News round-up: June 2016

SB ff594 Reg_Tab VII

‘Auserlesene Schnecken, Muscheln und andre Schaalthiere’ by Regenfuss (Copenhagen, 1758) 

The month of June got off to a busy start with three groups visiting Special Collections, all welcomed by Jane Pirie, our Rare Books Cataloguer, and Keith O’Sullivan, the Senior Rare Books Librarian.

 6th June 2016 – Skene Guild of Westhill

Around 20-30 members of the Skene Guild of Westhill were given a tour of The Sir Duncan Rice Library building, including the Special Collections Centre. Material of local interest was displayed as part of the tour in the Seminar Room and colleagues were delighted to answer questions from the group about the facilities available to readers and the work carried out by the teams across the Library and Special Collections.

7th June 2016 – Brigham Young Ballroom Team

30 members of the Brigham Young Ballroom team from the Brigham Young University in Utah ( visited Special Collections in the morning and were given a tour of the Library building and the Special Collections Centre. A variety of treasures from the collections were on display for the team to view before they were shown round the current exhibition in the gallery, An Audience with Charles Dickens, with the aid of Jen Shaw, Exhibition Officer:

7th June 2016 – Arts Fund visit

Later that same day 20 attendees from the Arts Fund ( were given a tour of Special Collections and the Glucksman Conservation Centre. Jen Shaw provided the group with an introduction to the outreach work carried out in Special Collections and discussed the Dickens exhibition ( in the Gallery after which the group were escorted to Special Collections and divided into two smaller parties. Each group had the opportunity to view an exhibition of items from the collections in the Seminar Room and were shown the environmentally controlled stores as well as given an introduction to the Glucksman Conservation Centre (

For a list of the material on display for both visits please see here: List of material on display – June 2016

News round-up: May 2016


20th May 2016 – Anatomy Department visit

Staff from the University of Aberdeen Anatomy Department visited the Wolfson Reading Room on Friday 20th May as part of their departmental away day to see the Special Collection’s copy of De humani corporis fabrica by Andreas Vesalius, printed in Basel, 1543 (Aberdeen University Library shelfmark- pi f611 Ves 1). Everyone enjoyed a chance to see a first edition of Vesalius’s famous book, one of only 132 in the world, with it’s beautiful plates produced by the Titian school, it’s innovative printing by Johannes Oporinus, and, of course, Andreas Vesalius’s scientific genius in both research and teaching; it is the perfect combination of science, art and printing.

28th May 2016 – Collections Close-Up and Bookbinding Workshop – May Festival 2016

As part of the annual MayFest programme Special Collections staff hosted two events, the first a Collections Close-Up with a particular focus on Renaissance Medicine. Some of the medical treasures from our collections were on display in the Wolfson Reading Room and Jane Pirie, Rare Books Cataloguer, Michelle Gait, Reading Room Manager, and Jan Smith, Principal Information Assistant, were on hand to answer questions about the material which included Johann Remmelin’s Catoptrum microcosmicum (1619) and Anatomia del cavallo by Carlo Ruini (1602). The event was well attended with around 150 people visiting the Reading Room during the course of the afternoon. A list of the material on display can be found here: Collections Close-Up May 2016.

In the evening, a Bookbinding Workshop was presented by our Book Conservator Brannah MacKenzie, who demonstrated how to make a miniature notebook (which the 15 attendees then tried themselves) and answered questions about the fantastic preservation and conservation work carried out in the Glucksman Conservation Centre. Jane Pirie then gave a fascinating talk about the importance of bookbindings to our knowledge and understanding of rare books and demonstrated this with a display of some material from our collections.

News round-up: April 2016

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Facsimile of 1540 text ‘Astronomicum Caesarum’ by Petrus Apianus (Leipzig, 1967)

21st April 2016 – Aberdeen Astronomical Society Visit

Siobhán Convery, Head of Special Collections, hosted a visit from over 20 members of the Aberdeen Astronomical Society  on the 21st April 2016. After an introduction to Special Collections by Siobhán followed by a discussion of the history of astronomy by Dr John Reid, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Physics, the group were shown a display of astronomical treasures from the collections including Dioptrice by Kepler (1538), De revolutionibus orbium coelestium by Copernicus (1543), Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum (1635) and Systema Saturnium by Huygens (1659). The display also included material with a local connection such as Optica Promota (1663) by James Gregory (1638-1675), a graduate of Marischal College and Professor of Mathematics at the University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and the lecture notes of Patrick Copland, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics 1775-1822 (MSM 174/2). The evening received an enthusiastic response from the group and was a fitting end to their programme of events for the 2015-2016 season.

A full list of the items on display can be found here: Aberdeen Astronomical Society display items

28th April 2016 – Friends of Hospitalfield Visit

Special Collections was delighted to host a visit from nine members of the Friends of Hospitalfield, and in particular to welcome back Scott Byrne, former Exhibition Officer at Special Collections and now General Manager at Hospitalfield. After a tour of the main Library building by Keith O’Sullivan, Senior Rare Books Librarian, followed by a talk in the gallery space by Jen Shaw, Exhibition Officer, the group were given a tour of the Special Collections Centre by Siobhán Convery. This included a small display of some treasures from the collections, including the wonderful Hortus Sanitatis (INC 3). The last part of their visit included a tour of the Glucksman Conservation Centre.

