A little-known book on fifes from the 1870s could help understand the changing landscape
The Trees and Shrubs of Fife and Kinross, first published in 1879, is made more widely available, giving new readers new insights into the natural history of both counties.
Only 100 copies of the book by Kirkcaldy flax maker John Jeffrey and St Andrews botanist Charles Howie have been published.
The new technology is about to expand its reach.
Until now, only a handful of UK libraries – including Cupar’s Duncan Institute – had publicly available copies.
A scanner recently acquired by Cupar’s library will allow staff to produce high resolution copies of the book which contains 29 images by pioneering Burntisland photographer Andrew Young.
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Its majestic, sometimes eerie images give the publication the feel of a Victorian coffee table book – and these glimpses into a world before the automobile are fascinating for contemporary readers.
Library users can access a wealth of information collected by Jeffrey and Howie between 1875 and 1878.
After visiting 114 sites, the pair recorded botanical facts and vital statistics about each specimen – from acacias to yews – including branch circumference, height and diameter.
The text suggests that the authors would be happy to connect with a 21st century audience. “Documents of this kind”, they write in the preface, “cannot fail to be of present use and of interesting value in the future”.
Andrea McMillan, OnFife’s local studies supervisor, said the wider availability of the book came at the right time.
She said: “People have a renewed sense of the importance of trees in our daily lives. To help create a better future, we should be more aware of the past.
“It would be interesting to know if any of these trees are still around – and wonderful if efforts could be made to replace those that have been lost over the past 143 years.”
The creation of new accessible formats of the book was made possible by a donation from the Fife Family History Society to OnFife, which operates the Duncan Institute.
He has long-term plans to digitize as much of his archive as possible. The new scanner will play a key role in the process.
The A2 scanner and holder, which allows documents to rest in the optimal position for copying, is ideal for items that are too bulky or fragile for its existing copiers.
Among them are old and rare books, bound volumes of broadsheet newspapers, historical documents, maps and plans, large photographs and some watercolors.
Andrea added: “In the past, we sometimes had to make copies with digital cameras, but the results often left something to be desired.
“Now we can easily scan items with less risk of damage. We are also better able to crop photos and focus on document details. Nothing beats examining sources, but digital opens new doors for us. »
Visitors can call Cupar, Kirkcaldy or Dunfermline Carnegie Libraries to make an appointment with the local studies team – or visit the Local and Family History section on the OnFife website.