Arctic Apocalypse! (and other happenings)

School started back this week for the children in the Aberdeen area, and so our summer programme of children’s activities for the Far North exhibition has come to an end. After our opening Family Fun event when we made Inuit-style tents and boots, we had two further workshops where we tried the cyanotype method of photo processing to make Aurora Borealis-inspired art effects, and created ice sculptures out of plastic recycling materials.

And then it was Summer School, where 13 children worked for three mornings to create comic-book storyboards under the theme of Arctic Apocalypse! The premise for each story was that a giant meteor is about to hit the Arctic and life will never be the same on Earth again – but after that, it was up to the children where the stories went …

Read on for more about each event.

Northern Light

The Far North exhibition includes some beautiful artistic renderings of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, created by early Arctic explorers. We explored some more artistic possibilities using optical effects by experimenting with cyanotype photo processing, using ‘sun print’ papers. The paper is coated with a photo-sensitive layer which changes colour when exposed to the light. The children created images, exposed the paper and then developed it by washing off the photo-sensitive layer and leaving the paper to dry. Normally it takes only a couple of minutes’ exposure time, but we had heavy cloud cover that day and so in some cases it took up to 25 minutes … but luckily we had another Aurora-inspired craft to do during the waiting time!

Ice and Snow

The exhibition includes a giant rock crystal, of the type that was often associated with the Arctic ice in the 19th century artistic imagination. Taking this as our starting point, we used plastic household recycling to create ice and snow sculptures. The Arctic is increasingly polluted with plastic waste and so using household recycling materials for our art seemed a good way of bringing the topic into discussion. We also made snowstorm ‘thaumatropes’. Thaumatropes are circles of card with an image on each face, and strings attached at each side; when twirled the separate images appear to blend together to create one image. Thaumatropes were popular toys in the 19th century, and who knows but maybe some of the Scottish whalers took them to the Arctic with them? Continuing with our Arctic theme we used images of snowflakes observed under the microscope by 19th century explorer William Scoresby, who wrote An Account of the Arctic Regions (1820), a book we hold here in the Special Collections and which is full of fascinating information and drawings.

Arctic Apocalypse!

Summer School is an annual event in our calendar, when a group of children aged 7-11 work over the course of three mornings on an exciting project inspired by our collections. This year the theme was of course the Arctic, and we paired up with King’s Museum who have an exhibition about the science of light showing currently, and a fantastic collection of rare meteorites. At first we thought we might never find a project to tie both exhibitions together, but eventually we created Arctic Apocalypse! The children worked in teams to create a storyboard for a comic in which they depicted the repercussions of a giant meteor falling to Earth and hitting the Arctic.

On Day 1 the children researched the Arctic by exploring the Far North exhibition and seeing the journals, notebook and photo album of Davie Cardno, a 19th century whaler from Peterhead.

After some Arctic research we talked about what a storyboard is, and how a story is created. We used the film How to Train Your Dragon as an example, and the children made a storyboard for the film by retelling the story in ‘freeze frames’ or tableaux. We also looked into characterization and how we recognize different characters in comics.

On Day 2 we went to King’s Museum and the children explored the exhibition there, drew objects they thought might come in useful for their stories, and then got down to the serious business of creating their characters and making up their stories. Following the standard process for creating a comic book, they made character sheets showing what their characters would look like and in some cases giving an indication of their personalities.

Day 3 was all go! The summer school actually coincided with the annual Perseid meteor shower so we started off by watching a short BBC news report about it, and then the children got down to making their storyboards. With only a short morning in which to complete the boards and between 9 and 12 frames per board, we thought we might not make it, but we did! At 1pm all the parents were shown a display of the completed storyboards before everyone headed home for some well-deserved rest.

Arctic Apocalypse! summer school 2015 participants

And that’s the end of our children’s summer programme for 2015! Family Fun will be back in the October holidays. If you are interested in hearing about our children’s events and would like to be on our mailing list, get in touch by emailing scc.learning@abdn.ac.uk.

Posted by: Sarah

Inuit Summer

This summer may have felt a bit polar here for most of us so far, but yesterday at Family Fun we learned what summer life has really been like in the Arctic for those who have lived there. After exploring our current exhibition The Far North, the children made their own miniature tupiit, or Inuit summer tents, and designed their own kamiks, or boots. Group making tupiit Tupiit (Inuit tents) tent sample 1 Traditionally the Inuit of northern Canada were nomadic in the summer. This is because they had to follow the animals they hunted, in order to get enough food and materials for all aspects of daily life – not only for the summer but for the long winter ahead. When the animals moved on, the Inuit had to move with them, so in the summer they lived in tents. The tents could be put up and taken down easily. The Inuit word for an Inuit tent is tupiq. The plural is tupiit. So they would speak of one tupiq, but two tupiit. A tupiq was made entirely of animals. The poles for the tent were made of whale bone. Animal skins were stitched together expertly to make a waterproof cover. Since summer in the Arctic is light the whole time, the skins at the back of the tupiq had the hair left on, to keep the light out and make a dark place for sleeping in. At the front of the tupiq the skins had the hair removed, to let the light in and make a pleasant living area. Cooking was mostly done outside, to prevent the tent from becoming too smoky for comfort. Here in the Special Collections Centre we have a drawing and a plan of an Inuit tupiq, made by Davie Cardno, a 19th century whaler who came from Peterhead. Davie stowed away at the age of 13 on a whaling ship, and for the rest of his life he worked in the Arctic. He spent a lot of time with the Inuit of Baffin Island, and he made notes on their way of life, which we used yesterday to help us make our own miniature tupiit. MS 3090_8 Davie Cardno notebook Of course we didn’t have animals skins and whale bones to make our tents! Instead we used felt, waxed paper and barbecue skewers. We also used pebbles from Aberdeen Beach as rocks to hold down the tent coverings and make fire places. It was great to see the children not only build their tupiit, but also populate them and add extra features to make them more realistic. Some had door flaps added and sleeping bags installed inside, and some had meals being cooked on the fire – a roasted seal on a spit in front of one tent and a salmon smoking above the fire in another!

Kamiks (boots) The word for an Inuit boot is kamik. Kamiks are made of animal skin and fur, and they have different layers for different weather. Even though the Inuit can now buy mass-produced boots made of modern materials like rubber, many people in the Arctic still prefer to make their own, as fur and skin are more breathable. It is difficult to keep your feet airy and dry when you have to wear thick boots all the time to keep out the cold, so it is important for your boots to be as breathable as possible. Different Inuit communities have different styles of boots. This is partly because the animals vary from place to place and so the skins and furs available are different. It is also to do with local traditions of design and pattern, and individual bootmakers’ own tastes. Making a pair of kamiks is a long, complicated and difficult process. The animals must be hunted, the skins must be prepared, and then the boots must be constructed so expertly that they are water tight, as well as beautiful. Everything in the boots comes from animals, usually seal and caribou. Even the thread the pieces are sewn together with is made from the muscle sinew of caribou. If you are interested in finding out more about kamiks, there is a really good online exhibition about them at www.allaboutshoes.ca/en/. This is where we found a lot of our information about kamiks.

Are you interested in coming to Family Fun at the Library? We will be running two more sessions linking in to the Far North exhibition this summer, on Wednesday 29th July and Wednesday 5th August. Both workshops run 1-4pm, are drop-in sessions and free. If you would like to be on our mailing list to receive information about future similar events, let us know by emailing scc.learning@abdn.ac.uk.

Posted by: Sarah

In the Conservation Studio

Marion Gouriveau was our most recent conservation intern, and in this post she takes us through two of the fascinating conservation projects she worked on while here at the Special Collections Centre. Marion is working towards a Masters degree in conservation-restoration at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

While at the University of Aberdeen I worked on several projects including a miniature book and an anatomical model of a snail, made of papier-mâché. The book was a 1601 copy of De tranquillitate animi, written by Seneca (ca. 4 B.C-65 A.D), and the snail had formerly been used as a teaching aid and is now part of the Zoology Museum collection.

Miniature Book: De tranquillitate animi (shelf mark: pi 87265 t)

I worked on this project with Brannah Mackenzie, book conservator at GCC.

Description

This little book was printed and published in 1601. It has a leather binding and its dimensions are small: 40 mm high, 40 mm wide and 15 mm deep. The binding has been decorated using a method called tooling, where hot metal tools are used to make impressions into the leather. Both the front and back of the binding are also decorated with the letters “I S” and a fleur-de-lys in gold. The text block is made up of multiple paper gatherings sewn on two cord supports which are laced in to the boards. The text is printed in black ink.

