War artist drawings from our Special Collections

Our latest World War One exhibition on Capital Collections is a selection of images by Britain’s first official war artist, Muirhead Bone.

Sir W. Muirhead Bone, a Glasgow-born printmaker and draughtsman, was sent to document the Western Front in France from 1916, at the height of the Somme Offensive, until 1917 as part of a government scheme. The images were first published in Country Life, a British weekly magazine.

The Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme

While the Foreign Office and Charles Masterman had established a secret agency to disseminate British propaganda, called Wellington House, which became known at the War Propaganda Bureau (WPB), in 1914; the idea of a ‘war artist’ developed in April 1916 when a pictorial section of the publication, The War Pictorial, was established.  In May 1916, William Rothenstein, a British painter, suggested to Masterman that Bone be recruited to act as the first official war artist and was commissioned as an honorary second lieutenant. Originally, Bone’s appointment was only to provide pictorial propaganda for a few publications; however, he continued his work for the WPB after returning to England in December 1916 by drawing shipyards and battleships then revisited France in 1917 to draw ruined towns and villages.

The Seven Cranes

The Seven Cranes

Since these images were commissioned as pictorial propaganda by the WPB, Bone was constrained in what he drew because of the strict control over the subject matter. Apparent in these drawings is Bone’s focus on the military life behind the lines – the everyday duties of the soldiers and medical core; landscapes; military industrial yards; and ruined towns – the desolation of the aftermath of battles rather than gruesome realities of the dead and dying.

Ruins of Ypres

Ruins of Ypres

Bone’s skill as a draughtsman allowed him to quickly capture, in great detail, the sheer scale of the war, the devastation of France and Belgium and the tedium of the daily life of a soldier waiting for battle.

View the full exhibition on Capital Collections.

The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 3 of 3

From one public library in 1890 there are now 28 branches across the city each providing an important service to the community. As well as providing access to information, libraries soon became places to gather and attend events.

Edinburgh’s newest libraries at Drumbrae and Craigmillar have developed this idea with the library housed in a community hub where members of the community can also access other council services.

17218322096_d7af82c38c_k

Drumbrae Library Hub

Craigmillar Library

East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library

There’s always been more to the library than books on shelves. In Edinburgh, libraries have played host to some great events and celebrations over the years.  The recent development of Edinburgh Reads has seen numerous author events take place across the city.

Story hour at McDonald Road Library

Story hour at McDonald Road Library, 1962

 

16931958283_ddaa058a24_h

Ian Rankin and Jeffery Deaver at an Edinburgh Reads event

On opening the library’s catalogue was listed in books. Technology has come a long way since then.  Computerisation came in 1974 when Central Fiction began lending through an offline system. Public internet access was introduced in 1998 and now all libraries have WiFi. Readers can also access services through a mobile app and a growing collection of electronic resources and e-books are accessible online and through mobile devices.

Public access internet launch in Central Library

Public access internet launch in Central Library

Brodie's Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

Brodie’s Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Reproduction of Bruce J. Home pencil drawing from ‘Old Houses in Edinburgh’. One of the many treasures you can find on Capital Collections.

Over the years, a number of donations have helped shape the special collections held by Edinburgh Libraries. Particular highlights of this collection include the Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese woodblock prints, woodblock printed volumes and painted scrolls; the personal items bequeathed by Charles Boog Watson. Robert Butchart and Thomas Ross as well as an extensive collection of early photography documenting Victorian Edinburgh.

Many of these items form the backbone of Capital Collections, our online image database.

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

 

The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 2 of 3

In 1922 Dr Ernest Savage took over as principal librarian and transformed the service in almost every aspect.  He introduced direct access to the books for the public (something previously forbidden). The Library of Congress Classification system was introduced and the specialist departments of Music and Fine Art were established.

Other branches continued to appear across the city with Leith opening in 1932, Colinton in 1934 and Corstorphine 1936.

Leith Library

Leith Library, 1932

Central Library, Reference Department

Central Library, Reference Department, 1932

Libraries took to the roads with the introduction of the first mobile service in Scotland in 1949 serving areas without permanent library buildings.

The reach of the library also increased with the introduction of a housebound service in 1964 through cooperation with WRVS volunteers. A library link service was launched in 1992 providing transport to and from the library for users who, due to physical constraints, would be otherwise unable to visit.

Mobile library at Clermiston_ Morris 5 tonner

Mobile library at Clermiston circa 1955

Housebound readers service inauguration

Housebound readers service inauguration, 1964

Over the years the library service has maintained an archive of its own history and development. Numerous photographs depict the staff at work and also off duty. Plans, drawings and staff registers all help paint a vivid image of the libraries’ history.

Member of staff at the information desk in Central Library

At the information desk in Central Library, 1934

Members of staff pose for a photograph at Central Library's annual staff dance

Central Library Staff Dance, 1936

At work in Edinburgh Public Libraries' Bindery Department

At work in the Bindery, 1955

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

The story of Edinburgh Libraries. Part 1 of 3

Original Architectural Drawing of Central Library

Original Architectural Drawing of Central Library

On 9 June 1890 the doors to the first public library in Edinburgh opened to the public.

In the run up to our 125th anniversary we’ll take a look at some of the significant developments which have taken place over that time.

Andrew Carnegie layse the foundation stone of the Edinburgh Free Library

Andrew Carnegie lays the foundation stone of the Edinburgh Free Library

Edinburgh was the last Scottish city to adopt the Public Libraries Act doing so in 1886 when Andrew Carnegie donated £50,000 to the city to build a free library. Building commenced in 1887 and was completed in 1890. The building was designed by architect George Washington Browne in a French Renaissance style.

‘Let there be light’ is carved above the entrance; something Carnegie insisted should appear on all libraries he funded. Other notable features on the building’s facade include three large roundels depicting the coat of arms of the City of Edinburgh, the arms of Scotland and the royal arms. Nine small square reliefs run along the building relating to the history of printing in Scotland.

One of nine small square reliefs on the exterior of Edinburgh Central Library

One of nine small square reliefs on the exterior of Edinburgh Central Library

The library opened with three departments: Reference, Lending and the Newsroom. Hew Morrison was appointed principal librarian in 1887. In his 34 years in post he was responsible for developing central library and five branch libraries.  A bequest of £50,000 from publisher Thomas Nelson in 1891 funded the development of branches at Dundee Street (1897), Stockbridge (1900), McDonald Road (1904) and St Leonards (1914). Morningside opened in 1905.

McDonald Road Library in 1912

McDonald Road Library in 1912

 

Find out how much you know about Edinburgh Libraries with this quick, fun quiz

masthead quiz

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.

IMG_4424

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.”

IMG_4435

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