New Acquisition: 17th Century Edinburgh Student Notebook 

Evie writes about the unique and fascinating book of lecture notes the CRC obtained last year. Now 360 years old, they were written by University of Edinburgh student George Dalgliesh during the third and fourth years of his degree, between 1660 and 1662.

Last year, the CRC acquired a unique and fascinating book of lecture notes. Now 360 years old, they were written by University of Edinburgh student George Dalgliesh during the third and fourth years of his degree, between 1660 and 1662. The notes, on the subject of Aristotle’s teachings, were written during natural philosophy lectures taught by Regent of Philosophy Thomas Craufurd. 

While little is known about writer George Dalgliesh, save for his intriguing lecture note doodles, Thomas Craufurd was a longstanding regent of the University of Edinburgh. As a regent, Craufurd took the same class of students through all four years of their degree, teaching them every subject himself. This system was used at the University of Edinburgh from its foundation until 1708, when Principal of the university William Carstares assigned a teacher to each subject, bringing it closer to teaching methods in mainland Europe. 

A graduate of the University of St Andrews, Thomas Craufurd was elected Regent of Humanity at the University of Edinburgh in 1626. He left in 1630 to become Rector of the Royal High School, but returned to the university in 1640 to become Professor of Mathematics and Regent of Philosophy. Craufurd also wrote the first history of the University of Edinburgh, from its establishment in 1583 to 1646. However, it was not published until 1808, long after Craufurd’s death.  

The rare notebook provides unparalleled insight into the content of the university’s curriculum in the 17th century. Craufurd’s philosophy classes included teachings about logic, metaphysics, physics, anatomy and astronomy, at a time when philosophers and mathematicians including Decartes and Galileo were challenging the traditional thinking of Ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. 

The notes were written at the end of Craufurd’s twenty-two year tenure, as he died in 1662. This acquisition is an intriguing addition to the CRC’s collection, which already holds a transcript of Craufurd’s original manuscript on the history of the university.  

By Evie Stevenson 

New Acquisition: A Brief History of Edinburgh’s Female Book Binders

To celebrate two of March’s key dates, World Book Day (4th March) and International Women’s Day (9th March), VOiCE is examining the story behind a new acquisition to the CRC’s Rare Books collection. This leather book binding by Johanna Caird Ross is a significant piece of the story of Edinburgh women’s involvement in arts and crafts at the turn of the 20th century, and the fight for their skills to be recognised.

The Rare Books collection recently acquired three new book bindings, previously owned by scientist, librarian and Edinburgh alumna Dr Helen Cargill Thompson (1933-2020). A keen art collector, Dr Thompson commissioned two of the bindings from artist and teacher Daphne Beaumont-Wright (d. 2011). The third, earlier binding (which covers a volume of poetry by D.G. Rossetti) was made by Johanna Caird Ross, a contemporary of artist Phoebe Anna Traquair and other members of the Guild of Women Binders. 

The Guild of Women Binders was a short lived collective, bringing together a number of craftswomen who created high quality, decorative leather bindings at the turn of the 20th century. The Guild was founded in London in 1898 by antiquarian and second hand book seller Frank Karslake. He had seen a number of bindings by women at the Victorian Era Exhibition at Earl’s Court a year earlier, and was so struck by the intricacies of the women’s work that he endeavoured to promote them further. He set up an exhibition in his own shop in Charing Cross, ‘The Exhibition of Artistic Book Binding by Women’.  

One of the bindings Karslake had been particularly impressed with at the Earl’s Court exhibition was a creation by Edinburgh’s Annie Smith Macdonald. She was a friend of Irish-born artist and fellow binder Phoebe Anna Traquair and the first curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery John Miller Gray, with whom Macdonald shared an interest in old books and their bindings. 

Macdonald honed her binding craft in the workroom of the Edinburgh printing firm A & T Constable, where the books were professionally bound in leather before being passed on to Macdonald and her fellow craftswomen to fashion designs onto. Through this practice, Macdonald developed a particular method of embossing leather bindings. The binding was worked on the front, spine and back of the books by A & T Constable, after which the craftswomen used modelling tools and knives to press and cut the design into the leather. The CRC’s newly acquired binding by Johanna Caird Ross was made using this technique, demonstrating Macdonald’s influence among Edinburgh’s women bookbinders.  

Annie S. Macdonald was invited by Frank Karslake to become a member of the Guild of Women Binders, which was set up following the success of Karslake’s Charing Cross exhibition. Karslake sold the work of experienced binders including Macdonald and other Edinburgh based binders such as Jessie Rintoul MacGibbon. The Guild was also a school and workshop which trained other women in the craft of book binding. The Guild members continued to exhibit their handicraft, most notably at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. 

Unfortunately the Guild of Women Binders was not a runaway success. Karslake wanted the organisation to be a money making enterprise, but the exclusivity of the Guild, the high quality that was demanded, the time it took to craft the bindings and high prices meant that it was not a profitable enterprise. The Guild faced hostility, as some professional binders questioned the quality of the work. They suggested the bindings were too good to have been produced by women, and must have been made at the nearby Hampstead Bindery, of which Karslake was a founder and financial backer. Distrust grew, sales suffered and the Guild disbanded in 1904. Annie S. Macdonald had only sold a few of her bindings through the guild, and she and her Edinburgh colleagues continued to craft beautiful leather bindings after the Guild’s disbandment. Some of these bindings are now held in the respective collections of the CRC, the National Library of Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland.  