For more information about the work and events at Hospitalfield please see their website:

An Audience with Charles Dickens

DickensBlog1Behind the Scenes of a Special Collections Centre Exhibition Installation with Jennifer Shaw, Exhibitions Officer

The exhibition ‘An Audience with Charles Dickens’ opened in the Gallery of The Sir Duncan Rice Library on Thursday 3rd March. Here’s a look back at how the exhibition took shape.


The first week in March was installation week for the SCC’s new exhibition showcasing its unique collection of first editions of all 15 of Charles Dickens’s novels.

DickensBlog2Day 1: First to go up were the door vinyls. The characters peeping around the theatre curtain are from an illustration by Hablot Knight Browne in Dickens’s third novel, Nicholas Nickleby.




DickensBlog3Eight freestanding panels featuring Scrooge, Bill Sikes, Sarah Gamp, Uriah Heep and other popular characters from the novels were put into position. We chose a theatrical theme for the exhibition to tie in with Dickens’s love of the stage and his reading tours which included performances at the Aberdeen Music Hall, in 1858 and 1866.


DickensBlog4Day 2: To give a sense of the enthusiastic crowds that Dickens encountered on his reading tours, we decided to create a 3D theatre scene for the back wall.

The design team set to work on its construction.



DickensBlog5There was a lot going on that day. The column in the gallery was wrapped with its design of 19th century billposters and texts telling the story of Dickens as a writer and performer were applied to the walls. A four-metre-long timeline was put into place to provide an introduction to the exhibition, the dates of all the novels and key events in the writer’s life.


DickensBlog6With the main elements of the installation in place, the design team took a bow – the bonnet, top hat and urchin cap were borrowed from the dressing-up area in the exhibition (not the team’s own).




DickensBlog9Day 3: With the space cleared of ladders and other equipment we were ready to place the first editions into the cases, from The Pickwick Papers to The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Plot cards for each novel were placed in the activity area along with games and additional reading material. A soundtrack of readings completed the effect.



Day 5: Take your ticket at the door for ‘An Audience with Charles Dickens’.

The exhibition continues until 14th August 2016 and is accompanied by a series of talks and events. Entry to the exhibition, talks and events is FREE.




News round-up: March 2016


A Gowned Student, 1677. University of Aberdeen Picture Collection

March has been a busy month in Special Collections as staff delivered talks and prepared displays for various local groups and visiting students.

3rd March 2016 – Danestone Local History Group Talk

The King’s College Project Archivist Mary Sabiston delivered a talk to the Danestone Local History Group discussing the ‘Life of a 17th century student’ at King’s College. The talk covered the calendar and timetable of the students, their curriculum and of course discipline at the college. The talk was inspired by a series of tweets and blog post which were created as part of the National ‘Explore your archives’ campaign. The original blog can be found here.

10th March 2016 – Granite City Photography Group Visit

Fourteen members of the Granite City Photography Group attended a talk and display by the Deputy Archivist Andrew MacGregor about the renowned George Washington Wilson photographic collection. Based in Torry the Granite City Photography Group was set up in June 2014. The idea of the group is to promote learning through both internal and external experience and through regular friendly competitions and challenges and guest speakers as well as encouraging social interaction between members. A guide to some of the GWW material held in Special Collections and a list of the items on display can be found here: GWW sources.

15th March 2016 – Grampian Decorative and Fine Arts Society Visit

On 15th March, Special Collections Centre hosted a visit from 16 members of the Grampian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (GDFAS). The group were shown an exhibition of some 15 treasures from the collections, including a 15th century Dutch book of hours. Glucksman Conservation Centre conservators also talked about their current restorative work on papyri and the Book of Esther.

A list of the items on display can be found here: Grampian Decorative Arts Group.

29th March 2016 – Visit by RGU Students

Special Collections were delighted to co-host a visit by 17 students from this year’s intake on Robert Gordon University’s MSc Information and Library Studies programme. Accompanied by their Head of Department of Information Management, Professor Peter Reid, the group were given an introduction to the Sir Duncan Rice Library by Janet MacKay, before touring the building with Ewan Grant and Keith O’Sullivan. The students were taken ‘behind the scenes’ and shown our various stores and the Glucksman Conservation Centre.


Account of a student supper in 1857

MS 3911_2_lying wait copy

Dr John Reid from the Department of Physics and one of our regular readers, has written an article utilising 2 student notebooks in our collection. The notebooks are by a John Duncan and give an account of the class supper of 1857 when he and his colleagues were in third year at Marischal College. The account not only includes vivid descriptions of events but are accompanied by many sketches…..

To see the article click here – ClassSupper


Calligraphy Puzzles

While cleaning and rehousing part of MS 3667 (Learney Estate: Innes family papers), our Collections Care Assistant, Laura, found something rather surprising hidden between some pieces of correspondence.

Image 1

The envelope reads, “Calligraphic puzzles written by Thomas Innes when confined to lying on his back for 5 months – sent to his son William 1866.”

Inside were four little cards, each with what appeared to be random lines and coloured shapes.

Image 2

That is, until you tilt them first one way, then the other…

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“It is an honour for a man to cease from strife.” Proverb 20:3, KJV

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“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18, KJV

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“Boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Proverb 27:1, KJV

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“He that is slow to anger is better than he that is mighty” Proverbs 16:32, KJV