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.














Bobby visits Central Library

We celebrated the life and times of Greyfriars Bobby by inviting champion Skye Terrier Hanna and her pup Murren to the library to meet with a group of schoolchildren from Abbeyhill Primary School.

At Central Library

Moira and Katie with their Skye Terriers Hanna and Murren at Central Library

Hanna’s owner Moira shared her lifelong fascination with this legendary Edinburgh story and her dedication to the now rare Skye Terrier breed.  Moira’s granddaughter Katie took charge of the pup, but like many youngsters Murren was too fidgety for a photo shoot at the famous statue. But well done to Hanna for staying put, and we were glad that no one rubbed her nose!

Hanna and Bobby

Hanna and Bobby

The Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child

In 2011, the first mystery paper sculpture was discovered in the Scottish Poetry Library. It was an incredibly delicate gift; a tree growing out of a book, an eggshell of poems and a little card with read:

dsc_4944_582“@ByLeavesWeLive and became a tree….We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words…This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..”

More sculptures were discovered that year at the National Library of Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland, the Filmhouse, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and here at Edinburgh Central Library.

The identity of the artist was withheld, and to this day we don’t know who the artist is.

We do know that this sculpture, the Butterfly Tree and the Lost Child, is dsc_4953_591her last and we are tremendously privileged to have it here at Central Library.

You can see the small sculptures donated to Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Central Library’s foyer or online on our Capital Collections Website. You can go to Wikipedia for more information on all the sculptures.



City Garden event at Central Library

New PictureThe City Garden Project is a proposed urban greenspace project to improve the quality and quantity of ‘little green spaces’ across Edinburgh. So much space in the city is under used, from grass-desert parks to concrete traffic islands, the forgotten shoreline to featureless street
corners; this project is about revealing their potential for creative and green space uses!

City GardenCome along to the Central Lending Library on 30 September any time between 12 noon and 3pm and meet the team from HERE + NOW, the landscape and design studio behind the City Garden project. You’ll be able to see examples of their previous projects and find out more about the City Garden idea. Most of all they’d love you to share your ideas for a City Garden Project and how you’d like to activate unused spaces. You will be able to mark places which could be a potential City Garden you know of on a map. This can be everything from a vacant or abandoned area to a neglected street corner.

Why not drop-in and help make Edinburgh an even greener city!



A stitch in time

Central Library and WEA Edinburgh (Workers Education Association) are coming together on a new project to create an embroidered banner commemorating Central Library’s 125th anniversary. While exploring different embroidery techniques to be applied to the banner, the class will also research many of the Library’s historic and contemporary facets. A number of these stories will be expressed in the banner’s design. The group first met back in March and had a general discussion about what would be feasible, even if in fact, the library could provide enough inspiration and creativity.

Stitching group at Central Library

Stitching group at Central Library

Everyone very quickly agreed that 125 years of engaging people from all walks of life with the love of reading was well worth celebrating. In June, after an informative tour of the building, close encounters with some fabulous library treasures, discussions of which authors to include, and how to capture the past, present and future of the library, it was over to artist and group tutor, Rebecca Mackay to design the cartoons. By early September the cartoons were transcribed onto fabric and the stitchers were off!

The cartoon for the central panel, which includes some library essentials, including Daisy, the library cat sitting on Andrew Carnegie's shoulder.

The cartoon for the central panel, which includes some library essentials, including Daisy, the library cat sitting on Andrew Carnegie’s shoulder.

Keep up to date with developments at the Progress of a Needle blog which is charting the project from inception to completion.  Or even better, pop down to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection one Tuesday morning and have a look for yourself!


The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: William McEwan

William McEwan was born in Alloa on the 16th July 1827.  His father was a local ship-owner with shares in four vessels.  Educated at Alloa Academy he left in 1843 to work for the Alloa Coal Company. He moved to Glasgow in 1845 working as a clerk for £30 p.a. in a firm of merchants.  Seeking to improve himself he attended lectures at the University, and used the Mechanics Library and the Commercial Reading Club.
McEwan's Beer MatIn 1847 he moved to Honley near Huddersfield, where he continued his self-education. A founder member of the Honley Reading Society he also attended the Mechanics Institution.  He began to make charitable donations and surprisingly supported the Temperance Movement. William McEwan & Co Ltd - McEwan's Ale is Second to None
In 1851 he joined the Heriot brewery which was owned by his uncle.  Five years later he established his own brewery at Fountainbridge where the world-famous ‘McEwan’s Export’ and ‘McEwan’s India Pale Ale’ were developed.  By 1889 his business was worth £100,000.
From 1886-1900 he was MP for Edinburgh Central.  The Freedom of the City of Edinburgh was conferred on him and he was made a burgess and guild brother.  In 1907, having refused a peerage, he was made a Privy Councillor.  Before his death he funded the McEwan Hall and donated a Frans Hals and a Rembrandt to the National Galleries of Scotland.
McEwan was also one of Edinburgh Libraries’ notable benefactors donating “The Frasers of Philorth” by Alexander Fraser, published in 1879 and the “Memorials of the Earls of Haddington” by William Fraser, published in 1889.
William McEwan died in London on the 12 May 1913, aged eighty-five.

Browse more brewing memorabilia in our Heineken exhibition. The breweries covered in this exhibition include William McEwan’s; Robert and WilliamYounger’s; T & J Bernard’s; William Murray’s; and J & J Morison. Once, these breweries were sited all over Edinburgh at Abbeyhill; Canongate; Craigmillar; Fountainbridge and Leith.

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

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian


Library news round-up

LOADS happening in libraries recently – so let’s have a quick round-up.

First, thanks to all you big-hearted readers who helped us raise lots of money for Comic Relief and Marie Curie. Central Library hosted a Red Nose Day Readathon with staff taking turns to read from the funniest novel ever – as voted by our readers…

Library staff get into the red nose spiritWhile dressing up of a different sort was the order of the day as Newington Library celebrated International Women’s Day with a fashion show featuring women’s national dress from around the world.

model in national dress at Newington LibraryNext, news for Edinburgh and Scottish Collection fans. The good news is that this part of Central Library is getting a makeover, including paintwork and new carpets. We will however have to close for 10-12 weeks while the work gets done (from 2nd April). The rest of central library will remain open during this period.

At Corstorphine Library National Science and Engineering Week was all the reason  needed to examine how acids and alkali work with these Rainbow Jellyfish. We also calculated the speed of light – using chocolate and a microwave. To find out how visit Corstorphine Library’s Facebook page.

rainbow jellyfish

Last but by no means least,  Edinburgh Libraries have been shortlisted for The Bookseller Magazine’s Library of the Year award, a title currently held by… Edinburgh Libraries (you might have seen us mention this before). The winner is announced on 13th May – fingers crossed!