Randolph Caldecott: An illustrator’s perspective

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, Randolph Caldecott: An illustrator’s perspective, was created by Ashley Burch an Art History postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. She completed the research for the exhibition as part of the collaborative internship programme between the University and Central Library.

Ashley was drawn to the Library’s children’s illustrated books collection and in particular to the work of Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886). Caldecott is perhaps best known for his children’s book illustrations that feature traditional nursery rhymes and songs, however this exhibition centres on images from the ‘Sketchbook of R. Caldecott’s’ (1883) and the posthumous ‘Graphic Pictures’ (1891). Both books are designed to give the impression of a diary or travel journal and are supplemented with Caldecott’s own written excerpts. This technique gives viewers the chance to experience Caldecott’s thought processes as he created his illustrations.

Mr. Chumley's holidays

Many of the sketches in this exhibition serve as a reflection of the life and style of the English middle- and upper-middle classes in the Victorian era. The image taken from ‘Mr. Chumley’s Holidays’, describes Caldecott’s observations of life and romance acquired while travelling to resorts in England and abroad.

Caldecott characteristically portrayed individuals, many of who were well-known acquaintances, as they went about their daily activities. This exhibition, An illustrator’s perspective, seeks to not only illuminate the carefree jovial tone of Caldecott’s work, but also provide a glimpse of the man behind the illustrations.

Video: our Japanese treasure

The second in our series of short films exploring the Henry Dyer Collection focuses on an extraordinary Japanese artwork from the early eighteenth century.

Thanks to funding from the Sumitomo Foundation the scroll is now being conserved at Restorient Studios in Leiden, but you can see the surrogate scroll, together with other rare items from the an event next month in Central Library

Items from the Henry Dyer Collection is your chance to see some of the most unique items from our collection up close – book now to guarantee yourself a place.

And if you can’t make it along you can always view these close-up images of the scroll, or find out more about Henry Dyer and his connection with Edinburgh City Libraries.

How we’re rescuing our photograph collection with a hairdryer

IMG_4429Edinburgh Libraries is home to a collection of around 100 000 photographs.

We want these pictures to be seen by as many people as possible, so back in 2007 we started digitising photos and uploading them to the Capital Collections website.

But would you believe the everyday hairdryer has become an integral part of the process? Here’s how.

We discovered that many of the images had been mounted using sticky tape and in some cases the glue was starting to mark the image.

Around 80% of the collection was affected, many more than we could ever afford to have conserved by a professional.  Fortunately the glue had not yet seeped through to the image on most of the items but we needed to take action quickly.

Working with EDFAS (Edinburgh Decorative Fine Art Society) we recruited a dedicated team of volunteers who have been using a relatively low-tech tool to help remove the glue and help save the images. That tool being a hairdryer.

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Edinburgh Libraries’ Janette Gollan explains the process: “We are working on prints that belong to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection within Central LIbrary. The prints haven’t been mounted very well  in the past so we take off the tape and remove the glue. The  hairdryers are used to soften the glue first then we can rub off the residue.   

The vastness of the collection means it’s a task we’d never be able to complete ourselves so the volunteers have been very valuable to us. It’s allowing us to preserve these prints for posterity and digitise them for public access.”

Volunteer Trina adds: “Some photos had quite a bit of residue on them so it could take a while. It’s a fairly intricate process as well and some days you could spend all morning on one photograph.”

So far they’ve got through about 4000 prints, helping save our collection for future generations and in the process of doing that they get a sneak peek at some wonderful shots of Edinburgh’s past.

“Some that stuck in my mind were the ones of Leith during blitz” Trina says. “None of us had realised just how badly Leith had been bombed. It’s photos like this that remind you of the importance in preserving  these moments of history for future generations”

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Bomb damage on Portland Place

Hilary agrees that the history they uncover to be very engaging: “ We’ve had great fun looking on websites locating photographs and finding out about places we didn’t know about.”

“One of the things I’ve just discovered is Sciennes Hill House where the historical meeting between Robert Burns and Walter Scott took place.  It was a house in the country with a long drive and now you can’t see the front of it unless you peer over a wall as it’s been built around so much. It’s lovely discovering things like that.”

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At the moment the hairdryers have been put to one side and the group are working on mounting photographs and adding relevant information to them.

When asked about the size of the collection, Irene laughs, joking that maybe Janette’s been keeping that from them.  “I’ve a feeling there’s some way to go yet” she says.

Once the photographs have been cleaned up and remounted they make their way to our photographer for digitisation. Images can then be viewed at capitalcollections.org.uk

Bertram Ltd. of Sciennes

Bertram Limited, Sciennes was founded in 1821 in Edinburgh and soon developed into a major manufacturer of papermaking machinery.

