Jenners: 180 years on Princes Street

On 1 May 1838, Kennington & Jenner opened its doors for the first time. Now 180 years later, Edinburgh’s famous department store still sits proudly on the corner of Princes Street and St David Street.

The business was founded by Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner, who had been dismissed by local drapers W.& R. Spence for taking the day off work to go to the Musselburgh races. Their advertisement in The Scotsman claimed that their establishment would offer the discerning customer, ‘every prevailing British and Parisian fashion in silks, shawls, fancy dresses, ribbons, lace, hosiery, and every description of linen drapery and haberdashery’.

View of Jenners Department Store, (later destroyed by fire in 1892) from East Princes Street Gardens

The original building that formed the department store was destroyed by fire on 26 November 1892. In 1893 Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed to design the new store which opened in 1895.  Charles Jenner became the driving force behind the reconstruction and it was at his insistence the building’s caryatids – sculpted female figures – were to show symbolically that women are the support of the house. The new store also included technical innovations such as electric lighting and hydraulic lifts. Unfortunately, Charles Jenner died in 1893 and did not live to see the new store completed.

Jenners Department Store, view from Princes Street Gardens, c1900

The store continued to grow during the 1900s and by the 1920s it had cemented its reputation as the number one place to shop, becoming a local byword for extravagance and opulence. In 2005 it was taken over by House of Fraser. While other acquisitions by House of Fraser have been renamed, Jenners has managed to keep its identity.

In 1995, the Central Library acquired an archive of material from Jenners, including sales catalogues, photographs, news cuttings, invoices and correspondence.

A selection of material from the Jenners Archive is on display on the main staircase of the Central Library until 31 May.

Jenners Archive display, Central Library until 31 May 2018



Art Library exhibition for May 2018

A new exhibition of paintings opens today by the blind Edinburgh-based artist Alan McIntyre, entitled ‘Moments in time’.

Shown together for the first time, Alan’s paintings are based on remembered cinema moments in time. They aim to capture moments of isolated individuals or fleeting gestures between the interactions of couples as frozen shadows and blurred images.

Alan has had a lifelong passion for art. He was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition and is now registered blind. He maintains his passion to produce art despite being both constrained and liberated by his altered experience of the world.

All paintings exhibited are for sale and a percentage of sales will go towards the recording of an audiobook from Calibre Audio Library. Calibre Audio Library produce audio books for people with sight problems, dyslexia and other disabilities.

The Moments in Time exhibition runs until 30 May in the Art and Design Library.

Visit Alan’s website for more information.

Interested in collage?

Edinburgh Collage Collective are displaying a new exhibition entitled Vinylism (11 to 30 May 2018) and hosting collage workshops during May on the Mezzanine, Central Library.

Vinylism is an international selection of collages from the Edinburgh Collage Collective 2018 Open Submission Project. The theme of this year’s project is the vinyl record. Like collage, vinyl is a physical analogue medium. It’s an art object and a vehicle for expressing ideas: this commonality is the basis for Edinburgh Collage Collective’s choice of vinyl as its subject.

Edinburgh Collage Collective will be displaying 30 of the vinyl collages in Central Library. The full collection will be displayed at the Tent Gallery, Evolution House, 78 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE, 3 to 14 July.

Inspired by the vinyl record, Edinburgh Collage Collective are hosting two collage workshops at Central Library  on Saturday 12 May to run alongside the exhibition:
10.30am – 12.30pm – for ages 8-15
2 – 4pm – for ages 16 and upwards

If you like being creative and enjoy exploring materials this is the workshop for you! No previous experience is needed but please bring along any collage materials you have, e.g. magazines, record covers, coloured paper etc.

To reserve a free place on the workshop, go to or phone 0131 242 8040.

Edinburgh Collage Collective was founded in 2015 and is run by Rhed Fawell. Edinburgh Collage Collective was set up with the aim of connecting and working with collage artists, locally and globally, through online showcasing, open submission projects, exhibitions, workshops, and organised collaborations.

Pushing the bindings

Since last October, the University of Edinburgh postgraduate intern, Elliott Jenkins, has been working with the artists’ books and photobooks collection in the Central Library’s Art & Design Library. He has researched the current collection as well as the Scottish artists’ book scene in order to suggest further acquisitions. This research has culminated in an exhibition entitled, Pushing the Bindings: Artists’ Books and Photobooks from the Art & Design Library Collection. The exhibition seeks not only to showcase the wide range of artists’ books in the collection but to explore what makes an artists’ book special – and the artist book scene in Scotland specifically.

Artists’ books are artworks created through the medium of the book form. Typically, these books are printed on a small scale and with limited editions. Sometimes they can even be made as one-of-a-kind objects. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the artists to own the press from which the books are printed. This would be an example of the artist controlling the entirety of the artistic process. However, the artist chooses to create and print their artists’ books, they are sure to set themselves apart from the standard novel or text book. Sometimes the book might follow an artistic narrative or simply a common theme is repeated throughout, but in all cases they are artworks in their own right. The library has an array of styles of artists’ books. The collection holds an international collection of contemporary artists’ books dating from the 1960s onwards totaling approximately 200 items. This includes works by renowned Pop Artist Edward Ruscha, Conceptual artists Sol Lewitt and Joseph Kosuth, and famed Scottish artists Ian Hamilton Finlay and Kate Whiteford. Therefore, the collection spans all categories of artists’ books and is therefore an excellent resource for researching and understanding this form of art.

