On the 15th of February the Centre for the History of the Book welcomed Lyn Stevens, curator at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood, to talk about the museum’s nationally-recognised collection of children’s books. The collection encompasses over 15,000 items, ranging from a Latin grammar book from 1579 to a book about Hammy the Wonder Hamster from 2006. Not only does the museum actively collect contemporary children’s literature, but its staff are also still uncovering treasures from the donations they’ve already acquired.
This interdisciplinary seminar, hosted by the Centre for the History of the Book brings together experts in literary studies, book history, chemistry, archaeology, and biology to create dialogue between disciplines and further understand approaches to early and Native American material and print culture.
Dr Matthew Sangster delivered an enlightening and engaging seminar on his recent work concerning the rather understudied area of the history of readers. Dr Sangster is an English Literature Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he focuses on eighteenth-century and romantic literature, as well as book history – in particular on the history of publishing and libraries. Though he has a focus on the author, his recent work focuses on the history of the reader, with the intention of understanding reading patterns, curriculum changes, and the sharing of works amongst readers.
On 27th of October, in a session organised by the Centre for the History of the Book, James Hamilton, the Research Principal of the WS Society, introduced David Laing and his history as the Principal Librarian of the Signet Library. With a strong background in the book trade and bibliography, Laing was already a leading figure in Edinburgh’s intellectual elite as a member of the Bannatyne Club and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. After his attempt, and subsequent failure, to become Librarian to the Faculty of Advocates, Laing accepted a role as the Principal Librarian of the Signet Library, employed by the Society of Writers of the Signet. His appointment set a precedent in the Society history – never before had a non-lawyer been employed to manage their collections. It would set Laing on the collision course that followed and open the door towards the controversy and conflicts that followed him in his later years. His career and its impact on the Signet Library opens up a lot of questions regarding the past, present and future role of the librarian and how it could affect the way we, as scholars of materiality, “read” a library and its collections.
On the 13th of October, Sam Riviere, former Poet-in-Residence at the University of Edinburgh, presented his work as the editor of If a Leaf Falls Press, a micropublishing house working with found and appropriated materials. Fittingly, the name If a Leaf Falls is itself an appropriation of a Lil Wayne lyric (the full lyric, from 2011’s “The Motto,” reads “And if a leaf fall, put some weed on that bitch”) which has come into modern Twitter parlance as a way of referring to something insignificant that is blown out of proportion. With the addition of “Press,” Riviere hopes also to evoke images of pressing a leaf, thereby preserving something that would have otherwise been fleeting.