Mystery images from the past

In 2016, a former colleague, John, latterly Team Leader at Oxgangs Library, mentioned to us that he had ‘inherited’ some large glass negatives. They had been found in a cupboard in his flat in Claremont Crescent a few years earlier. He didn’t know anything about where the negatives had come from or even what they were of, but their size suggested they must be quite old. Some were broken and he offered us the opportunity to digitise them before they deteriorated further. We’ve brought them together in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

At first glance they didn’t give away any obvious clues. There were several images of gentlemen posing proudly with trophies, others of Army units and nondescript rows of houses.

Bowler with Steeples Trophy

When zooming in on the images small clues began to emerge. A gentleman poses proudly with a trophy, and on it you can just make out the words Musselburgh, Steeples and shield. As there were other images of bowlers, could it be a bowling trophy? Looking up bowling clubs in Musselburgh we discovered that at one time there had been four bowling clubs in Musselburgh. We took a chance and emailed Musselburgh Bowling Club to see if they could help. We received a reply from the club secretary and he confirmed that there was a Steeples Trophy competed for by clubs in the Musselburgh Local Bowling Association. Looking further there was other connections to Musselburgh. One was an image of what we’d thought was a large house or school. A colleague who knows the area saw the image and said “that’s Crolla’s!” A wee bit more digging and we found out that it had once had been Stuart’s Net Mill, situated beside the River Esk and a company which at one time, had employed over 800 people in cotton processing and rope manufacturing.

Stuart’s Net Mill, Musselburgh

There were two other images that looked like they might be of Army units. However, looking closer, you can make out the collar badge and so after a bit more investigation, we discovered that it was a Police unit, the East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

East Lothian (Haddingtonshire) Constabulary.

Although some of the images have been identified, many haven’t. Some of the group images have the same background, so we assume that they were all taken in the same studio. Although, some like this one below, are taken outside.

Unidentified wedding party

This is where we need your help. You can view all the images, both identified and mystery ones, in an exhibition on Capital Collections.

Do you recognise any of the people or places in the photographs?
If so, please get in touch. You could help us fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle by contacting informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

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Some of our favourite books of 2017

Ever wondered what your library staff choose to read? We asked colleagues to recommend their favourite books from last year.

Susan’s book of the year was Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham
“This memoir, mostly covering Chris’s childhood and young adulthood, will be unlike anything you have ever read.  His prose is so rich and description laden and you quickly realise that this is how Chris sees the world – in intricate detail; a series of tastes, smells and sensations that he remembers with complete clarity even years later. It was such a privilege to be given access to someone else’s mind and to experience what it’s like to have Asperger’s. The descriptions of young Chris’ connections to animals and nature are both extraordinary and heartbreaking. Rarely has a memoir been written with such honesty, it truly is a unique and special book.”
Available as an ebook

Clare recommends Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
“Based on a true story, a group of people are brought together in their desperation to flee war-torn Europe. Upsetting and gripping, it’s not an easy read. Despite being set during World War Two, the story’s themes resonate with the world today: a vital read.”
Available as an ebook

 

Karen says,
“If you don’t want anything too taxing, then read Mick Herron’s Slough House series. The first one is ‘Slow Horses’, but I think you could read them in any order and still enjoy. Certainly, ‘Spook Street’ was both funny and suspenseful. I’m now reading all the series!”

 

Win has read a few this year, some of them better than others… however, she’s just started The stars are fire by Anita Shreve, one of her favourite authors.
“Her prose is wonderful – pared back – but, in those short paragraphs and sentences, she draws a picture of the characters. She opens up the lives of ordinary people and compels us to walk beside them as their stories emerge. She writes with ease, and I always feel confident in her ability to write a cracking good read. I get hooked very quickly each time I start one of her books!”

Nicola really enjoyed His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
“This was a really disturbingly dark read, but one which has you gripped from the start to finish! It’s set in the 19th century in a small crofting community in the Highlands. The historical content and attention to detail were brilliantly executed and I really felt the sense of oppression and poverty of that period.
A gruesome crime has taken place and the reader hears the confession of the main protagonist Roddy, but there is a lot more that is gradually to be uncovered which explains the circumstances which led to Roddy’s actions. I ended up having a great deal of sympathy for the main character, which was completely unexpected.
It was a fascinating read, especially the detail of day to day life in a crofting community, and the influence and corruption exerted by those in authority.
I would highly recommend this book.”
Available as an ebook

Janette chose The Tent, the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy.
“I had a notion a few months ago, that I would randomly pick a book of the type I wouldn’t normally go for and see what I found. Well, this was one of them.
Emma recalls tales of nine consecutive years of camping holiday catastrophes with her mother and father in the 1970s, whether it was being swept away by a force ten gale on the Welsh coast or suffering copious amounts of food poisoning on a trip to the south of France. It’s been a long time since I have laughed out loud reading a book, but I did with this one.”
Available as an ebook

And ahead of this year’s anniversary of Muriel Spark’s birth, Carol’s book of the year was revisiting The prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
“She is a fantastic writer. I read it for my book group, there were lots of themes to talk about: social class, schooling, adolescence, society and politics in the 1930s, gender. Plus, the crème de la crème – Edinburgh, of course!”
Available as an ebook

What was your favourite book of the year?

 

Art and Design Library exhibition – January 2018

The latest exhibition in the Art and Design Library is ‘Transition of Fear – a collection of photographs’ by Isaac Benjamin.

