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.

 

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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!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28TH, CENTRAL LIBRARY, 10.30AM

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

or email informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

 

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!

Edinburgh City Libraries is positive about dyslexia

Edinburgh City Libraries has an exciting programme on offer for Dyslexia Awareness Week,  6-11 November 2017.

Dyslexia Scotland logo

Central Library will have a one-off showing of the Film ‘Read Me Differently:understanding learning disabilities in family life ’ by Sarah Entine on 8 November.

Stockbridge Library will host an event on 9 November Can’t read won’t read…does this sound familiar? Where experts will be on hand to give advice on choosing dyslexia friendly books for kids and teens. Also on 9 November come along and join us for a special event for Dyslexia Awareness Week, Positive about dyslexia.  The MC is Paul McNeill, Dyslexia Scotland Ambassador and Regional Head for the Scottish Football Association who will introduce author Margaret Rooke talking about her new book ‘Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time)’ and musician and songwriter Adam Strachan. Dyslexia Scotland will also be launching the new ‘Dyslexia Unwrapped’ website for young people with dyslexia at the event.

There will also be events for schools taking place during the week.

Find our more, and book to join us at these these events.

Central Library to host display inspired by the British Library’s new exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Library network launches Harry Potter-inspired displays across UK

From Saturday 21st October 2017, visitors will be able to discover fascinating facts about the History of Magic at Edinburgh’s Central Library. Displays will launch simultaneously in 20 public libraries across the UK in tandem with the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at the British Library in London.

The series of displays across the UK will include specially designed panels which are inspired by Harry Potter: A History of Magic, 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 and Bloomsbury’s own collections. Edinburgh’s local connections to magic and folklore will be showcased too, and will include ancient books from the Royal Observatory, magical herbs from the Royal Botanic Gardens and other amazing artefacts from the library’s archives.

A series of events celebrating the exhibition will also take place across the city over the coming months, ranging from a visit by Hedwig and Pigwidgeon look-alikes from the Scottish Owl Centre, Magic School tutorials and magic stage make-up lessons in different libraries.

The displays have been developed by the British Library in collaboration with public libraries through the Living Knowledge Network, an innovative partnership between the British Library and 22 major public libraries across the UK, and the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, combining centuries-old British Library treasures with original material from Bloomsbury’s and J.K. Rowling’s own archives. Based on the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, this exhibition will showcase material from J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury’s own collections, going on display for the very first time.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education, Children and Families Convener, said: “This fantastic display is set to capture the minds of Harry Potter fans young and old, so we’re extremely pleased to be working with the British Library to bring its magic to the capital.

“As an ancient city, Edinburgh itself is steeped in folklore, so it is particularly fitting to bring the book’s enchantment to our historic Central Library. What’s more, we’ll be running a range of exciting events across the city in celebration of the exhibition, which I would thoroughly recommend.”

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said of the project:

“We are delighted to be working with 20 different public libraries across the UK to share our exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. The Living Knowledge Network is all about sharing resources, skills and ideas to make our intellectual heritage available to everyone and here we’ve championed what lies at the heart of the Harry Potter stories that resonates deeply with people across the country to achieve this. The roll-out truly encapsulates the convening power of bringing local and national treasures together through the partners.”

We are delighted to be working with 20 different public libraries across the UK to share our exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. Using stunning mobile panels inspired by the exhibition, these Living Knowledge Network partners will draw on their own collections and regional connections to magical traditions and folklore to make displays, and I look forward to seeing the results.

Sharing our exhibition in this way is the best possible demonstration of our aims for the Living Knowledge Network, which brings together libraries from across the UK to inspire audiences, share knowledge and to celebrate the transformative and enduring power of libraries.”

#BLHarryPotter

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: George Washington Browne

Having won a travel scholarship in 1878, the young architect George Washington Browne went to Paris, where he was inspired by the city’s fairy tale gothic design. Later he would use the buildings of this romantic city as his model for Edinburgh Central Library, submitting a design inspired by French renaissance architecture. On winning the competition – his entry was selected from thirty-seven – he created a magnificent stone building, standing three levels tall above George IV Bridge and reaching down to the Cowgate below. The building therefore spans Edinburgh’s disjointed streets, taking into account the multilevel nature of this hilly city.

Architectural drawing of Central Library by George Washington Browne

Beginning his architectural career as an apprentice in Glasgow aged sixteen, George Washington Browne worked for and with many architects before striking out on his own. As well as Edinburgh Central Library, Washington Browne also designed The Sick Kids Hospital in Marchmont, St Andrews House in the east of the city and Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

While Washington Browne’s professional life was one of glory and success, his personal life was marked by tragedy. His first wife died young, leaving him the sole parent of three sons. Two of his sons were later killed in World War One. His surviving son having sustained serious injuries during the war died from a subsequent infection several years later.

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

Robert Butchart: City Librarian

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian