Neu Treasures at the National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland and Neu! Reekie! have commissioned 12 artists to respond to 12 collection items which will be displayed in the new Treasures exhibition space which habe opened to the public.

Treasures of the National Library of Scotland is a new permanent thematic display, featuring objects from the extensive collection at the Library. From early printed books to video installations, maps and medieval manuscripts to passports and letters, this changing display provides a unique insight into Scotland’s history, culture and people, and its place in the world.

As part of Neu! Treasures!, each artist has created a new work of poetry, prose, song or film in response to their collection item. These will be displayed on the AV interactive gallery within the Treasures exhibition, as well as on The National Library’s website and social media.

These artists, and the collection items they have responded to, are:

1 – Iona Psalter, Kapka Kassabova

2 – Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns (1791), Kevin Williamson

3 – Materia Medica: Gaelic medical manuscript (15thCentury), Meg Bateman (Gaelic)

4 – The Lyon in Mourning, Miriam Gamble

5 – Timothy Pont’s Map of Glasgow and the County of Lanark (1583-96), Emma Pollock

6 – Isobel Wylie Hutchison archive, Michael Pedersen

7 – ‘On the Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin + hand written letter to publisher (1859), Harry Josephine Giles

8 – Ludvig van Beethoven letter to George Thomson, Hannah Lavery

10 – Wheel & Herringbone Book Binding (16th and 17th Century), David Kinloch

11 – Ephemera from 1997 Scottish Devolution Referendum and 1999 Scottish Parliamentary Election, George Gunn

12 – The Gutenburg Bible (circa 1450), Nadine Aisha Jassat

15 – Where The Bens Stand Sentinel – Scotland’s earliest colour film (1932), Mark Cousins

As a central part of the digital offer for Treasures, a filmmaker is creating films capturing the artists’ works, their connection to the Treasures item, and are filmed in a spaces or places connected to the artists’ practice. The films will be embedded in the National Library’s website and shared on various channels.

The launch of Neu! Treasures! is scheduled to take place live and in-person in The National Library on 1 April at 7pm. At this Library Late, artists including Mark Cousins, Josie Giles, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Hannah Lavery and Emma Pollock will share their creative works on stage and screen, presenting a mix of poetry, song and film. The Library also plans to live stream the event via its You Tube channel.

Hannah Lavery, in response to a letter by Ludwig van Beethoven, said: ‘This poem is a meditation on what it is to meet at the boundaries- to consider that our culture, like our language, like our music, like our weather is never fixed – it is always changing – it is always meeting and renewing itself at the boundaries.’

Kevin Williamson, responding to Ae Fond Kiss by Robert Burns (1791), said: ‘[In the Library] I was given a folder to look at and inside it there was a letter from Robert Burns to Agnes Maclehose (Clarinda). The words to Ae Fond Kiss were included in his letter. I hadn’t expected to find this. The experience caught me by surprise, and seeing, holding, and reading the original handwritten words moved me to tears.’

Nadine Aisha Jassat, reflecting on The Gutenburg Bible (circa 1450), said: ‘I wanted to explore first printed books in the context of my life. I thought about my journey as an author, I thought about the stories which I carry within me and upon me – I thought about my Mother’s voice, which has, like the illuminated colours and gold mentioned in The Library’s description of The Gutenberg Bible, stayed with me.’