Strangers from a strange land

The Rare Books Edinburgh festival is dedicated to rare, important books and the history of the book.

In support of the festival, Central Library is putting on a display of special books entitled ‘Strangers from a Strange Land’. The exhibition showcases books which started life in faraway places and have travelled to Scotland and found a home on the shelves of Edinburgh Libraries.

One of the highlights on display is a Latin edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle printed in 1493.

Visit the exhibition on the Mezzanine at Central Library until 26 March 2018 for a rare chance to see these gems from our collections.



Macmillan information and engagement event

We are delighted to invite you to Macmillan@Edinburgh Libraries first information and engagement event at Central Library.

Come along from 11am-2pm on Thursday 15th March to hear from Michaelagh Broadbent, author of My Daddy is a Superhero; and John Young, author of Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist;  talking about differing cancer perspectives.

A light lunch and refreshments are available throughout the day; along with information from a range of Macmillan programmes and cancer charities. Our programme team and some of our lovely volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about our programme, and copies of our annual report will be available on the day. We hope that you can find the time to drop in.

Please book your place on Eventbrite


The Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland – an early travel guide

As you can imagine, we have thousands of books in our collections in Central Library. Most are on the shelves ready to be picked up and read or just looked at. However, there’s a large part of our collection which is kept behind the scenes to protect from too much handling.

The downside of this is that few people get to see them, and so now and again we like to show off some of these hidden gems from our collections.


One of these is a small half leather bound volume titled Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland which was published in 1788 by the British engraver and archaeologist Adam de Cardonnel. Inside the book which contains part one and two of a four part set, we find a preface by de Cardonnel himself where he states,

the work was at first intended to have been on a much larger scale, and I had finished several of the plates; but at the particular desire of a learned author, I reduced the size, and altered my plan, as better adapted to the convenience of travellers, who wish to be acquainted with a few circumstances relating to the ruins they may chance to visit”.

So, this was a sort of early travel guide, small enough to be packed in the traveller’s bag and filled with information relating to the sites that were at the time of writing, mostly in ruins. De Cardonnel had served as curator of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1782 to 1784, and being both an engraver and an archaeologist, he was well suited to produce such volumes.


Why not have a look for yourselves and explore the contents of this book online – you’ve probably even visited a few!

You can view all the engravings from this delightful 18th century book on Capital Collections.













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.


Shopping online for beginners!

Never ventured into the world of shopping online? Don’t trust it? Frightened of scams? Come along to our “How To” presentation and workshop – bring along your tablet/laptop – we won’t be doing any actual shopping on the day but we can take you through the things to look out for to keep it all safe and we will also show you typical/well known shopping sites and the simple steps involved in using them. . . . all just in time for Christmas!


Limited places available, contact Kenny Sharkey on 242 8124 / 07809320432

or email


Art & cookery – from Syria and other countries to Edinburgh

An exhibition opens 4 November on the Central Library Staircase, running until 29 displaying art work from an art and cookery project organised by City of Edinburgh Council Lifelong Learning, uniting adult education students from various countries  – Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Scotland – including Syrian and Syrian Kurdish families (refugees) who had only been recently, resettled to Edinburgh.

Sharing favourite foods, cooking techniques and recipes made the group come together very easily, supported by two experienced Italian chefs /adult education tutors.

Artists and adult education tutors Susie Wilson and Justine Woycicka led the art work of the project. Using various different techniques of drawing and printmaking, the students made images inspired by both their experiences of cooking, and the stories connected to these recipes.

Students learnt how to make a book structure to keep their favourite recipes and incorporate their images and words into the pages and covers. Each student could contribute to a collaborative recipe book as well as making a smaller book for themselves.

The project was funded and part of Trans-nationalising Modern Languages: Mobility Identity and Translation in Modern Italian Cultures: a 3 year project funded by the Art and Humanities Research Council and involved researchers at St Andrews, Queen Margaret, Bristol, Cardiff and Warwick Universities.

Just mad about Harry

Harry Potter’s having an amazing year, not only is the first book 20 years old, but the British Library have been joining in the celebration with their Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. We’ve got our own display in the Central Library featuring specially designed panels, showing images of rare books, manuscripts and magical objects featured in the British Library’s exhibition, as well as images of material from J.K. Rowling’s own collection. Best part is the selfie opportunities though – its not every day you get to dress up in a robe and get your photo taken with Professor Snape!


If you want to find out more about the British Library’s exhibition why not checkout Harry Potter: A History of Magic: The Enhanced eBook of the Exhibition and Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic. These two ebooks are now available through our OverDrive  service and form part of our extensive collection of Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks.

All seven Harry Potter books are available on our OverDrive site in both ebook and audiobook format. You’ll also find spin-off titles such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemHarry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Hogwarts Library Collection and The Hogwarts Collection. So why not re-read these special books or get hooked on Harry for the first time!