Two artists, one war: Muirhead Bone and Louis Raemaekers

Central Library’s latest display shows two very different artistic perspectives on World War One.

Although commissioned by the War Propaganda Bureau, the drawings of Britain’s first official war artist, Muirhead Bone, give a restricted eye witness account of life on the front line. He depicts the quiet desolation of the aftermath of battle rather than the gruesome reality of conflict.

A Via Dolorosa, Mouquet Farm

A Via Dolorosa: Mouquet Farm, by Muirhead Bone, 1917

Louis Raemaekers approach is startlingly different. His cartoons, produced for the Amsterdam Telegraaf, criticised German brutality and leadership and supported the Allied cause. They combine biting critique, comical satire and hideous characterisations.

The Bill by Louis Raemaekers, 1917

The Bill by Louis Raemaekers, 1917

Two artists, one war is on display on the mezzanine level of Central Library until 26th May.

You can also explore many more works by the two artists on Capital Collections: Muirhead Bone and World War One and  Louis Raemaekers and World War One.

Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book

With the release of the new Jungle Book film fast approaching, we thought we’d let you see the magical illustrations in our collection by Maurice and Edward Julius Detmold.  This set of 16 prints illustrating Kipling’s stories is considered one of the brothers’ greatest joint artworks and you can browse them all on Capital Collections.

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If you’ve only ever seen the Disney classic of the Jungle Book, why not get ahead and read the original stories that inspired these pictures and the film adaptations? The Jungle Book is available to download on Overdrive – our free ebook service.

Wm. Cummings and Son and a lost industry of Leith Walk

We recently received a donation of some fascinating archive material relating to Wm Cummings & Son, who manufactured boxes on their premises at Murano Place.

This donation came to us from our friends at the Living Memory Association, and we were especially grateful because it adds to a collection of material on the firm which was already held by Edinburgh City Archives. The story is still, however, incomplete – and we’re hoping that’s where you come in!

More of that later. First, here’s a quick history of the company:

William Cummings founded his box making business in 1876. The enterprise had expanded by 1888 to premises covering an area of 80 feet by 80 feet and buildings four stories high. The ground floor was taken up with the sawmill machinery – numerous circular saws of all different types. Once cut to size, the prepared boards were taken to the second story by a steam-powered hoist where the boxes were formed using a box-nailing machine.

Sawmill department of Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd

Sawmill department of Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd, c1898

Also on the first floor was a machine invented by Mr Cummings for ‘dressing off’ the finished box. It was reported in the Timber Trades Journal of 1889 that Mr Cummings was ‘ever at work devising means for the saving of labour and producing work of greater efficiency, and thereby enabling his manufactures to be produced at a minimum of cost’.

On the 3rd floor the boxes for export were given their metal lining and the top floor was used as a store area for drying and seasoning the turned and finished goods. All the machines across the building were driven by a 40 horse power engine. The premises also included offices, stables and a work yard piled high with stocks of raw materials. The company benefitted from its close proximity to Leith Docks were supplies came and went.

Group portrait of female staff workers at Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd

Female workers at Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd. box makers, c1900

The 1891 census shows William living with his family at Rosslyn Street (now Crescent), a short walk from Leith Walk. He’s aged 40 and widowed, the head of a family of 3 sons and 4 daughters. His eldest son, Andrew is 16 and working as an apprentice clerk (presumably in the family business) and his youngest child is Minnie aged 2. The next year, William Cummings has died leaving his son, Andrew to look after the practicalities of running the business at only 17 years of age.

In 1900, Andrew Cummings formally took responsibility for the firm and changed the name to Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd. In 1907 there were 150 employees across the different departments of sawmill, home and export case, confectionery box, tin lining, fancy paper box, leatherboard box and turning department. Under the direction of Andrew Cummings the firm continued to apply mechanical innovations and labour saving devices to improve efficiency.

Wm. Cummings & Son delivery van, Palace of Holyrood

Wm. Cummings & Son Ltd delivery van at gates to Palace of Holyrood, 1949

The company was still in operation into the late 1960s but we’re not sure when the business folded. Maybe you can help us? Do you remember the factory on Murano Place or know someone who worked there? We’d love to hear from you if you can tell us more.

You can browse all the amazing pictures of this bygone era of working life on Capital Collections.

The Wm. Cummings & Son collection is now being kept securely altogether at Edinburgh City Archives.

26 Children’s Winters goes online!

Our friends in Edinburgh Museums and Galleries have added a gorgeous exhibition of childhood memories of winter to Capital Collections.

26 Children’s Winters is an exciting exhibition which captures the intangible memories of childhood – tingling cold hands, rainy day boredom, the excitement of opening presents, the whizz and bang of fireworks – through objects from the Museum of Childhood’s collection, and writings inspired by them by the ‘26’ group of writers.

We gather - Board Games

‘…five I really need a five come on roll!’, from the accompanying sestude by Mandy Lee

For the full evocative experience, you can see the chosen objects alongside the writings on display at the Museum of Childhood until April 10th 2016.

Could this be the first ever panoramic view?

Sometime in the mid-1780s, Robert Barker was out for a walk on Calton Hill when it occurred to him how it might be possible to record the cityscape – the entire 360 degree view from one spot. The idea was to use a fixed square frame, and to draw the view seen through it, rotate the frame and draw the next section and so on until returned to the starting point. And so, he instructed his 12 year old son, Henry Aston to draw the scenes.

