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Today’s blog post comes from Jill Dye, a second-year PhD student at Stirling on a SGSAH-funded Applied Research Collaboration with the University Dundee and the Library of Innerpeffray. Whilst her PhD research focuses on borrowers from the Library of Innerpeffray 1747-1854, Jill has been using the archives at Stirling to research the borrowers from the Leighton Library, Dunblane, as part of the Scottish Universities Research Collections Associate Scheme (SURCAS) Pilot.
How much can we know about ordinary individuals long since deceased? Any search usually starts with parish and census records via one of the many platforms of the thriving genealogy business. Before the first census in 1841, however, the only information you’re likely to find is birth, baptism, marriage and death. While the early censuses record addresses and occupations, such information does not give a particularly good insight into what they were like as an individual, only key places and dates. Any archive that allows us to see more than these simple facts and build a better picture of a person is therefore invaluable.
My research focuses on 18th and 19th century library borrower records, which are particularly rich in historic Perthshire. Whilst my PhD is centred on the borrower records from Innerpeffray, as part of a public outreach project I have recently been focusing on the region’s other incredible borrowing record, that of the Leighton Library at Dunblane, which is housed at the University of Stirling. Borrowing records usually give address and occupation information (far earlier than the census), but more importantly, they show how an individual interacts with the library and the types of books which they were interested in reading. These archives are invaluable not just to academics but to the family or local historian, and yet few know of their existence.
This project aims to highlight the usefulness of this resource to the wider public. The website created from the project explores the borrowings of selected Leighton Library users, using, where possible, local and family history sources to place the records of their borrowing into the wider context of their lives. These individuals range from well-known figures such as the writer John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, to a Minister from St Ninians, a local Surgeon, and even a female visitor to the Dunblane Mineral Springs. In a forthcoming guest post on the website, fellow PhD Student Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell will be commenting on the borrowings of a local student. The site will also eventually include an index of names recorded in the register so that anyone researching local individuals can easily identify whether they appear in the record. The project will culminate in a display of material from the Leighton Archives followed by a short talk, free and open to the public, which will take place at the University Library on Tuesday 28 March. More details on the event are available here.
The catalogue of the Leighton Library has been added to COPAC http://copac.ac.uk/ . COPAC contains the combined catalogues of the largest and most important research libraries in the UK and Ireland. Researchers around the world can now easily discover the Leighton Library’s books.
The Leighton Library is open to visitors during May – September, Monday – Saturday, 11am – 1pm. However, if you would like to consult a book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll fetch the book from Dunblane for you.
It’s great that the profile of this small library in Dunblane is being raised. If you are interested in visiting, it’s near the golden ‘Andy Murray’ postbox!
Our latest exhibition in the university library features Archbishop Robert Leighton, who was Bishop of Dunblane and then Archbishop of Glasgow in the 17th century. As 2011 is the 400th anniversary of Leighton’s birth (we don’t know his birthday, unfortunately), the exhibition celebrates this remarkable man and his collection of books.
Leighton lived through one of the most turbulent periods in Scottish history. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, yet took up the office of Bishop of Dunblane in the restored Episcopal Church, in an attempt to reconcile Presbyterians and Episcopalians in a united Church of Scotland. Aware that he might be accused of seeking self-aggrandisement, he accepted a post in Dunblane, the smallest and poorest see in the country. He was later installed as Archbishop of Glasgow, though he failed to bring about the reconciliation in church affairs which he so desired.
Leighton was a learned scholar, with wide ranging interests. He bequeathed some 1500 books and pamphlets to the Cathedral of Dunblane. A library building was erected between 1684 and 1688 in order to house the books for the use of the local clergy. From 1734 the library became one of the first subscription libraries in Scotland and thrived until around 1870. Leighton’s collection of books was supplemented by 18th and 19th century additions, bringing the total bookstock to around 3350 items. The collection covers a variety of subject areas, including history and politics (particularly 17th century), theology, medicine, travel, language and the occult. There is also much to interest the book historian.
The Leighton Library is open to tourists during the summer months. Thanks to an agreement with the Trustees of the Leighton Library, researchers may consult Leighton Library books in Stirling University Library (please contact Helen Beardsley, email@example.com for further information). There are no study facilities in the library in Dunblane. We will fetch the books required from Dunblane. All of the Leighton Library’s books are included on our own online catalogue.
The exhibition highlights some of the Leighton Library’s treasures, including a 1562 edition of the New Testament in Syriac, a 1667 index of books prohibited by the Catholic Church, as well as volumes of Buffon’s Histoire naturelle (1749-1804) with their superb illustrations. We are grateful to Dr Alastair Mann for contributing his expertise to the exhibition.
Further information and a short film about the Leighton Library can be found here.