Sketching the city

We were delighted when Sketchnthecity allowed the Central Library to exhibit a large-scale sketch of Edinburgh. The sketch is the 3rd in the ‘69 cities’ project to sketch all 69 cities across the UK.

Artist Carl Lavia says: “Each artwork is a celebration for the people who live, work and simply love the city”.

Artist Carl Lavia at work on a large-scale Edinburgh cityscape sketch

And now, we’re thrilled to report that the Sketchnthecity project partnership of Carl ‘Sketch’ Lavia and photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel have kindly allowed us to share images of the amazing Edinburgh sketch on Capital Collections.

We thought we’d take the opportunity to delve into our collections and uncover how artists have captured views of the city through the years. So our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, entitled Sketching the City, showcases views of the awesome Sketchnthecity drawing alongside historical sketches from our archives.

Click to zoom into the incredible detailed drawing!

Remember, you can visit the phenomenal Sketchnthecity drawing of Edinburgh’s city centre at Central Library until the end of September 2018.

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Chocks away!

We thought we’d end our short series on early flight pictures with a quick fly-by over Edinburgh. Our journey takes in Calton Hill, the New Town, travelling west over the West End and Water of Leith to Craigleith Quarry before looping back to the docks at Leith.

Enjoy these simply breath-taking views of 1930s Edinburgh from the air.

Calton Hill from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Castle Street and George Street.

Castle Street and George Street from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

West End of Edinburgh and Water of Leith

West End and Water of Leith from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Craigleith Quarry (aerial view)

Craigleith Quarry from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

Leith Docks from the air

Leith Docks from the air. Click on the picture to zoom in!

To view more great pictures of early flight in Edinburgh and beyond and to zoom into the incredible detail browse the full exhibition of early aviators and their flying machines on Capital Collections.

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Early aviators and their flying machines

Daredevils and wing-walkers

Early aviators and their flying machines

We’re delighted to launch a new exhibition on Capital Collections hosting a collection of glass lantern slides documenting early flight in Edinburgh and beyond.

Airspeed Ferry in flight, c1936. Granton Harbour in distance

The early days of flight had many intrepid characters and designs of flying machines. The Wright brothers of the USA and Louis Bleriot of France are well known but there are many others who dedicated time and money to achieving the seemingly impossible.

In the early 1900s as new aircraft were developed, Air Races with considerable cash prizes were sponsored by newspapers in the United States and the UK. The Daily Mail newspaper was a leading sponsor of air races, using the events to both promote the newspaper and to encourage the development of aviation.

A model aeroplane competition took place at Alexandra Palace in London in 1907 where Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe won all three prizes on offer. Just two years later, Louis Bleriot became world-famous for making the first flight across the English Channel and claimed the £1000 prize money offered by the Daily Mail.

Louis Bleriot prepares for his cross channel flight

The stakes were much higher in 1911 when a frenchman flying under the name of André Beaumont won the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race starting and finishing at Brooklands in Surrey and touching down in Edinburgh en route. His prize money was £10,000, the equivalent of over £1 million today.

Commercial flying developed from the mid-1920s. In 1924, Imperial Airways was formed from a combination of several small struggling companies subsidised by the government to develop Britain’s external air routes. Passenger numbers grew from 10,300 in 1925 to 62,100 in 1938.

Early airliner, possibly of type used by Imperial Airlines, c1925

Aeroplanes have even been manufactured on Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Local cycle maker John Gibson also described himself from 1910 to 1913 as an aeroplane designer and builder. He built a biplane which was followed by two further improved versions. The second had a production run of 10 and the third version had twin propellers. His advert from c1911 offers a complete biplane for £450 pounds – that’s about £50,000 in today’s money.

Gibson’s Aeroplanes of Leith Walk, c1910

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Daredevils and wing-walkers

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air

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

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Andrew Carnegie

As the teenage son of an unemployed Scottish Weaver in Pittsburgh, Andrew Carnegie understood the value of libraries. Not able to go into his local library because it charged a subscription fee, he and other children from the factory where he worked were offered the chance to use a local merchant’s personal library, where he imbibed knowledge which would later help to make him one of the richest men who ever lived, and the embodiment of The American Dream.