We asked Isaac to tell us about the inspiration for his fascinating work:

“Being an artist has its ups and downs, on one hand you have people genuinely interested in your work, but then you’re asked to actually show some of it! The photos you will see are mostly taken straight after having a spiritual/alien vision or episode, I then recreate how I had seen things.

Image from Transition of Fear – a collection of photographs, by Isaac Benjamin

I was quite recently diagnosed with Schizotypal Personality Disorder. This does not affect my spiritual beliefs and experiences, however, I can now conclude that my psychic abilities are possibly not actually happening. At the beginning of this long journey, I felt like I was trapped inside a cocoon. I was absolutely terrified… Something drove me to keep challenging this fear and recreate the experiences through various art forms, which was a major part of my healing process.

Music is so important in my life, I couldn’t imagine creating pieces of artwork without music to help inspire me. My taste in music is very eclectic… From The Smiths to Kate Bush, David Bowie to Roxy Music and Leonard Cohen, I feel so much more comfortable if there’s music playing in the background.”

Come along to the exhibition which will be on display in the Art and Design Library from 4 – 30 January 2018.

You can also see more of Isaac’s work on instagram @thewalkingartists

The twelve library days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my library gave to me:

The daily paper
Loads of Bookbug sessions
Jazz music streaming
Digital drop-ins
A place for study
Online image archives
A funding website
Free ebooks!
eMagazines
Homework help
Audiobooks
and a really handy library app!

 

Solo or group reading!

We’ve just finished updating our Book Group Collections list so thought we’d flag it up to you all again as a really useful resource. Obviously its a brilliant source of information about the collections that you can borrow through the library for you and 14 members of your book group. All for free, with 4 week loans and easy collection from your local library thrown in.

It’s also really handy for non-book group members though as it’s a fantastic list of “must-read” titles. Perfect for dipping into when you’re not sure what to read next. Many of the titles are also available to borrow in ebook or downloadable audiobook format and there’s information about the formats available beside each title.

So if you are planning a cozy Christmas filled with lots of reading why not check out our book group collections list and get some first class reading ideas.

Dickens and the Victorian Christmas

Central Library has a new display entitled ‘Dickens and the Victorian Christmas’. Here’s a taster of the exhibition which you can visit until the end of December.

It’s hard to imagine, but at the beginning of the 19th century, Christmas was hardly celebrated. Many shops and businesses did not even consider it a holiday.

It was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who popularised most of the aspects of Christmas we recognise today. In 1848, The Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating round a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition carried on from Prince Albert’s childhood in Germany. Soon, many homes in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, homemade decorations and small gifts.

A very merry Christmas, c1900

The first Christmas card appeared in 1843 with an illustration showing a group of people round a dinner table and a Christmas message. By the 1880s sending Christmas cards had become hugely popular. 11.5 million cards were produced in 1880 alone!

Crackers first appeared in 1848 when a British confectioner, Tom Smith, invented a bold new way to sell sweets. Inspired by a trip to Paris where he saw bon bons – sugar almonds wrapped in twists of paper – Smith created a simple package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart. The sweets were replaced by small gifts and paper hats in the late Victorian period.

Christmas for the Victorians was a festival for the family and a time to gather in the best room in the house and play parlour games. Some, such as Blind man’s Buff, Charades and Twenty Questions, are still played today.

The Young Folks by Randolph Caldecott

The custom of decking the walls and windows with sprigs and twigs took on a more elaborate affair with homemade paper decorations and colourful paper chains appearing in homes.

While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book ‘A Christmas Carol’ is credited with helping to popularise the traditions of the festival. Its themes of family, charity, goodwill, and happiness encapsulate the spirit of the Victorian Christmas and remain central to the Christmas we celebrate.

Between 1843 and 1848, Dickens published five Christmas novellas, one of which was to become one of the most oft filmed, staged, read, sung, repeated, copied, adapted Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol’ was written in October to November and published in December of 1843. By January of 1844 it was on its third edition. In February, the first theatrical production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ took place with a further eight productions appearing in quick succession. In the years that followed Dickens published ‘The Chimes’ in 1844, ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ in 1845, ‘The Battle of Life’ in 1846 and after a break of a year which he is said to have regretted, ‘The Haunted Man and the Ghost Bargain’ in 1848.

As well as being a prodigious talent, Dickens was a canny businessman and for all the later Christmas novellas, the theatrical production opened on the same day as the book publication.

Dickens was the owner and editor of two literary magazines, ‘Household Words’ and then ‘All the Year Round’, where serialisations of his stories appeared along with contributions by other writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins. In both magazines, Dickens regularly wrote Christmas stories and special Christmas issues were produced.

There are many Christmas tales in the Library by Dickens and others, why not borrow one today?

 

With thanks to our colleagues in Museums and Galleries Edinburgh and Information and Learning Resources for lending us the many curios included in the display.

 

Christmas and New Year opening hours

Libraries’ opening hours over the festive period:

Saturday 23 December – normal hours
Monday 25 December – closed
Tuesday 26 December – closed
Wednesday 27 December – normal hours
Thursday 28 December – normal hours
Friday 29 December – normal hours
Saturday 30 December – normal hours
Monday 1 January – closed
Tuesday 2 January – closed
Wednesday 3 January onwards – normal hours

Don’t forget, you can download free ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers from Your Library throughout the holidays.

With very best wishes for the season from Edinburgh Libraries.