Book before treatment: binding

Book before treatment: binding

Book before treatment: text block

Book before treatment: text block

Condition

The book was in poor condition. The boards were still attached to the text block and the board edges and corners were in quite good condition. However, the leather at the top and bottom of the spine was missing and the leather was slightly worn and abraded. There were also missing areas, ingrained dirt, tears and creases throughout the text block, especially to the pages where the sewing was broken. These pages were brittle and the title page was very soft.

Spine before treatment

Spine before treatment

Broken sewing & detached sections

Broken sewing & detached sections

I compared the original text of De tranquillitate animi with the text of the book and I realised that pages 96 to 193 were missing – probably always missing as there is not enough space in the binding to accommodate so many folios. Using the original text, I was also able to place a loose page in the correct location. The main concern with the book in this condition was that the detached sections could be lost. The treatment aimed to stabilise the binding and the text block to make the book suitable for use.

Treatment

The first step was to clean the surface. A smoke sponge made of vulcanised rubber was used to clean the binding and brushes were used to clean the text block. The title page had to be cleaned very carefully because it was so fragile. To prepare the leather for repair it was consolidated with an adhesive which strengthened the leather and helped to prevent it turning black when paste was applied to it. The next step was to dismantle the back half of the text block, which was the one in worst condition, in order to make paper repairs. Paper repairs were made with very lightweight Japanese tissue called Tengujo (11 gsm) and wheat starch paste. To be as precise as possible, I worked on the light box so I could see the damaged areas more clearly.

Binding after damaged sections have been removed

Binding after damaged sections have been removed

Working on a lightbox reveals areas requiring repair

Working on a lightbox reveals areas requiring repair

Repair paper applied

Repair paper applied

Repairs complete, ready for resewing

Repairs complete, ready for resewing

In order to find the best method to re-sew the half of the text block which had been dismantled, several tests were made using different types of stitch.

Models prepared to identify the most suitable sewing technique

Models prepared to identify the most suitable sewing technique

The best solution was the Coptic stitch, so called as it was used in Coptic bindings. It was felt that the linen thread, usually used for sewing text blocks, was too hard for the delicate text block, so we used a 100% cotton embroidery thread instead.

Re-sewn section in situ

Re-sewn section in situ

To further hold all the sections together, the spine was lined with a Japanese tissue and a piece of toned Japanese tissue was used to reinforce the spine and also repair the missing areas of leather.

Toned Japanese tissue attached underneath the spine leather

Toned Japanese tissue attached underneath the spine leather

The last step was to re-attach the board to the text block with a ‘v-hinge’ of Japanese paper.

V-hinge used to attach the board to the text block

V-hinge used to attach the board to the text block

Repairs dried under light pressure

Repairs dried under light pressure

The text block is now stable, and the book is suitable for production to readers.

After treatment

After treatment

After treatment

After treatment

Storage

To protect the book it was put in a four-flap box. The book is really tiny and so, to protect it more and to facilitate its storage, I made a bigger box, where the book is kept with the original sewing-threads, which were encapsulated in Melinex. 9. Storage (1) The box is fitted out with Plastazote foam to prevent the book and the encapsulation from moving around inside the box. 9. Storage (2)

Anatomical Model of a Snail

For the second project I describe here, I worked with Caroline Dempsey, archaeological artefacts conservator, Marischal College.

Snail before treatment

Snail before treatment

Description

This model was made during the 19th century by Louis Auzoux, a French doctor born in 1797 who studied medicine in Paris. His factory offered a wide catalogue, producing models of the complete human body, animals, insects and plants. These models are called clastic models, from the Greek Klastos, which means broken or in pieces; they could be taken apart in order to access the internal organs.

Dismantled snail

Dismantled snail

The different parts are held together with metal pins and hooks. Each section is composed of several layers of paper pressed into metal lined wooden moulds. These are then filled with a pulp composed of flour starch paste, shredded paper, hemp fibre, lime and Poudre de Liège or powdered cork. Where pieces are hollow they are strengthened by additional layers of paper, and no pulp fill is added. When the basic structure is dry, arteries, veins and nerves composed of wire covered by hemp and paper are added and fastened with nails. Finally, the paper is painted with pigments bound in fish glue and a layer of gelatine applied as a varnish. Printed paper labels with numbers and little hands aid dismantling and reassembly.