As an adult he would become a steel tycoon, building a huge company which he sold to JP Morgan for $480 million dollars (in 1901 this was the biggest business transaction to have ever taken place). Carnegie didn’t want his money for himself however, instead sowing seeds for future learning, so all children, regardless of their income, would have access to books and the infinite knowledge that they held.

“A Library outranks any one other thing a community can do to benefit its people,” he said, “It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Carnegie’s trust built libraries across America and the UK, as well as three in European cities devastated by World War 1; but his first library was built in Dunfermline, his birth place. The motto – ‘Let There be Light’ –  is now familiar to borrowers and staff at Edinburgh’s Central Library, where the logo also appears, a reminder of the importance of libraries and what they offer.

Andrew Carnegie laying the foundation stone of the Edinburgh Free Library, 1887

Edinburgh Central Library opened in 1890, and was the first public library in the city. The building was designed by George Washington Browne and is built from Stirlingshire stone. 1428 books were issued on the first day, and 44,774 people registered as readers in the first year alone.

A bust of Andrew Carnegie keeps watch over his collection.

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

George Washington Browne: architect

Robert Butchart: City Librarian

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

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Charles Boog Watson

On retiring from his duties as an ARP warden in 1943, aged 84 years old, Charles Boog Watson received a letter of thanks from the Civil Defence Warden’s Service. It stated,

“…and I feel that if everyone could show the same keenness that you have done everything would be easier and the world would be a better place…”

Edinburgh Libraries also owes a huge debt of thanks to Charles Boog Watson who donated many valuable items from his personal collections.

Charles Brodie Boog Watson was born on the 7 November, 1858 in Bombay, India and was educated at Edinburgh Academy. He later entered the engineering profession becoming a partner in the West End Engine Works, retiring in 1908.

For many years after his retirement, he was given a room in the City Chambers to continue his voluntary task of using the City Council records to research all aspects of the city’s history and topography. This extensive and meticulous research comprising 14 volumes he presented to Edinburgh Libraries.

He also donated his notebooks, memorabilia and correspondence from his time as a World War II ARP warden to the library giving us a unique record of the home front in Edinburgh. Browse our Capital Collections exhibition to get an impression of what life was like for Charles during the Second World War. He also donated a magnificent collection of 40 editions of Holbein’s Dance of Death, including David Deuchar editions. He had collected these over many years, adding annotations and auction record entries.

For over 30 years he was director, then chairman, of the Edinburgh City Mission. He was also a member of the Edinburgh Public Libraries Committee and a vice-president of the Old Edinburgh Club.

Charles Brodie Boog Watson died on the 16 November 1947 at his home at 24 Garscube Terrace, Edinburgh.

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

George Washington Browne: architect

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

Large-scale sketch of Edinburgh on display at Edinburgh Central Library

Visitors to Edinburgh Central Library will be able to gain a new perspective of their city as a huge, intricately detailed, ink-sketch of the city of Edinburgh goes on display.

Self-taught cityscape artist Carl Lavia, aka Sketch, and project partner photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel are on a country-wide mission: Carl is attempting to sketch, in large-scale, every single city within the UK – together they aim to exhibit each cityscape within its city and eventually to form one large exhibition of all the 69 artworks to be shown in several spaces throughout the UK. The Edinburgh cityscape is the latest in their ’69 Cities of The UK’ project.

Carl says: “Each artwork is a celebration for the people who live, work and simply love the city.”

The immense Edinburgh cityscape covers a radius of around 6 miles – as far North as Stockbridge, as far South as The Meadows, as far East as Holyrood Palace and as far West as the Murrayfield stadium – all the familiar landmarks are depicted plus the yet to be completed St James shopping centre.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education, Children and Families Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “We’re delighted to be able to host Carl’s wonderful piece of work here in the Central Library – it truly is a sight to behold and I’m sure it will mesmerize many library-users during its time here.

“As one of the city’s prominent historical buildings, the Central Library itself features in the sketch, alongside the fantastic variety of architecture and attractions that span Edinburgh, and this piece provides a great new perspective.”

Project partner photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel says: “We hope that the Edinburgh cityscape shall be seen as an affectionate document of the city’s present time in history, hints at the indelible ties connecting people to places, a ‘sketched page’ in Edinburgh’s incredible and continually unfolding story.” 

Visit the website for prints and to follow The 69 Cities Project 

Sketch will be on display in the Central Library from 28th September 2017 until end of September 2018.