

We’ll be having another Big Library Read from 1st-15th April on OverDrive! Unlimited people can download the ebook version of this very topical autobiography called  Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung. Read the story of Abu Bakr who along with his family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life, but they moved to Syria – just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone – and eventually found safety in Canada.

The ebook will be available on the home page of the OverDrive website and Libby/OverDrive apps from the 1st April and with unlimited downloads is perfect for discussing with your friends and family. You can join an online conversation about the book at BigLibraryRead.com. All you need is library membership so you can login with your library card and PIN. Full instructions for using OverDrive can be found on our Your Library website.

Easter opening times

Libraries opening hours over Easter:
Friday 19 April – closed
Saturday 20 April – open as normal
Sunday 21 April – closed
Monday 22 April – closed
from Tuesday 23 April – open as normal

And don’t forget – you can download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers any time from www.edinburgh.gov.uk/library2go

Happy Easter everyone!

Digital Music

This session at Stockbridge Library will introduce you to the way the internet has radically changed how people find, organise and play music. Records and cassettes gave way to CDs and they have now largely been superceded by digital music. We will look at how you can buy and download/save music on a laptop, tablet or even a phone but will be concentrating mainly on services such as Spotify, Apple Music (and less well known ones such as Naxos) which allow you to ‘stream’ music, create playlists and save all your favourites. Then, of course, you can play your music on a wireless speaker/s. Come along for an introduction to this new world of Digital Music.


Of wild grandeur and simplicity: take a journey to the Nordic countries via 18th- and 19th-century travel books

Vikings sail stealthily into unsuspecting shores, their longships cutting through the water with ease. Saga characters recite poetry one day, carry out blood vengeance the next. Kings vie for power in their kingdoms, fighting fierce battles and sending warriors to Valhalla at the end of each struggle. Ice is everywhere, and the mountains tower ever higher with piling snow. This is the North.

Everyone has their own idea of the North, a mythic place where the life of the Middle Ages seems to still breathe in the landscape. Much of what we think of when we consider the North today – from Vikings to sagas to Old Norse mythology – is what 18th- and 19th-century travellers envisioned on their journeys. To them, the formidable northern landscape, largely untouched and filled with magnificent fjords and mountains and crags, seemed to carry this timeless medieval world throughout its rugged majesty.

We can journey to the North with travellers from centuries past through reading the books that record their travels. These books are the centre of the Central Library’s latest exhibition, ‘Of Wild Grandeur and Simplicity: Journeys to the Nordic Countries in 18th- and 19th-Century Travel Books’. This exhibition was curated by one of our postgraduate interns, Hailey Brock, from the Centre for the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh. In these books, the travellers venture to the Nordic Countries—namely Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroes. There, they envision the Old North, and relive it in the beautiful setting.

You too can create your own vision of the North at this exhibition, which runs until 5 April 2019 on the Mezzanine Level at Central Library.

The ‘Of wild grandeur and simplicity’ exhibition is part of the Rare Books Edinburgh programme.