News round-up: November 2016


19th-27th November 2016 – Explore Your Archive week

Staff across the department contributed to this annual campaign delivered by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK and Ireland ( It aims to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories. Some of the posts during the week included our wonderful new Bestiary pages (, the completion of the project to catalogue the archives of King’s College, arctic explorers (MS 2407) and the records of Grampian Regional Transport (MS 3508).

Find out more about Special Collections’ work and amazing archives at:

A number of events were also held this month as part of Book Week Scotland 2016:

22nd November 2016 – Bookbinding Talk and Workshop

To coincide with the new exhibition ‘Cover Stories’ now open to view in the gallery in The Sir Duncan Rice Library, Jane Pirie, Rare Books Cataloguer, revealed some of the intriguing information that can be gleaned from the bindings of books on display as part of the exhibition. This was followed by a chance to learn how to bind your own miniature book by Brannah MacKenzie, Book Conservator in the Glucksman Conservation Centre. The thirteen attendees provided very positive feedback about the talk and workshop and were keen to attend more events of this kind.

24th November 2016 – ‘Dark Ingredients’: M. R. James and Gothic Bloodlines at Aberdeen

As part of Book Week Scotland 2016, Keith O’Sullivan, Senior Rare Books Librarian, delivered an illustrated lecture to some 15 attendees. The talk outlined the history and characteristics of ‘Gothic’ before discussion of the Library’s rich collection of Gothic literature, from classics by authoresses like Clara Reeve and the output of the Minerva Press to first editions of M.R. James’ ghost stories. The lecture finally focused on James’s tale, “Oh Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad” as an example of the complexities of Gothic writing.

26th November 2015 – Scriptorium, Collections Close-Up and The Secret Art of Fore-edge Painting

‘Ghost stories of an antiquary’ by M.R. James, published in 1904 (Lib R 823.9 Jam g), p.26


Three events held on one day as part of Book Week Scotland 2016 were a great success.

Scriptorium: Gothic creative writing workshop

Designed to help those interested in developing their creative writing skills in the Gothic style, nine people attended this workshop delivered by Lily Greenall from the Department of English. Using examples from the work of writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley, as well as looking at how Gothic tropes are used by modern authors, the workshop explored the idea of the ‘Gothic’ as a style and explored a genre which offers enormous potential not only for writing entertaining stories and terrifying the reader, but also for experimenting with personal imagery and style.

Collections Close-Up: Curators’ Favourites

Three favourite treasures from the collections were chosen by Jane Pirie, Michelle Gait and Jan Smith for the eighteen attendees at this event. They heard about the history of the books and the authors and what made them special to the curators, who were also on hand to turn pages and answer questions. On display were De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius (1543) pi f611 Ves 1, Auserlesene Schnecken, Muscheln und andre Schaalthiere by Michael Regenfuss (1758) SB ff594 Reg  and Liber theoricae by Al-Zahrawi (1519) pi f6107 Alb. This latter volume is bound with Thorer’s De re medica (1528) and features elaborate metal-cut borders by the engraver Jakob Faber as shown below. More information can be found here: curators-favourites


The Secret Art of Fore-edge Painting

Martin Frost explained the history of this delicate skill and provided an introduction to the techniques used in fore-edge painting. The event also showcased examples from Martin’s 40 year career, which has seen him paint the edges of over 3500 books. His work is to be found in many national and international institutes and private collections and he has published many articles and lectured to numerous major organisations interested in the art and craft of the book. Thirty-five people attended the talk and were fascinated by this unique art form.


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