The newly acquired binding by Johanna Caird Ross joins three other bindings made by women of the style invented by Annie S. Macdonald in the CRC’s Rare Books collection. One of these, The Psalms of David, is by Phoebe Anna Traquair, made in 1898 and acquired by the CRC in 2015. The second binding is an unsigned work, covering the collection Poésies 1886-1890 by French poet Francois Coppée, which featured in the CRC’s Rare Books? Expect the Unexpected exhibition in 2018. The final binding is another unsigned work on a volume of Keats poetical works. Until recently the significance of the binding was hidden, as it was not mentioned in the book’s entry in the university library’s catalogue.  

The four Macdonald-style bindings now in the CRC’s collection, in addition to the two more recent bindings by Daphne Beaumont-Wright, demonstrate the artistry and skill of women bookbinders. While at the turn of the 20th century craftswomen struggled to be taken seriously, these bindings are now recognised as skillfully executed works of art which highlight the talent of their Edinburgh makers.  

photo of a brown faded leather bound book with a geometric floral cover design. above this reads the word "poems" and below "D G Rossetti"

Binding by Johanna Caird Ross, covering a volume of poems by D.G. Rossetti 

photo of a brown leather book cover with four engraved depictions of a shepherd, a warrior, a sister, and a king

Binding by Phoebe Anna Traquair, covering The Psalms of David 

photo of a weathered leather book cover with a seated cherub depicted

Unsigned binding, covering the collection Poésies 1886-1890 by Francois Coppée 

Unsigned binding, covering a volume of Keats Poetical Works  

Written by Evie Stevenson.

With thanks to Rare Books Librarian Elizabeth Lawrence for providing information and photographs. 

New Acquisition: Here to Deliver by Shona Macnaughton

In the first article of VOiCE’s New Acquisition series we explore Shona Macnaughton’s ‘Here to Deliver’, which examines the artist’s engagement with the gig economy via 103 virtual taxi journeys around Glasgow during an alternative 2020. According to Macnaughton’s website, the purpose of Here to Deliver is to explore ‘the conditions of artistic labour, when they are actioned through gig economy structures’.

Image Copyright of the Artist,Here to Deliver, Shona Macnaughton (2020)

The University of Edinburgh Art Collection will soon acquire an exciting new piece of art from Glasgow-based Edinburgh College of Art alumna Shona Macnaughton. Her unique work, Here to Deliver, was commissioned by the Art Collection as part of the University of Edinburgh Innovation Initiative Grant funded Platforming Creativity project. This is a collaborative research project with Newcastle University, which examines the omnipresent gig and platform economies and their impact on those working in the creative arts sector.  

According to Macnaughton’s website, the purpose of Here to Deliver is to explore ‘the conditions of artistic labour, when they are actioned through gig economy structures’. The project was originally envisaged by Macnaughton as a real taxi service modelled on the gig economy gargantuan Uber, planned to run during one of Glasgow’s arts festivals, with Macnaughton in the role of ‘the driver’. When the pandemic affected the artist’s initial plan, she instead gave her passengers the opportunity to virtually experience an alternative, Covid-free 2020 in which Scotland’s festivals had gone ahead. 

Facilitated by the booking platform Eventbrite, Macnaughton gave ‘lifts’ to 103 passengers from all over the world – from Indonesia, Vietnam and Canada to Glasgow – between October and November 2020. The journeys occurred as phone conversations between the passengers at home and Macnaughton as the taxi driver inside her car. The artist delivered a script with scope for improvisation (determined by the responses given by the passenger), while virtually driving the participants to various art venues. A blueprint of the script appears on Macnaughton’s website, where she describes the driver imparting ‘quotes about social realism, writing on marxism and art, gig platform promotional copy and typical ‘taxi driver’ questions’.  

Participant Marga Vazquez Ponte reflected on her experience as a passenger: 

I was taken on a virtual cab ride byShona Macnaughton(via a phone call) from one arts event to another.I did not expect it to be so funny, I found Shona’s musings about a city in festival mode to be spot on and witty and I loved the gentle participatory element. I was asked conversational questions and sometimes I was prompted to an answer and other times I got to just make things up. I had really missed all the Edinburgh festivals last year and this gave me that brief festival buzz you get when you have just seen something cool/odd/funny/different/fun. 

In exchange for their participation, passengers consented to having their voices recorded as Macnaughton filmed her journeys. These performances were documented on the Here to Deliver Instagram page. Approximately 75% of the participants were female, while 25% were male. 44% were friends of Macnaughton, 35% were completely unknown, and 21% were described by the artist as ‘known unknowns’.  

All the material gathered by Macnaughton (through still images, video, social media, Eventbrite and feedback submitted to the tipping platform TipJar) will be incorporated by the artist in the work’s moving image component, which will be used for teaching and research as part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection.  

For more information on Shona Macnaughton and Here to Deliver, visit the artist’s website:  

https://www.shonamacnaughton.com/

Here to Deliver Instagram page: 

https://www.instagram.com/here_to_deliver/

Written by Evie Stevenson 

%d bloggers like this: