Wilfred Owen, the Advocates Library and the Stevenson connection

To commemorate the centenary of Wilfred Owen’s visit to the Advocates Library I put together a small exhibition. This is the story…

Edinburgh Library and Information Services Agency

One hundred years ago, on the 22nd October 1917, war poet Wilfred Owenpaid a visit to the Advocates Library to meet with Charles John Guthrie (Lord Guthrie). To commemorate this centenary I put together a very small, private exhibition in the Advocates Library. However, since we’re approaching Armistice Day, and it’s a sweet story, I decided to post something here too.

letter Wilfred Owen’s letter to his mother, 22nd October 1917 from ‘Selected letters’ by Wilfred Owen; edited by John Bell, 2nd edition 1998

From the end of June to early November 1917, Wilfred Owen was resident at Craiglockhart War Hospital, receiving treatment for shell-shock. His doctor, Arthur Brock practised ergo therapy, ‘the cure by functioning’. Brock encouraged his patients to work and explore outdoors, and to experience the local community and culture.

dulce et decorum est ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen. Written at Craiglockhart in the…

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The Edinburgh City of Literature Trust’s library campaign launches today!
#MakeItCount #LibrariesMatter

Make It Count Action Card

Edinburgh Library and Information Services Agency

The City of Literature Trust is running a library campaign calling library lovers and users all over Edinburgh to get a card, sign up a friend, make the most of what’s on offer, and get vocal about how great libraries are.

On Monday 26 June 2017, the City of Literature Trust’s ‘Make It Count’ Library campaign will be kicked-off – spanning a four week period that will delve deep into the heart of Edinburgh’s libraries by featuring stories, images and conversations between librarians and writers – ending with the Trust’s pledge to take the words and support received to Edinburgh’s Councillors at the City Chambers.

Inspired by the support and enthusiasm generated by the Libraries Matter campaign run by CILIPS, the Trust was keen to carry this sentiment forward; to harness the overwhelming support and passion for Edinburgh’s local libraries and channel this into creating a tangible and noticeable…

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Brexit negotiations under a minority government – via Second Reading

An impartial, factual briefing on Brexit from the House of Commons Library blog Second Reading

Theresa May intends to form a minority government and to work with allies, in particular the ten MPs in Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to press ahead with the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments.
What might this mean for the Brexit negotiations?
Talks will still go ahead
Both Theresa May and the EU have said that the Brexit negotiations will still go ahead.

Talks are due to start in the week of 19 June, but they could be delayed, depending on how long it takes to form a new government. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted an offer to delay the start of the negotiations until the UK is ready. However, there is no guarantee that the 27 remaining EU Member States would then agree unanimously to extend the negotiating period at the other end.

What is the Government’s Brexit mandate?

The election hasn’t made it much clearer what Brexit policies voters support. We only know that there’s no majority support for any party’s manifesto and Brexit plans.

However, David Davis appeared to suggest to Sky News at around 2am on election night that there would be no mandate for leaving the EU Single Market and customs union.

What’s the DUP position?

DUP and Brexit

In the June 2016 referendum Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to remain in the EU, but two thirds of self-described Unionists in Northern Ireland voted to leave, and the DUP supported Brexit. The DUP is a long-time ally of the Conservative Party and its support has already helped the Government to pass the Article 50 bill which allowed Theresa May to trigger the Brexit process.

DUP Chief Whip Jeffrey Donaldson has said the DUP will continue to support the Conservatives on Brexit.

What might the DUP demand for their support?

There are areas of agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP: both want to protect EU and UK citizens’ rights, avoid a hard border with Ireland and end the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice.

But there are also disagreements. The DUP manifesto called for a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU, but also a customs union. And Arlene Foster doesn’t want the ‘hard Brexit’ implied by Theresa May’s ruling out of membership of the Single Market. The manifesto referred to “Ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the European Union”, and a “frictionless border with the Irish Republic”.

Will the DUP demand concessions in return for support for the Great Repeal Bill and other Brexit-related bills to be brought before Parliament?

Theresa May is not forming a coalition government with the DUP, so it’s unlikely that there will be DUP ministers at the negotiating table. But DUP influence in UK negotiating positions could be felt if the Government is obliged to put more emphasis on the question of the border with Ireland. This might in turn give rise to a higher profile in the negotiations for all the Devolved Administrations.