Panoramic view from Calton Hill (section 6)

Barker discovered that the viewing experience was to be as important as the picture itself. He devised a circular viewing space which would display a large-scale painting made from Henry’s drawings. The space would be lit from above, with a fixed viewing platform in the middle accessed from below. He took a patent out on this ‘entire new Contrivance’.  At the second attempt, he secured financial backing for the project and a larger version of the image was painted on canvas measuring 25 feet in diameter. It first went on display in 1788 and was exhibited in different locations in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The principal established and patent acquired, this new way of seeing the world had arrived!

Barker turned his sights on London, where he hoped to establish a long-term enterprise. He sent Henry to draw the view of the city from a roof on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge. This time the depiction was to be bigger and better.

The London viewings were very successful and it was only then that friends of Barker coined the word panorama to mean ‘all embracing view’ and the invention was fully fledged.  In 1792, Barker built a rotunda according to his patent design, named the Panorama. It was able to exhibit two panorama paintings, one 90 feet in diameter on the ground floor and another 50 feet in diameter on the upper level. Spectators were charged one shilling per panorama. To a general populace unfamiliar with visual imagery or travel impact of the all-encompassing view must have been spellbinding.

The business thrived and Henry Aston, who was the chief artist for the panoramas made several trips abroad to record panoramic views of cities and depictions of battle scenes.  When Barker’s patent expired in 1801, other businesses were able to spring up and panoramas were exhibited in London, and other large towns and cities and toured to the United States. Henry Aston took over the business when his father died in 1806. He focused when possible, on topical scenes and his depiction of the Battle of Waterloo was so successful that it contributed to his early retirement at the age of 48.
Zoom into Panorama The version we have of the panorama from Calton Hill is a six part reproduction of the painting aquatinted by J. Wells dating from 1790. With the aid of 21st century technology our photographer has stitched the panorama sections together so that you can traverse the city scene from over 200 years ago! Zoom into the detail (by clicking on the picture with Capital Collections) and see if you can spot the women drying their washing on Calton Hill, the Botanic Cottage on Leith Walk, the pottery kilns at Leith and the strangely Modernist structures and neatly kept garden of the City Observatory.

Browse the sections and the complete panorama on Capital Collections.

Discover more about Barker’s Panorama phenomenon at The Regency Redingote blog.

An Edinburgh home guard mystery

When Marjory Langdon was sorting through her possessions in preparation for moving house she was not expecting to unearth a mystery hidden for over 70 years. In a spare bedroom cupboard she found a framed drawing of an exotic looking lady. She thought she’d check if there was any information about the sitter on the back of the drawing. What she found instead though, tucked behind the portrait, was an Edinburgh newspaper from 1940 which concealed a hand-drawn map of Edinburgh relating to the Second World War.
Local Defence Volunteers posts and road blocksThe map of the Mortonhall area was a detailed plan of Local Defence Volunteer (LDV) posts and road blocks. The LDV or Home Guard as they are better known had a strong presence throughout this city, but the map focussed on two platoons based at Mortonhall. It may have been felt that there was a greater need for the LDV to be based around this area as there was an army camp built here. The camp may have been a prisoner of war camp, but it is more likely that it was for displaced Europeans.

Home Guard 1940 Home Guards patrol a section of canal in Edinburgh in a motor boat armed with rifles and a mounted Lewis gun, 19 October 1940.

Home Guard 1940, patrolling the Union Canal. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums –

Mrs Langdon was kind enough to donate her discoveries to Edinburgh Libraries along with some family photographs of Home Guard battalions. This sparked our imagination to find out more about Edinburgh’s own Dad’s Army. By 1940 4000 men had volunteered in Edinburgh and although often the butt of jokes i.e. that LDV stood for the Look, Duck and Vanish Brigade, they did serious work in Edinburgh such as creating the first Home Guard Anti-Aircraft rocket batteries and bringing down a German plane.

Edinburgh's 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

Edinburgh’s 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

See our Capital Collection’s Edinburgh’s Home Guard exhibition to read about what it was like to be a member of the LDV in Edinburgh and and to see the full suite of images including the mystery lady in the drawing.

Wester Hailes Library’s community archive

When the West Edinburgh Times folded in 2008 due to loss of funding, its holdings of press cuttings and photographs were divided between Prospect Community Housing and Wester Hailes Library.

Children playing in front of housing, Wester Hailes

We’ve digitised some highlights from the Library’s fantastic picture archive and made them available via Capital Collections. The images show the neighbourhood during the eighties and nineties and depict all sides of life in the housing estate from dilapidated living conditions, sports teams and new infrastructure and technology to joyous Fun Runners and Gala Day goers in fancy dress. The production and distribution of The Sentinel (the West Edinburgh Times’ predecessor) is also documented.

Young boy crossing finish line, Wester Hailes fun run

Wester Hailes Library plans to hold an event where they’ll be inviting the community to come in and see if they can help put names to faces. In the meantime, if you spot someone you know in the photos online, let us know! Contact Wester Hailes Library if you’d like to find out more about the community archive or access the collection.

You can see more pictures from the Wester Hailes community newspaper archives shared by Prospect Community Housing on Edinburgh Collected. Browse these fantastic photos and memories of living, working and playing in Wester Hailes, or add your own!