The Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland – an early travel guide

As you can imagine, we have thousands of books in our collections in Central Library. Most are on the shelves ready to be picked up and read or just looked at. However, there’s a large part of our collection which is kept behind the scenes to protect from too much handling.

The downside of this is that few people get to see them, and so now and again we like to show off some of these hidden gems from our collections.


One of these is a small half leather bound volume titled Picturesque Antiquities of Scotland which was published in 1788 by the British engraver and archaeologist Adam de Cardonnel. Inside the book which contains part one and two of a four part set, we find a preface by de Cardonnel himself where he states,

the work was at first intended to have been on a much larger scale, and I had finished several of the plates; but at the particular desire of a learned author, I reduced the size, and altered my plan, as better adapted to the convenience of travellers, who wish to be acquainted with a few circumstances relating to the ruins they may chance to visit”.

So, this was a sort of early travel guide, small enough to be packed in the traveller’s bag and filled with information relating to the sites that were at the time of writing, mostly in ruins. De Cardonnel had served as curator of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1782 to 1784, and being both an engraver and an archaeologist, he was well suited to produce such volumes.


Why not have a look for yourselves and explore the contents of this book online – you’ve probably even visited a few!

You can view all the engravings from this delightful 18th century book on Capital Collections.














The latest issue of Teen Titles is just out!

Teen Titles is the book review magazine that is packed full of Edinburgh teenagers’ (very) honest and uncensored opinions of the latest books for teenagers.

Publishers send copies of their latest books for young adults to the Teen Titles editorial team, who read each book, carefully write a synopsis, and then send on to each secondary school library in Edinburgh.

Teen Titles 70 front cover

Teen Titles Issue 70

In effect, students from every high school in the city get the opportunity to contribute, and the result is a magazine that honestly reflects what students think, making it a very valuable resource for students, authors and publishers alike.

The magazine is available from every public and school library and TT70 features these interviews and highlights:

Cat Clarke talks to Craigmount High School about her new book Girlhood, why her novels always have female leads and why she is not afraid to examine in them potentially taboo subjects such as mental illness, death and loss.

St Thomas of Aquin’s chat to Cathy MacPhail about her new novel Between The Lies which tells of a girl’s sudden disappearance, why social media can be both a good and a destructive influence, and why she has decided to collaborate on her next book with her son!

Pupils at St Thomas of Aquin's met Cathy MacPhail

Pupils at St Thomas of Aquin’s met Cathy MacPhail

John Young speaks to Boroughmuir High School about his debut novel Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist – which is about a teenager dying of cancer who goes on a wild road trip across Scotland to find his dad – and how his daughter’s own illness inspired his story.

Author, John Young at Boroughmuir High School

Author, John Young visits Boroughmuir High School

The Royal High School meet Kiran Millwood Hargrave, whose award-nominated novel The Island at the End of Everything is set on the Philippines Island of Culion and ask why she has made leprosy and butterflies its main subjects.

There are also reviews of over 60 books, factfiles about many of the authors we are featuring, and our popular Readers Write column.

Teen Titles is the only magazine of its kind in the UK, we think! It can boast subscribers from all over the UK and abroad, and publishers and authors are not only very keen to get their books included, but are desperate to know what their readers genuinely think of them.

To purchase your own subscription to Teen Titles, contact the Publication Unit

Odyssey photography exhibition

Stop by the Art & Design Library at Central Library this March to see the Edinburgh LoFi Photography Group’s new exhibition Odyssey, which explores the journey and what it means to come home.

This latest exhibition takes its title from the peregrinations of Homer’s legendary Greek hero, Odysseus. The photographers had the freedom for liberal interpretation; visually presenting a personal photographic journey, encompassing life’s  progress, development and occasional set-backs.

These wanderings might also be a recording of a memorable episode or a momentary glimpse during travel or sojourn, recorded on film and printed as the artist chooses, following the ethos of traditional and alternative photographic techniques.

The group use a wide variety of cameras and methods, from pinhole (some hand-made) and analogue (film) to camera-less produced images, e.g. cyanotypes or chemigrams. We hope you find these pictures interesting and intriguing!

The Edinburgh LoFi group was started nine years ago at the Beyond Words photography bookshop to promote and explore film photography at its most amazing. The group is now run collectively.

The exhibition at the Art and Design Library contains work by:
Dan Clipsom, Olive Dean, Mary Gordon, Mandy Kerr, Ali Millar, Elaine Robson, Judith Rowan, John Sumpter, Donald Tainsh, Leigh Young

Odyssey will be on until the 30th March.

Poetry and creative writing with the Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library are hosting a new poetry and creative writing workshop at Wester Hailes Library, running for four weeks on Wednesdays from 28 February to 21 March 2018, 11.30am – 1.00pm.

The free workshop, run in partnership with WHALE Arts, is part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s year long residency project in Wester Hailes. The residency also plans to include taster sessions with local community groups and partners and monthly poetry groups at WHALE Arts.

The workshop at the Library is suitable for all, with no writing experience necessary, and it is not essential to attend all four sessions.  For more information or to book your place contact Wester Hailes Library via email or phone 0131 529 5667 or contact Helena at WHALE Arts on 0131 458 3267/

History of the house: King’s Wark

In a new series, we investigate the city’s past city through the history of a ‘house’ (or property).

The spotlight falls first on the King’s Wark, a well-known watering hole that sits in a prominent position on Leith’s picturesque Shore. But what is the history of the site? And where does the name come from?

The Shore in Leith, c1884

Work started on the King’s Wark (or fortification) building in 1434 and was to be a residence, store-house and armoury for James I.

In 1477, James III granted an annuity of 12 Scottish merks from it to support a chaplain in the Collegiate Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Restalrig.

During the English Invasions of 1544 and 1547 the building was practically destroyed. It was rebuilt by Queen Mary of Scotland in 1564 and leased to John Chisholm, the comptroller of the Royal Artillery recognising that the building held a strategic position on the approach to Leith.

From 1575 the building even served as a plague hospital for some years.

Around 1613, James VI (and 1st of Britain) granted possession to one of his royal household, Bernard Lindsay, the King’s Wark and the neighbouring land and buildings. He was instructed to keep four taverns on the site and granted the taxes from the wine sold to pay for a merchants’ exchange within the complex. Lindsay’s name lives on in the adjacent Bernard Street.

In 1649, the King’s Wark was taken into the possession of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and converted into a weigh-house. In 1690, the building was destroyed by fire and subsequently replaced by another using the same name.

Between 1799 and 1822 the building was occupied by Ramsay Williamson & Co, merchants for continental suppliers.

Rutherford & Co, a wholesale and retail wine and spirit merchants owned and occupied the building from around 1855. Rutherfords owned many other licenced premises in Edinburgh. They can be traced at the King’s Wark for almost a century, first in the Valuation Rolls from 1855 to 1900 and then in the Post Office Directories from 1911 to 1950.

‘Old Corner’, the Shore, Leith, 1958

For a time, two doors along, at no. 40, was R&D Slimon, an Ironmongers and Ships Chandlers, illustrating the area’s maritime heritage.

The Post Office Directory of 1959 shows that the King’s Wark had been taken over by E Cranston, another Wine and Spirit Merchant, who also had other premises in the City.

Have you ever thought about investigating the history of your home? Edinburgh Libraries has many online resources and physical collections to help you!

Get in touch via if you want to find out how to get started.

Practice the piano at the Music Library!

Did you know that the Music Library has a digital piano and a digital keyboard which are both available for anyone to use to practice their keyboard skills?

So, whether it’s Chopin or Chopsticks, all levels of players are welcome to drop-in to the Music Library and ‘borrow’ the piano or the keyboard for sessions of up to 2 hours.

The keyboard has five octaves opposed to the piano’s eight, but it also has a range of voices, sounds and drum machine beats to explore.

Book a slot on the digital keyboard or digital piano via the Music Library in person, by phone (0131 242 8050) or email

Raising awareness of Young Carers

25 January 2018 was Young Carers Awareness Day, a day with the aim to identify and raise awareness of the 700,000 young carers across the UK who care for a sick or disabled family member. By raising awareness, they hope it will help young carers to get the support they desperately need.

Portobello Library has been running a book group in partnership with Edinburgh Young Carers since March 2017. The group meets monthly during term time and has varied in size and composition during this time but has a core of 6 regular members between the ages of 7 and 9. The reading group involves a book discussion, activities and a snack. Themes for these meetings have included favourite books, countries and Halloween horror with some spooky reads.

Last month, to mark Young Carer’s Awareness Day, the group accompanied by a member of staff from Portobello Library and Edinburgh Young Carers support workers went to Blackwell’s Bookshop to buy children’s books for Portobello Library and were also able to select a book for themselves.

The group will next meet in Portobello Library on Tuesday 27 February, when the theme will be Poetry and Jokes with readings from Roald Dahl’s classic ‘Revolting Rhymes’.

Edinburgh Young Carers aims to make a positive difference in the lives and futures of young carers through support, information, respite, personal development and training. Get in touch with Edinburgh Young Carers if you know someone who would be interested in joining the young carers book group.