Brothers George and William Bertram set up a workshop near Sciennes with a few machines and a small forge, later moving to new, larger premises around 1859 to a site which it was to occupy for over a century.

St Katherine's Works

Bertrams was a very family orientated company where you’d find several members of the same family working alongside each other. They produced The Bertrams Family Magazine where in each issue, were published photos and articles about the company’s many social activities and sports teams.

Bertram Family Magazine

Our collection has been made possible thanks to Bill Hall who followed his father and uncle into the Bertrams workplace and who shared with us many of his own personal photographs taken throughout his family’s time there.

Staff on roof of Bertrams

Bill’s father, Joe (top row centre) and Uncle Willie (top row right) with colleagues on Bertrams roof.

See the full Bertrams exhibition online at Capital Collections.

The Moromasa Scroll conservation project – 1 year on

Edinburgh Libraries and Information Services are excited to announce that the Moromasa Scroll project has completed its first year. Even more thrilling, the Sumitomo Foundation have generously awarded a further grant for £17,500 to finish the conservation of the Moromasa Scroll.

Moromasa Scroll in workshop

Conservator at work on the Moromasa Scroll in the Leiden studio.

The scroll which was brought to light 2 years ago in Edinburgh Central Library has turned out to be a real treasure and an artwork of national importance.  As such, securing its future was vitally important.  Academics and specialists have supported this work, and have visited the scroll whilst it is away from home in Leiden at the Restorient Studio.

One of the visiting academics has gone the extra mile and handmade a traditional roller for the scroll.  None were available commercially even in Japan.  In return, with its illustration of Kabuki and puppet theatre scenes, the scroll has given researchers information about Japanese theatre they had not previously found elsewhere.

Detail of the roller of the Moromasa Scroll

Detail of the roller of the Moromasa Scroll

And the story is not yet over. The scroll is currently in 10 pieces! No need to worry though, this has been done so it can be rejoined on new lining papers. Its silk cover will be replaced and its silver decoration brought back to life for what should make it a real showstopper.

Silvering on cloud detail and the scroll's silk cover

Detail from scroll shows silvering on cloud design on left and the silk cover on right

We shall be following progress closely and will keep you updated until the scroll returns safely to Edinburgh Central Library. Many thanks to everyone who is helping to restore the scroll to its original splendour.

You can see images of the scroll online at Capital Collections where you can zoom into the incredible detail of life in early 18th century Edo (Tokyo).

You can catch up on the Scroll story so far with these earlier blog posts:

Forth Rail Bridge

March 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the Forth Rail Bridge. Currently awaiting the outcome of a UNESCO World Heritage site nomination, there is little doubt that the Forth Rail Bridge’s iconic status extends far beyond Scotland.

However, the Forth Rail Bridge may have looked very different.

 

In 1879 during a dreadful storm, the navigation spans collapsed on the Tay Bridge. A train had been crossing the bridge at the time and over 70 lives were lost. The Tay Bridge had been designed by Thomas Bouch, the engineer employed on the new Forth Rail Bridge and so, a decision was made to halt construction on the Bridge only shortly after it had begun.

To allay the fears of the public in the wake of the Tay disaster the revised structure of the Forth Bridge was designed to be both visually impressive and enormously strong. Work restarted on a new cantilever design by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker.

 

The creation of the monumental structure came at a heavy price. In addition to the high economic cost of roughly £2.5 million, more than 60 men lost their lives whilst working on the bridge. Our latest Capital Collections exhibition includes material from our Libraries’ collections and also from the Queensferry Museum. Browse awe-inspiring pictures of the Bridge in mid-construction, views from high amongst the girders and photos of some of the men who risked their lives to realise this feat of Victorian engineering.

 

 

Streets and Canals in Venice

There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden…..
Mary Shelley

Our latest online exhibition is taken from a volume published by Ferdinando Ongania in 1893 who was inspired to record the architecture of his beloved city for the ‘studious art loving public’.

The Venetian GondolaBrowse the images and meander the narrow streets and waterways of a less well-known side of Venice. Although you will see images of gondolas they are of a time when unlike today they normally contained an intimate “felze”, a small cabin on the deck.

There is also an image of the Regata Storia where thousands of people line the streets, gather on bridges and watch from every possible vantage point.  This centuries old event is still as popular today as when this photograph was taken.

Waiting for the Regatta

We also witness women pulling water from the well to fill the tub for the daily washing while nearby men with pipes firmly clenched between teeth can be seen with tools of their trade.

Campicello, Little field

Explore the beautiful Street and Canals in Venice exhibition on Capital Collections.