Might Parliament be bolder?

A stronger opposition might feel more emboldened to use the tools at its disposal to scrutinise the Brexit negotiations. The Government may also be less likely to win any vote on a withdrawal agreement at the end of the negotiations.

Steering the unprecedented quantity of Brexit-related legislation through the Commons without a majority is likely to be more problematic than in the previous Parliament. Also the House of Lords might consider itself able to vote against Government Bills such as the Great Repeal Bill, if the Salisbury Convention was considered not to apply to a minority Government’s manifesto.

The general election has meant that new Select Committees are unlikely to be up and running until well into the autumn.

Is ‘no deal’ more likely?

A minority Government is likely to find it harder to agree a UK negotiating position, and to have less room to compromise in the negotiations.

This could make it harder to reach agreement – and therefore more likely that the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without any withdrawal agreement. The increased likelihood of another general election probably adds to that risk, as does the increased possibility of a parliamentary vote against a withdrawal agreement.

Or, paradoxically, a weaker Government could give the UK a stronger negotiating hand. If both sides knew that the UK Parliament was unlikely to accept an unfavourable proposal, the EU might be less likely to suggest it.

Picture credit: brexit by airpixCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

source: secondreading.uk

Images of 1950s Glasgow in the National Records of Scotland

Fascinating photos contained within Glasgow Sheriff Court records held by the National Records of Scotland‏.

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Open Book

You might expect the pictures contained within Sheriff court Records to be graphic or disturbing, showing the details of crimes and their victims. Of course, this is often the case – but sometimes the pictures can instead give us a glimpse into social or local history.

In a payment case for damages for injuries occurring in a Glasgow washhouse or ‘steamie’ in 1959 we found this wonderfully candid shot. This photograph provides a snapshot into the working of such a wash house. The large washing machines can be seen in the background, with basins on the right, airing cabinets on the left, and tables for folding in the foreground. It definitely shows what a chore hand washing used to be and how much we take our home washing machines for granted! Such an everyday shot of a very ordinary place would usually not have been a typical subject for a…

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Anonymous Book Fairy Distributes Free Books to Support the #Resistance

via BookRiot

Anonymous Book Fairy Distributes Free Books to Support the Resistance

1984-book-cover-picA customer of San Francisco’s beloved Booksmith purchased 50 copies of George Orwell’s 1984 last week and left them at the store, where they were displayed with a sign exhorting customers to “Read up! Fight back!” Booksmith owner Christin Evans reports that the copies were quickly snapped up, prompting the unnamed benefactor to a repeat performance with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. Other customers have since been inspired to follow suit. This is rad in its own right, but could it be the start of a larger movement to use reading to encourage resistance?

Isn’t that a wonderful thing!

New online atlases by Claudius Ptolemy (1525 and 1584)

Now available on the NLS website:

New online atlases by Claudius Ptolemy (1525 and 1584)

We’ve recently put two atlases online, deriving from the work of Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. Ptolemy’s Geography was a synthesis of Greek scientific and geographic thought, and its re-discovery and printing in Western Europe in the 15th century had a catalytic effect on Renaissance cartography. The Geography provides both a description of methods for mapping the known world and an extensive table of known places and their geographical locations based on the Ptolemaic system. Read further information about Claudius Ptolemy and the Geography, or search the atlas plates using a map.   map

View copies of Ptolemy’s Geography:

13 Scottish books that should be movies – via @scottishbktrust

Hannah McGill at the Scottish Book Trust has listed her top picks for Scottish book-to-screen adaptations.

My main concern with Scottish movies is that Scottish actors get to play the roles… or at least non-Scottish actors (such as Emma Thompson or Jonny Lee Miller) who can pull off a decent Scottish accent. So many otherwise fine adaptations have been ruined for me by the god-awful noises some folk consider sound Scottish (Outlander, I’m still looking at you, if I’m honest).

I’ve read about half of these (so far) and my picks would be Poor Things and Laidlaw… although Buddha Da could make a low key classic…

I’ll give it a bit more thought then vote for my favourite. In the meantime, here’s Hannah’s list for your perusal…

13 Scottish Books That Need to be Adapted for Screen
By Hannah McGill

Here are 13 Scottish books that might work just as well on the small and silver screen as the 40 books that made Scottish Book Trust’s book-to-screen shortlist.

