Saturday, 6 February 2010

'Edinburgh, Old and New'

Symson the Printer's House, Edinburgh (click to enlarge)

This morning I was browsing the Capital Collections website and this entry caught my eye:

I don't altogether agree with Malcolm Fraser that we 'traditionalists' should all be lumped together as naysayers, and some of us do have a little idea of the history of construction and the wide variety of architectural styles and forms that existed in the past (and Malcolm, your beautiful, intelligent, award winning Scottish  Poetry Library didn't get the thumbs down did it? It has that similar vigour and the sense of accretion...) although I won't argue that certain recent additions to the glorious city of Edinburgh are not all that we might wish.  Today, I'll be kind and not name too many names. (thumbnails - click to enlarge pics)

Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, pic credit MFA

See also * bottom of post

However, I thought I would do a short blogpost to bring to the attention of  those unaware of its existence,  the online website Edinburgh Old and New

from which the above image is taken (click to enlarge).

Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant was printed as a periodical in the 1880s and is now seen as a set of three or six volumes, and describes its history, its people, and its places by using anecdotal historical text with endless illustrations. These volumes were a gift from my uncle, Bill Smith. As someone who has lived in Edinburgh for more than 50 years, the illustrations still thrill and excite me no matter how often I look at them. For this reason I wanted to put them online in such a format that Edinburgh school children and students might easily download the images or text whilst researching the history, architecture, society of Edinburgh's Old or New Towns.

—Hamish Horsburgh

Thank you Hamish Horsburgh, for that fine and generous thought; I have derived so many hours of pleasure from browsing and hope others will also.

Here is the link:

That's not the sole pleasure from that site; there's a link to other digitised books:

You can now browse and search the complete collection of John Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time, and Edinburgh Past and Present on the Edinburgh Bookshelf

and a list of other useful links:

(click to read)

Another website full of useful and fascinating information, including the House Histories news and a number of podcasts, is that of Edinburgh World Heritage, although it takes a wee while to find all the treasures hidden there:

Here's a small sample:

and further links:

including one to where this all began:

And of course there is this:

and the excellent photographs here:

and here:


For further reading, I recommend Hamish Coghill, Lost Edinburgh:

I steal this poem from the website of Valerie Gillies, a past Edinburgh Makar, in the hope she won't object as it seems so fitting here:

It was written on the occasion of the opening of the new Edinburgh District Council building, Waverley Court, in 2007 (of which building the least said the better...)

To Edinburgh

Stone above storms, you rear upon the ridge:

we live on your back, its crag-and-tail,

spires and tenements stacked on your spine,

the castle and the palace linked by one rope.

A spatchcocked town, the ribcage split open

like a skellie, a kipper, a guttit haddie.

We wander through your windy mazes,

all our voices are flags on the high street.

From the sky’s edge to the grey firth

we are the city, you are within us.

Each crooked close and wynd is a busy cut

on the crowded mile that takes us home

in eden Edinburgh, centred on the rock,

our city with your seven hills and heavens.

Happy reading!


*PS More poetry: Carry a Poem  Great stuff happening in Embra this month! @carryapoem on Twitter

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