The fifth issue of 600 Years of Book Collecting will be available for sale from the Main Library next Wednesday, the 26th of February. This issue, the second of this semester, looks at books from the Library’s collection which tell the story of “Geography & Exploration” at St Andrews. The unique geographic nature of St Andrews, remote and poised on cliff edges overlooking the North Sea, has provided a certain amount of isolation for the scholars, students and clergy who have come to this town since the founding of the Cathedral in the 12th century. The world could be observed objectively from St Andrews. Timothy Pont, a graduate of the University of St Andrews in 1583, produced the first detailed maps of Scotland from his own personal travels and surveys. From this small but politically influential town and University, hundreds of graduates were sent to explore the world and to fill in the blank spaces found on maps. Between 1747 and 1892 these included medics, missionaries, soldiers, policemen, teachers, lawyers and even miners; over 300 officers of the Navy, 442 officers of the Army and 62 members of the Honourable East India Company Service passed through the classrooms of this University. These individuals were integral members of the ever-expanding colonial world of Great Britain. Student societies such as the Mountaineering Club have promoted exploration of our natural world since the 1930s, even facilitating the University’s involvement in expeditions to Greenland in the 1960s. Geography and exploration is not just about mapping new territory, it is also about the experiences of two cultures coming into contact for the first time.
“Geography & Exploration” features some of the Library’s biggest and most beautiful works. These tales of exploration and heavy tomes full of beautiful plates and maps found on the shelves of the University Library have provided the inspiration for our students and scholars through the generations to set forth from St Andrews and experience the world. Featured in issue 5 are perhaps the largest set of books in the Library, the grand Description de l’Egypte: the first large-scale map of North America which, when assembled, measures over 2.5 metres square; and the first work by an Honorary Graduate and MBE Hamish Brown.
Each issue of 600 Years of Book Collecting features a full chronological listing of the entire series, and each issue also features a part of a visual timeline of the University Library’s history. This series brings together the clarity of modern design and the inherent beauty of the Library’s strongest asset — its books. At £3 each, these beautiful magazines are a beautiful introduction to the University Library’s holdings and a great way to get excited about the Library and the University of St Andrews, recently named Scottish University of the Year 2014.