News round-up: October-November 2017

11th October 2017: Talk by Professor Jerry White on ‘Mansions of Misery’: Charles Dickens and the Marshalsea Prison

This was a joint event run by the Aberdeen branch of the Dickens Fellowship and the Friends of Aberdeen University Library. Professor Jerry White, historian of London and author of a new book, Mansions of Misery: A Biography of the Marshalsea Debtors, addressed a capacity audience on the literary and personal connections between Dickens and the notorious debtors’ prison, in which his father had been incarcerated. Visitors also had the opportunity to see selected first editions from the University’s superb holdings on Dickens. Earlier, Professor White was given a tour of the Special Collections Centre by Jane Pirie, Information Officer/Rare Books Cataloguer.

Illustration from ‘Sketches by Boz illustrative of every-day life and every-day people. With forty illustrations by George Cruikshank’ (London, 1839). Lib R 82383 Sk 5

8th November 2017: National Bibliography of Scotland Project

Keith O’Sullivan, Senior Rare Books Librarian and Jane Pirie, Information Officer/Rare Books Cataloguer, attended an event at the National Library of Scotland on the 8th November to discuss plans for a National Bibliography of Scotland. The main purpose of the project is to create a comprehensive record of the cultural impact of Scotland as expressed through publications and papers were presented on the history, scope and metadata of the project. This prompted several useful discussions on definitions and parameters for the project and the new resource’s relationship with other catalogues/finding aids such as Scottish Bibliographies Online.

13th November 2017: Talk by Dr William Zachs and launch of Thomas Reid Prize

Dr Bill Zachs delivered a fascinating talk in the Special Collections Seminar Room entitled “The Bibliomaniac’s Progress: Reflections on Scholarly Book Collecting”. An Honorary Fellow in the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, his research interests focus on the history of the book in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Scotland, and he is an avid collector of the written word. He is also responsible for establishing the Thomas Reid Prize for Book Collecting at the University of Aberdeen which offers students the opportunity to win £500 towards the development of their own collection, and £250 to enhance the holdings of the University’s Special Collections. To coincide with this talk the Thomas Reid Prize for 2017-18 was launched at this event, with the presentation of items purchased for Special Collections by the 2016-17 winner, Derek Stewart.

23rd November 2017: Bookbinding Session and Talk

Special Collections welcomed visitors to Behind the Scenes with our Collections – Bookbinding Session & Talk on the evening of 23rd November. This sold out event was part of the Friends of Aberdeen University Library Event Series and provided attendees with an opportunity to learn practical skills from our Book Conservator Brannah MacKenzie and make their own mini-notebook in the Conservation Centre. A talk by Jane Pirie, Rare Books Cataloguer, followed as she explained how important information can be gleaned from the covers of some of the wonderful rare books in Special Collections.


A second bookbinding workshop and talk was staged on the 27th November as part of Book Week Scotland 2017 and allowed visitors another opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Brannah and Jane and to view material from the collections.

18th – 26th November 2017: Explore Your Archive Week

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign (#ExploreArchives) Special Collections staff posted a number of posts showcasing highlights from our collections on our Facebook and Twitter page. This included posts about the wonderful Bestiary (MS 24), our George Washington Wilson collection of photographs and, for ‘Archives Catwalk’ day, Illustrated fashion and sales catalogues from the Aberdeen University Press archive (MS 3233).

Other posts included one by our Oil and Gas Archivist Joe Chapman on the Capturing the Energy project and in particular the new mobile app highlighting some of the amazing stories connected with the industry (, as well as more about the project and the app at and don’t miss more about the project and the app at and don’t misshadposts about The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie, a popular north-east ballad from the folksong collection of Gavin Greig (MS 701-790), and an early catalogue of books donated to Marischal College between 1669 to 1713 which includes a record of the libraries of Thomas Reid and Duncan Liddel, two of the largest and most important collections bequeathed to the college (Marischal/5/1/3/6/1).

Catalogue from MS 3233/11/3: Fashion and sales catalogues, c.1903-1920

29th November 2017: ‘Pride and Pudding – the History of British Puddings, Savoury and Sweet’

Another event hosted by Special Collections as part of Book Week Scotland 2017 celebrated the history of the British pudding as food photographer, food writer and designer Regula Ysewijn delivered an entertaining illustrated talk based on her book ‘Pride and Pudding -The history of British Puddings Savoury and Sweet’. Guests were treated to a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach on this journey through the fascinating culinary past of Great Britain!

Regula Ysewijn, author of ‘Pride and Pudding -The history of British Puddings Savoury and Sweet’

30th November 2017: Collections Close-up: Education, Salvation, Damnation

 Also as part of the Book Week Scotland 2017 celebrations a Collections Close-Up event was held in the Seminar Room next to Special Collections on the evening of 30th November. This free drop in event provided a unique opportunity to look at the University’s copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’ ‘De revolutionibus orbium caelestium’ published in 1566, complete with a manuscript copy of an earlier work, the ‘Commentariolus’ (pi f521 Cop 2). Also on show was a magnificent (and heavy!) 17th century Dutch bible, printed in 1682 by Jacob and Hendrik Keur (SB f22:43931 682) and a collection of playbills and rare theatre posters collected by Arthur Morice, an advocate in Aberdeen and a graduate of the University, demonstrating some of the popular entertainments held in nineteenth-century Aberdeen (L ffAa Z8 Mor). Jan Smith, Michelle Gait and Jane Pirie from Special Collections were available to answer questions and to turn the pages of these wonderful books.

pi f521 Cop 2_1_2
Diagram from ‘De revolutionibus orbium caelestium’ by Nicolaus Copernicus published in 1566 (pi f521 Cop 2)

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