Old Glasgow Club


Minutes of Club meeting held at Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street on Thursday 10 March 2011 at 7.30pm






There were apologies from……..



The minutes of the ordinary meeting held on 13 January were proposed by Stuart Little and seconded by Robert Woodhouse.  The minutes of the February meeting (Members’ Evening – “A Night at the Pictures”) were proposed by Suzanne Halliday and seconded by Jim Rainham.


Secretary’s report

Mrs McNae reminded members about the Club  excursion to the former Fairfield yard on 16 April, the Summer Outing to Paxton House on 11 June, the Tappit Hen Bowling Tournament at Queen’s Park on 26 May and the JAS Wilson Memorial Walk round Pollokshaws on 30 June.



Mr Gordon introduced the speaker David Weston to speak on the topic “Treasures of Glasgow University Library”.


Mr Weston noted that the building, though unprepossessing from the outside, houses a large number of treasures, the earliest being a manuscript from 56 AD.  The Department of Special Collections contains 200,000 manuscript items and 100,000 books, a fifth of which are from before 1600. 1,000 items are incunabula (items printed from 1450-1500), and there are 130 named collections, covering history, art, world literature. The old books section contains items from earliest times to 1836. Further information can be obtained by googling Glasgow University Special Collections.


The University was founded under the auspices of the humanist Pope Nicolas V in 1451, a time which coincided with the invention of printing.  The first mention of the library is in 1475 regarding a book by Aristotle, and there was a steady growth in the library during the Reformation period, but none of the earliest donations survive. Euclid’s Elementa may have been in the library at that time. The library was refounded in 1577 under Protestant lines and there is a work by Strabo, gifted by George Buchanan. There were 20,000 books by 1791, when the Copyright Act required a copy of each book when printed to be deposited in the library, and 126,000 by 1888.


19th century additions included Audubon’s books of birds, huge books (98 cm by 64 cm) containing intricate drawings of birds built up over 20 years (even if some of the drawings are anatomically impossible!); one set was sold recently for £7m. Another book records 681 Australian birds, there is also Thornton’s books of flowers and a book of Roman frescoes, featuring the tomb of Aubrenus at San Barto.  The item from AD56 is a receipt on papyrus for 35 drachmas.  There is also an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus giving an account of beer supplied to Dalamatian soldiers in the 4th century, and an extract from John’s Gospel ch 15 and 16.  In 1918 the library acquired a copy of Legenda Aurea, an illustrated book of the lives of the saints, produced in Bruges and presented to its owner in 1410.


Sir William Ewing (1788-1874) left his collection to his library.  He lived at 209 West George Street and had a passion for music (evidenced by performances by his Glee Club at 6am!).  His collection includes bibles, some of which are on show at the Mitchell library this year, a folio from Love’s Labour Lost, a page from Genesis 1 “In principio…” (“in the beginning…”), and lute music.


Other private collections include that of David Murray a lawyer who died in 1928 and who lived at 13 Newton Place, and personal papers of Lord Kelvin, James McNeill Whistler, Edwin Morgan, and RD Laing. The Scottish Theatre Archive was presented in 1981 and includes a playbill for Macbeth from 1 March 1775 (exact year uncertain).  The Dougan collection of photography was purchased in 1953 and includes pictures taken between 1843 and 1890 by David Hale and Robert Adamson, including 490 paper negatives of Princes Street Edinburgh around 1845.


In 1807, the library acquired the collection of Dr William Hunter (1718-1783).  He left for London in 1740 and built a house to accommodate a museum and his collection; it is now near the stage door to the Lyric Theatre.  He was a teacher of anatomy, and anatomy and obstetrics feature strongly in his collection; the collection includes a manuscript of Cicero’s De Officiis and works by Aristotle, works on Natural History, works by Copernicus and Kepler, a plate of Vesuvius erupting in 1775, pen and ink drawings of South American Indians, and Etruscan drawings of vases.


The library has 650 bound volumes including 240 pre 15th century manuscripts, including the only extant text of Chaucer’s Romant of the Rose, several items in vernacular French, the Hunterian (York) psalter, a 12th century codex of Psalm 42 “As the deer pants for the water”, including a picture of a hart, and a manuscript in an English proto gothic hand  from around 1150-1170. The pages are illustrated by scenes from the Bible, such as the Garden of Eden, the sacrifice of Isaac, the temptation of Jesus, the raising of Lazarus, Doubting Thomas, the Ascension, Pentecost, and images of David with musicians.



In answer questions, Mr Weston said that use of the library has greatly in the last 15 years due to the internet. There is very limited space to exhibit material, but items can be viewed on line, and at any one time 2 or 3 items from the Hunterian are on display.


Vote of thanks

In proposing the vote of thanks, Anna Forrest reminded Mr Weston that she remembered him from the 1970’s and thanked him for reminding us of our heritage.  He was earnest and passionate, and was the epitome of knowledge.



Mr Gordon reminded directors of the next meeting on 7 April and club members of the next meeting on 14 April, where the topic would be a history of Glasgow Airport, and wished all a safe journey home.



JN Gibson, Recording Secretary