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52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 37: the Quincentenary scrolls

Heading from a Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh (UYUY185/7/44)
Heading from a Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh (UYUY185/7/44)
Date from a Quincentenary address to St Andrews from Girton College, Cambridge (UYUY185/7/23)

This week’s inspiring illustrations are selected from the beautifully crafted presentation addresses from institutions and learned bodies world-wide which were sent to the University of St Andrews in 1911 to commemorate our Quincentenary.

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A Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Smithsonian Institution, Washington (UYUY185/7/142)

They are all individual works of art, evocative of their time:

A Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Università di Roma (UYUY185/7/120)

This scroll received from the General Council of the University of Aberdeen might have been created by James Cromar Watt or Douglas Strachan, although Annette Carruthers of the School of Art History has not previously associated these men with the production of manuscripts:

A Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the University of Aberdeen General Council (UYUY185/7/1)

It is clearly heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and Annette says: “the trees are reminiscent of the work of Charles Harrison Townsend, Henry Wilson or Christopher Whall, all mainstream Arts and Crafts designers.” Our colleagues at the University of Aberdeen Special Libraries and Archives have investigated the records of the General Council Minutes and found the following information:

“The General Council having appointed a delegate in response to the invitation by the University of St. Andrews, the Business Committee thought it proper to instruct the delegate to present an address of congratulations. The preparation of this was entrusted to William Keith Leask, M.A., and H.F. Morland Simpson, LL.D.; and it was engrossed on vellum by Mr. Arthur E. Payne, and was signed by the Chancellor, Lord Strathcona.”

A Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Université catholique de Louvain (UYUY185/7/94)
A Quincentenary address to St Andrews from the Town Council of Dundee (UYUY185/7/37)
The globe cartouche of the Royal Geographical Society
The globe cartouche of the Royal Geographical Society, from their Quincentenary address (UYUY185/7/87)

The small selection of Quincentenary scrolls featured here has been chosen from the 145 addresses and framed presentations which survive in the Muniment Collection. Some scrolls clearly illustrate the institutional identity of the donor, even naming the man representing them and his role at the celebrations – the delegate who handed the scroll over at the presentation ceremony in September 1911 was after all, affiliating his own institution with St Andrews at that time and was likely to have been the recipient of an honorary degree during the festivities.

Detail of 'Alma Mater'
Detail of ‘Alma Mater’ from Quincentenary address from Dundee Chamber of Commerce (UYUY185/7/36)
Detail from the Quincentenary address from the Royal University of Norway Christiania (UYUY158/7/30)

Others try to represent something associated with St Andrews or picked up elements of the history of St Andrews, such as referring to the learned men of distinction associated with the University’s past.

The sample wording for the message may have been suggested by St Andrews, but many universities expressed their congratulations to us in their own words and language, with an individual emphasis. Yet others wax lyrical about some aspect of life in St Andrews:

“From Lahore and the Plains of the Five Rivers stretching to the Sesert, from Delhi the Imperial, the North Himalayas and the Valley of Kashmir to your Ancient University on that happy seabord in the distant west where not alone the Learning of the Schools but also the Pastime of the Greens has the sanction of centuries and is reflected through the world, we send our messenger of felicitation to join in your rejoicing over these five centuries now complete, and to which you other five and more of ever greater honour, learning and felicity” (UYUY185/7/7 Lahore)

A Quincentenary address from the Københavns Universitet (UYUY158/7/33)

Not only the addresses were carefully crafted, but also the wrappings, tubes, cases and bindings in which they were presented are embossed, engraved and upholstered. Coats of arms and seals on coloured ribbons abound.

A green velvet scroll case
A green velvet scroll case from the Quincentenary address from Heidelberg University (UYUY185/7/xx)

The calligraphers, artists, typesetters and printers employed to create the addresses have produced wonderful objects, many making reference to the practices of manuscript illustration in use at the time of the University’s foundation in 1410-13.

A Quincentenary address from the University of Chicago (UYUY158/7/29)

The Chicago address, in book form, echoes the productions of the Kelmscott Press. Annette Carruthers notes that:

“there was a thriving Arts and Crafts Movement in Chicago and Morris’s work was well known there. Ricketts studied medieval manuscripts so he may have got his ideas direct rather than via Morris.”

Even those addresses printed in plain text often include a decorated initial letter or an ornate border. Finally, it is the hope that some of these examples might provide inspiration for the calligraphers of today!


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2 thoughts on "52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 37: the Quincentenary scrolls"

  1. Annette Carruthers and Liz Cumming have discovered the following about the man charged with getting the Aberdeen General Council Address ‘engrossed on vellum’:
    Liz: ‘Arthur E Payne was indeed an Aberdonian, living at 44 Hammerfield Avenue. He exhibited one watercolour painting, ‘Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness’ with the 1906 Aberdeen Artists’ Society. That wouldn’t in itself of course necessarily make him a professional artist – and indeed he wasn’t a member of the Society – but on checking the 1917-18 Aberdeen P O Directory a few minutes ago I see he is still listed as ‘artist’.’
    Annette: ‘I then looked him up in a copy I have of the Aberdeen Artists’ Society exhibitions and he seems to have showed his work until just before the date of your scroll. Perhaps he was then converted to MSS illumination and went off painting? The fact that he was showing a tempera painting is interesting because it was a medium the Arts and Crafts people were very interested in. Now I will have to try and find his Craftsman picture’
    Can anyone help Annette?

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