The Art & Design Library began collecting artists’ books in the 1990s and has been steadily adding to the collection, with a more recent focus on artists working in Scotland. While Pushing the Bindings exhibits books from Scotland, England, France, and the United States, the emphasis is on the Scottish artists’ books in the collection. The Scottish artists include the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, Elaine Fullerton, Joanna Robson, Susie Wilson, and Lynda Wilson – just to name a few. Most of these artists are working today and have prolific careers creating artwork through many mediums including artists’ books. The Scottish artists within the collection also exemplify a signature style that may be developing within the scene in Scotland. In Elliott’s research and in the exhibition, it is argued that Scottish artists take on a style of abstraction and craftsmanship which transforms the book into something more; and, therefore, separates them from other artist book practices. While this argument is not solidified, the exhibition invites visitors to examine and explore the way in which Scottish artists’ books are similar too or differ from practices in other parts of the world.

Another overarching theme within the exhibition is the accessibility of artists’ books and democratic way in which they make artwork available, more so than a gallery or museum would. Artists such as Ed Ruscha and Sol Lewitt, who are extremely important in the history of Modern Art, also used artists’ books to create works of art. While the book itself may not exactly be a work of art, as it may be the case with Scottish artists, it demonstrates Ruscha’s and Lewitt’s desire for their artistic practices to reach a larger audience. By simply requesting to view Rushca’s, Lewitt’s, or any artist’s book from the Art & Design Library, you are participating in one of the most important features of the medium – their accessibility and their capacity to turn a big idea into a book you can hold in your hands.

The final feature of the exhibition is the inclusion of the photobooks in the Art & Design Library collection. A photobook is a collection of photographs usually by a singular photographer in order to display a specific body of work. However, it is more than just a document of work; it is a compilation of the performative act of taking the photograph and then the concluding result of a cohesive narrative or an overarching theme. The specific photobooks in Pushing the Bindings are similar to the artists’ books on display in that they are projects created by a singular artist and about one specific subject. While the artists’ books may focus on an aspect of the artist’s life or on a specific object, these photobooks focus on a topic or issue that is of importance to the artist. Many of these interests lay within the documentation of everyday life and the natural world. The way the photographs are displayed in the book, which sometimes include corresponding text material, inform us of their significance to the project and to the artist. Due to the relational quality of photography, the photobook – similar to the artist book – becomes a medium that allows for a more personal and intimate encounter with art.

Pushing the Bindings: Artists’ Books and Photobooks from the Art & Design Library Collection is on display on the Mezzanine level at Central Library until 30 April 2018.

Elliott and the staff of the Art & Design Library hope that you visit and enjoy the Pushing the Bindings exhibition. We hope that it encourages you to visit the library in the future, peruse the photobook section, and request to explore some of the brilliant artists’ books in the collection. The collection can be viewed on request during normal library opening hours. Appointments can be arranged for group visits. All artists’ books are listed on the Library catalogue and are for reference use only. To view items from the collection, please contact the Art & Design Library. Email and telephone 0131 242 8040.

Art and Design Library exhibition – April 2018

April’s exhibition in the Art and Design Library is New Work by Nihad Al Turk.

The exhibition features well-known Syrian Kurdish artist Nihad Al Turk. His collection of drawings shows a variety of mythical creatures which Nihad loves to depict in his art. He has been living in Edinburgh since 2015. 

The exhibition runs from 4 to 28 April 2018.

Art and Design Library exhibition 2018

Mixed Media Work by Monique Van Aalst

For her exhibition in the Art and Design Library, entitled ‘Cosmic Vibes’, Dutch artist Monique van Aalst explores her interest in otherworldly themes such as celestial and mythological creatures, astrology and the universe. Working with miscellaneous media and depending on her mood she takes an intuitive approach in her mostly abstract artwork never quite knowing the end result.  Serendipity plays a hand – whilst applying different layers an image may suddenly arise. A happy accident indeed!

Monique started drawing in her childhood, usually portraits of family members and celebrities in pencil. When starting her life in Edinburgh ten years ago, a few art tutors encouraged her to take a paint brush and be bold. She began experimenting with different techniques. She is inspired by painters who use vibrant colours, intuition and uniqueness in their paintings, including Jolomo, William Gillies, Marc Chagall and Jim Dine.

Monique has previously exhibited for Cancer Research UK in Adam House (2009-2014), Gallery on the Corner (2010), Art and Design Library (2010) Bethany Christian Trust (Methodist Church in 2014), Leith Library (2015), Stockbridge Library (2016) and Out of The Blue drill hall (2017).

The Cosmic Vibes exhibition runs from 2 to 27 February 2018 in the Art and Design Library.


Art and Design Library exhibition – January 2018

The latest exhibition in the Art and Design Library is ‘Transition of Fear – a collection of photographs’ by Isaac Benjamin.

We asked Isaac to tell us about the inspiration for his fascinating work:

“Being an artist has its ups and downs, on one hand you have people genuinely interested in your work, but then you’re asked to actually show some of it! The photos you will see are mostly taken straight after having a spiritual/alien vision or episode, I then recreate how I had seen things.

Image from Transition of Fear – a collection of photographs, by Isaac Benjamin

I was quite recently diagnosed with Schizotypal Personality Disorder. This does not affect my spiritual beliefs and experiences, however, I can now conclude that my psychic abilities are possibly not actually happening. At the beginning of this long journey, I felt like I was trapped inside a cocoon. I was absolutely terrified… Something drove me to keep challenging this fear and recreate the experiences through various art forms, which was a major part of my healing process.

Music is so important in my life, I couldn’t imagine creating pieces of artwork without music to help inspire me. My taste in music is very eclectic… From The Smiths to Kate Bush, David Bowie to Roxy Music and Leonard Cohen, I feel so much more comfortable if there’s music playing in the background.”

Come along to the exhibition which will be on display in the Art and Design Library from 4 – 30 January 2018.

You can also see more of Isaac’s work on instagram @thewalkingartists