Poor Things by Alasdair Gray

Gray’s neatest and niftiest novel – a mix of Gothic fantasy, heartfelt romance and postmodern wit – was lined up and ready to go as a movie in 2004, with Robert Carlyle, Helena Bonham Carter and Jim Broadbent set to star. Things didn’t work out, but the potential’s still there for a uniquely Scottish period piece.

And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson

Imagine if some clever gang of folk could get the resources and the talent together to make this majestic portrait of post-industrial Scotland into a screen saga. It could be Scotland’s Our Friends in the North: a loving but uncompromising portrait of what happened here in the second half of the twentieth century, told through individual portraits that would be meat and drink to our finest performers.

The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy

Kennedy’s hectic, hotheaded novel of real and pretend intimacy might play a lot of tricks on its reader, but with its fake mediumship, frank sexuality and sharp wit, it would make a supremely atmospheric and surprising film.

Hotel World by Ali SmithHotel World by Ali Smith book cover

Who doesn’t love interlinked stories set in a hotel? Smith’s first novel, published in 2001, is ready-structured for adaptation, with its neat set of overlapping and symbiotically connected stories. Moreover, it’s got multiple vivid and deeply felt female characters, and we can always do with more of those onscreen.

Laidlaw by William McIlvanney

Supposedly, initial plans to bring McIlvanney’s 1977 prototype tartan noir novel to television were thrown off when the similarly-themed Taggart emerged instead. Since then, a 1990 film adaptation of The Big Man aside, McIlvanney’s oeuvre remains little represented onscreen. Time for a leading light to get his due.

The Observations by Jane Harris

Who doesn’t love ghastly goings-on in Victorian country houses? Especially when they come with salty-tongued characters, complex layers of deception and intelligent overtones about class and gender politics? Harris’s historical romp would make top water-cooler TV or a gripping film.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

To be fair, a screen version does exist – Memoirs of a Sinner, a Polish film by Wojciech Jery Has. But an English-language version of this most influential and brilliant 1824 classic remains elusive. There’s an extant script, by no less than Ian Rankin. Bring it on!

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

One could choose any of O’Farrell’s absorbing, elegant and accessible works as a potential movie – she’s one of those writers whose stories you mentally cast as you read them – but the simmering 1976 summer heat against which this family drama unfolds provides particularly intense sensory conditions for a director to emulate.

Buddha Da by Anne Donovan

Faith, family, modern life and ancient moral guidance all come together in Donovan’s warm and well-observed 2003 novel. An empathetic director could make a winning, relevant movie or TV drama out of this material.

Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina

She’s made it to TV with the Field of Blood series, but there’s much more to mine from Mina. This fresh, fiery 2012 thriller would get pulses racing with its mix of murder and motherhood, shady police and self-serving politicians.

The Jump by Doug Johnstone
The Jump by Doug Johnstone

Johnstone’s pacey, accessible genre fiction has a solid audience, but still no onscreen manifestation. This emotionally-charged but still twisty and unpredictable domestic noir would strike a nerve not just with thriller fans, but with anyone who’s parented or grieved.

An Oidhche Mus do Sheòl Sinn (The Night Before We Sailed) by Aonghais Pàdraig Caimbeul

Films drawn from Gaelic source material remain few and far between. It’s time the vibrant modern literary revival of the language found screen representation beyond specialist TV. Aonghais Pàdraig Caimbeul’s rich family saga would be an ambitious place to start, but with its international scope, emotional complexity and powerful characterisation, it’s nothing if not cinematic. Filming it would alert new audiences to the potential of contemporary Gaelic storytelling, as well as paying due tribute to a language culture that deserves to be seen and heard in every medium.

Its Colours They are Fine by Alan Spence

The still-pertinent issue of sectarianism found urgent and poignant expression in this classic set of interlinked short stories. A TV adaptation would reignite discussion about class, poverty and religion in Scotland, as well as bringing timeless characters and stories to the screen.

Have you voted for your favourite Scottish Book-to-Screen adaptation?
Voting is open until 5pm on Tuesday 22 November!