Printed label with numbers and pointer to aid assembly

Printed label with numbers and pointer to aid assembly

Some sections are hinged together using small rings

Some sections are hinged together using small rings

This particular model of a garden snail belongs to the University’s Zoology collection. It is 66.5 cm length, 27 cm height and the shell is 27 cm width. We can’t be precise about the date, but there is a similar snail in France dated 1882 and another one dated 1855 in Leiden (Museum Boerhaave), Nederland. It can be dismantled into 15 pieces. Some parts are kept together with rings, others can be opened thanks to hinges.

Condition

On examination, the snail was in poor condition. Its age, exposure to light and changes in relative humidty (RH) had caused the paint and the adhesive to crack, especially along the edges. It had been particularly affected by the fluctuations in RH, having previously been stored in close proximity to a plant room. It is also believed to have suffered from smoke damage as a result of a fire in the University’s Zoology Department a number of years ago. The papier-mâché suffered from distortion and delamination and some metal parts such as iron hooks and clasps, used to attach the various components, were corroded. A membrane of goldbeater’s skin (a lightweight material made from animal intestine) was detached from the structure representing the pulmonary arteries. There were many losses, the surface was very dirty, and one of the antennae was missing.

Cracked and flaking paint

Cracked and flaking paint

The pulmonary arteries section with detached and distorted goldbeater’s skin covering

The pulmonary arteries section with detached and distorted goldbeater’s skin covering

Treatment

Some work had been carried out by a previous conservator to prepare the snail for exhibition. With limited time available, the primary aim at that point was to stabilise the item so that it could be handled safely for display purposes. However, this was by necessity a short-term solution and additional stabilising treatment to reduce risk of further damage in the longer term was required.

The first step in this second stage of treatment was to clean the surface. The snail had previously been cleaned with saliva which contains enzymes that can be helpfully used to breakdown more tenacious dirt. I attempted to reduce the dirt further through the use of iced water. As reported by Richard Barden, a conservator at the National Museum of American History, the use of iced water reduces the risk that the gelatine contained in the coating will soften.

Once one area was cleaned, I worked on re-attaching the flaking paint. Water was first used to humidify the paint layer just enough to facilitate manipulation so that it could be re-adhered, edge to edge. In some cases additional strengthening of repairs was required and in these cases, a Japanese tissue was added. Where sections of paint were missing, the gap was filled in with Japanese paper of different thicknesses, until it had the same level as the paint. If necessary, the Japanese paper was either toned before application or in-painted after. The idea here was not to make the repair invisible, but to make it less intrusive. It is important to be able identify what is new and what is original.

Before

Before

After

After

Area of loss before treatment

Area of loss before treatment

Layers of Japanese tissue applied

Layers of Japanese tissue applied

Dried under pressure

Dried under pressure

Area after treatment

Area after treatment

Iron parts were cleaned with an abrasive fibreglass pencil, in order to remove the corrosion, and prevent more alteration to the paper.

Repair to the Pulmonary Arteries

One of the most challenging areas to address was the damage to the pulmonary artery piece. The membrane of goldbeater’s skin is extremely hygroscopic meaning that it responds readily to the amount of water in the atmosphere. Over time repeated expansion and contraction has led to this membrane distorting, tearing and detaching from the structure beneath.

Due to time constraints, it was decided that the area would be stabilised through the use of tabs to attach the membrane remnants to the structure beneath. First the goldbeater’s skin was humidified and flattened locally, then tabs were attached to keep the skin in place. The tabs were applied to the outer side to minimise the risks associated with applying them securely inside the structure, and it was therefore important that when applied, they would be unobtrusive. In addition to this, the adhesive selected had to be strong enough to maintain attachment to the goldbeater’s skin once dried. I carried out a number of tests to find the most appropriate solution.

Before humidification and tab repair

Before humidification and tab repair

After humidification and tab repair

After humidification and tab repair

While this treatment succeeded in stabilising this section in the short-term, further issues require resolution before a long term solution can be applied.

What next?

While work is not complete, the benefits of the treatments carried out can already be seen. The work on the paint and varnish layers means that the snail can be re-assembled more easily and with less risk than before. However, a few problems are still to be resolved: for example, how should missing metal pins be dealt with? What is the best long-term solution to the repair of the pulmonary arteries?

This project is therefore ongoing, and it is planned that work will be continued by another placement student who will continue with the testing and treatments that I have begun.

My work on the snail has formed the basis of my final dissertation where I also explain the methods and technology used by Auzoux to make these models in papier-mâché, and briefly present the history of the anatomical model. The purpose is to understand the historical and technological background of these objects. Why were they created? Where are they kept now?

After four months spent at the University of Aberdeen, I have moved on to my next placement. In order to further develop my understanding and to bring greater precision to my work on papier-mâché models, I will be working on an anatomical model of a man, held in the Medicine Museum, in Brussels, Belgium: http://www.museemedecine.be/

A PDF report with some additional technical details can be downloaded here: Full report

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click to replay snail assembly

Monster Moves

If any of you picture archives and libraries as stuffy, repressive places where you must sit tight on your seat and keep buttoned up at all costs, think again and read on!

Every year we take part in Arts Across Learning, a city-wide festival in which local organisations and venues work with freelance art practitioners to provide workshops and activity sessions for Aberdeen City Council’s primary schools. For us, it’s an opportunity both to explore our historic collections in a fun way using different art genres, and also to keep adding to our repertoire of skills for interpreting our collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives to young audiences.

This year we were paired with a dance tutor to put together a creative movement workshop for very young children of P1-2 (roughly age 5-6). New territory for us! Most of our school audience is upper primary, and while we use the visual arts, creative writing and even drama regularly in our workshops, dance was something new for us altogether. We chose the treasured Aberdeen Bestiary, a sumptuous 12th-13th century manuscript book of animals, as our source material for the workshop. The Bestiary is a gift for working with children, with its gorgeous gold-illuminated illustrations and its quirky accounts of animal behaviour. f9r_panther Illustration: a (blue and spotty) panther, from the Bestiary. According to the writers, the panther is such a sweet-smelling animal that the other creatures of the world follow it wherever it goes, drawn by its lovely scent. One gets the feeling that the monks who wrote the Bestiary had never seen a panther in action! However the factual basis for the animal stories was not so important for the monks as the religious meaning that could be drawn from them: the story is primarily a metaphor for the attraction of Christ for His followers.

Our dance tutor was Linzy McAvoy, representing Aberdeen’s Citymoves Dance Agency. We knew right from the start that Linzy was going to be fantastic to work with, and so it proved. Linzy immediately perceived the dramatic potential of the Bestiary and entered wholeheartedly into our plan to bring the book to life for the children, bringing her expertise in teaching dance to create a fun, movement-based exploration of the numerous mythical beasts of the book.

The structure of the workshop followed our usual format, where we introduce the children to the topic as a whole, and then get down to showing the original items from the collection. Seeing an original historical book or archive is an awe-inspiring experience, and we always try to show them as much original material as possible. Of course, our Bestiary is one of the few items in our collections that is just too precious to be taken out (in fact, it is still “resting” after its star turn in our 2012 Gilded Beasts exhibition), but we do have a beautiful, high-quality facsimile copy of our Bestiary’s sister book, the Ashmole Bestiary. Using digitised images from our book, and showing the facsimile of the Ashmole, the pupils got an idea of just how stunning the Bestiary is itself. We talked a long time about the making of the Bestiary: who made it (monks), and how it was made (using vellum, gold leaf and ink written with a feather quill). We also speculated about how the monks knew about some of the more exotic animals in the book, in a time when very few people travelled and the only way you could travel faster than you could walk was by horse. In fact, it was remarkable how focussed the children were, and how many pertinent questions they had to ask. I spent nearly twice as long with these 5 and 6-year-olds as I usually do with the older children! Their curiosity about the book seemed limitless.

From then on, it was all about movement and energy! First of all the children warmed up by moving across the room like some of the real animals in the Bestiary, thinking about how each animal moves and what kind of noise it makes. We had lots of stomping elephants, wriggling snakes, scuttling crabs and hopping frogs.

Once the children were warmed up we honed in on some of the rather more fantastical creatures in the Bestiary, such as the ever-popular Bonnacon (a bull-like creature that, when hunted, farts fire at its pursuers), and the anphivena, a two-headed, snake-like monster. f12r_bonnacon_detail The children worked in pairs to experiment with ways they could make a two-headed creature like the anphivena by joining their bodies together in different places. After making a series of different two-headed monsters, they then tried to make their creatures move around the room – quite a difficult thing to do when you have two brains wanting to go in different directions. Some serious negotiation was required in order to get those two-headed beasts walking!

Then it was on to imagining new mythical monsters, made up of parts of different animals. Individually the children tried moving like one animal while making the noise of another. Then, after seeing Tony Meeuwissen’s interactive book Remarkable Animals, which features real animals that can be mixed up with each other to create altogether unheard of combinations, the children worked with each other again to figure out how they could each contribute different animal parts and amalgamate them to make new monsters. The workshop finished with a demonstration of all the different mythical beasts, and then it was back to school.

Although we had both felt initially nervous about how well dance and rare books would go together, and also how well a rare books-based workshop would work for such a young age group, we were amazed at how successfully it went down with the children. Since then we have worked together on another similar-themed event (see our previous Family Fun post on Marvels of the North), and we hope to find opportunities to create more creative movement workshops in the future.

Thanks to Kingswells and Holy Family RC Primary Schools for coming to the Library and creating some fantastic mythical monster movements for the Arts Across Learning Festival. It was great having you.

For more on the Aberdeen bestiary, follow the link to the Bestiary website. There you can discover more about the history and codicology of the book and read translations of each page. You can also read about the many other events and activities we have run with children using the Bestiary as source material. In addition, new, high-quality photography has been carried out recently on the Bestiary by the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care (CHICC) at the John Rylands Library, as part of the redevelopment of the Bestiary website. The new images will eventually be available online. Read more about the project on the Special Collections website and Facebook page.

Posted by: Sarah

Marvels of the North

Our new exhibition The Far North – Frozen Stars, Shifting Ice & the Silence Beyond opened at The Sir Duncan Rice Library at the beginning of April, and to herald in the exhibition public programme we celebrated the Easter holidays with two Family Fun sessions, exploring the creatures, both real and imaginary, depicted in the exhibition.

Our first Family Fun, Monster Movement, played with the idea of the monstrous creatures that early explorers thought lived in the Arctic seas. Tales were told of a great sea serpent that lived in the ocean, though descriptions of its exact appearance differed. In the exhibition is an illustration from the Natural History of Norway by Danish scholar Erik Pontoppidan (1752), which shows two imaginings of the serpent – with one depiction distinctly resembling our very own Loch Ness monster.

p196_sea serpent compressedIn the Special Collections we also have a copy of Abraham Ortelius’ extraordinary map of Iceland, in which the sea is populated by all sorts of hideous sea monsters. On the back of the map is a key, which describes the monsters’ appearance and habits. Some of the monsters are clearly related to real Arctic animals such as the narwhal and the walrus, even if the descriptions are a bit strange. For example, the Rostunger, which seems to be based on the walrus, is said to sleep while hanging off rocks and cliffs by its two long teeth!

pi f912_00_Ort P 2_Islandia compressedIn this Family Fun session participants thought about how sea monsters move. They created their own Arctic sea monsters, making large versions that hung on strings and could wiggle, and close-ups of the heads, with working jaws. Each monster had to have an identity card as well, which described not only how it moved, but also its appearance, habitat, feeding habits and level of threat to Arctic explorers. Most of the monsters created that day were so ferocious they were off the scale.

Participants also got the chance to work with creative movement tutor Linzy McAvoy, using their bodies to explore monster movements and bringing their monsters literally to life. Check out the pictures below to see what happened at Monster Movement.

A week later Family Fun was back with Fauna of the Floes, this time discovering the factual animals that really inhabit the Arctic. The rare books in the exhibition abound with illustrations and anecdotes of polar bears, walruses, seals and many, many more creatures of the Arctic. There is also a real narwhal tusk, and some beautiful carved husky dogs from the University of Aberdeen Museums’ collections on display.

Participants made Arctic mini-worlds depicting the animal life both on and below the ice floes. As well as taking inspiration from the items on display in the exhibition, we used copies of a map from one of the rare books in the Special Collections, An Account of the Arctic Regions by William Scoresby. The book was published in 1820 and you can see that at that time, the top of Greenland and Canada were not yet discovered, as the map shows just blank space instead of land and coast. One of the fun facts about this map was that its maker, William Scoresby, went on his first expedition to the Arctic at the age of only eleven! His father was an explorer and that was how he got to go on his first voyage at such a young age.

Arctic map by William ScoresbyParticipants incorporated the map into their artwork, using it to make animals to inhabit box-worlds, and as the background of the sea and ice for miniature ice floes.

If you fancy making your own Arctic sea monsters or ice floe mini-worlds, why not take inspiration from our photographs and have a go at home. Feel free to download and use the Sea Monster Identity Card and the Arctic Regions Map.

Also, if you would like to know more about the sea monsters in Ortelius’ map of Iceland, check out this fascinating blog post. The author researched the origins of each of the monsters depicted in the map.

Our next Family Fun will be on Saturday 30th May, as part of the University’s May Festival. Come along to The Sir Duncan Rice Library between 1 and 4 pm.

Posted by: Sarah

A tapestry bible

Welcome to our new bookbinding thread in the Collections Highlight post series. Here at the Special Collections Centre, we are lucky to have a wide variety of works in their original bindings which reveal much about the history of each book. We plan to share some of these exceptional bindings one by one, so keep a look out for forthcoming posts in this series.

A bible in a tapestry binding

Tapbinding

Special Collections holds a bible with an exceptionally beautiful embroidered binding. Rich textile bindings were not uncommon in the 17th century decorating devotional books such as bibles and psalters but this binding is unusually fine. The use of so much silver thread is rare and the binding also has what we would call today sequins but which were known as spangs or spangles in the 1600s which add an extravagant texture. The design of fruit and flowers is finished in coloured silks of blue, rose and green. Embroidered bindings were usually commissioned individually but we do not know who the original owner of this bible was.

The bible is interesting too. It is an edition of the Geneva bible with a false title-page claiming to be published in London in 1599 but in fact printed in Amsterdam in 1633 and then imported, illegally. Bound with the bible is an edition of the psalms, published in Edinburgh in 1632 by Janet Kene, the widow of Andro Hart, who had been one of Scotland’s most successful publishers and also importer of books.
1633 was the year in which the first edition of the King James Authorised Bible was printed in Scotland by Robert Young of London who had been appointed ‘King’s Printer in Scotland’. Janet had opposed this appointment, petitioning Parliament in protest but with no success. Perhaps this edition of the bible and psalms could be viewed as a direct challenge not only to the authorised bible but to a monopoly on bible printing in Scotland. Certainly, it was a book that was precious and special enough to someone to warrant the finest of coverings.

The Bible, that is, the holy Scriptures conteined in the Olde and Newe Testament… Amsterdam : Crafoorth, 1633.
pi 22:42 633 1

If you like this post, let us know in the comments. Also if you know of any special bindings in our collections that you would like to see featured, please let us know!

Posted by: Jane

Discover the World: India

It’s been a bit silent on the Special Collections Learning blog front for the last few months, but that’s not because nothing has been happening! On the contrary, life at the Special Collections Centre has been extremely busy – so busy in fact, we’re only just getting around to our first blog post of 2015 now, two and half months into the year.

February was our busiest single month for school workshops so far, with lots of schools visiting to learn about Medieval medicine and art, the Ancient Egyptians and the Jacobites. We also kick started our 2015 Family Fun programme on Saturday 21st with a fantastic afternoon of architecture and design.

For Discover the World: India we decided to take our inspiration from the wonderful watercolour sketches of early 19th century traveller and connoisseur, Robert Wilson. In an age when it took months to cross an ocean and the only way of getting across Europe faster than your own feet could take you was to go by horse, Robert Wilson explored Mediterranean Europe, Egypt, Nubia, Persia (now Iran) and even India. This intrepid explorer bequeathed his collection of travel journals to the University of Aberdeen, and now they live in the Special Collections Centre. We were very keen to use his Indian journal for Family Fun, as it shows his fascination for Indian architecture, in particular the magnificent Mughal tombs and palaces.

(copyright for all images belongs to the University of Aberdeen)

We took inspiration from his drawings to design our own Mughal-style palaces, creating mock-up facades and decorating them with typical Mughal architectural features such as onion domes, arches, minarets and chatris.

We learned a lot about Mughal architecture. The Mughals (pronounced MOO-gulls) were a Muslim dynasty of emperors who conquered most of India and reigned for over 300 years. They built very large, grand buildings which are famous for their beauty and splendour. The most famous of these is probably the Taj Mahal, which was built by one of the emperors as a tomb for his wife.

Make your own Mughal palace

Building walls template

If you would like to create your own Mughal palace facade, feel free to download our wall template (click on the link below). Print the template out to A3 size on card, and then cut it out, fold where instructed and stick it down on to a second piece of A3 card. This is your basic wall structure, standing on the ground. Now you can draw and cut out domes, arches, minarets and chatris and add them to create a fantastic Mughal building. Use the photographs above from our Family Fun to give you ideas. And don’t forget to decorate the walls! Every inch of a real Mughal building was covered with intricate tiled decoration.

Mughal palace walls template

Posted by: Sarah