Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…

I was out at Edinburgh’s annual Doors Open Day on Saturday, interesting as ever getting into various buildings for a look around, let down only a bit by the usual incompetence of Edinburgh bloody council who were turning people away from the City Chambers despite it being in the programme that was arranged months in advance – many other locations opened their doors, with people on hand to explain the history and more, all volunteers, but Edinburgh council with its vast army of staff still made an arse of it. What a surprise… Shame on you, Edinburgh council – when I did Glasgow’s Doors Open the City Chambers there was most welcoming and I took many pics in that astonishing building. Shame I couldn’t do it in the one that I pay (through the nose) tax to sustain due to your incompetence – truly no task simple enough that Edinburgh council can’t make a mess of it… Sigh… Anyway, I took pics of the other places I caught in this year’s Doors Open but haven’t had time to sort out my photos yet, will post later on here, but meantime here is one taken in Edinburgh University’s old anatomy theatre, where some wag had placed this medical skeleton in one of the chairs of the old lecture hall. I took one shot and it was a bit dark, so I used the flash and accidentally got this rather pleasing effect as the skeleton flared white and the background went black (as usual click the pic to see the bigger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr):

dem bones dem bones dem dry bones


Last weekend was the annual Doors Open Day, when buildings not normally open to the public let people into visit. I’m still sorting a stack of photographs I shot as we tramped all round town, from designer make-overs by local architectural practises in old mews buildings to places like the observatory on Calton Hill and the Royal College of Physicians in the New Town. I’ll post a few more when I get time to sort them out, but I thought I’d kick off with these few shots taken in their two libraries; these are rare 17th century medical volumes, which the College Fellow on duty in the library was kind enough to let me photograph as long as I obviously refrained from using the flash (in stark contrast to the folks at Scottish Heritage who didn’t allow any photography even of the Georgian rooms, which seems extremely backward to me if you are inviting in visitors, especially if you are a public body – bad marks to SH, big thumbs up to the RCP who really made an effort to make visitors welcome and encouraged photo-taking).

(click the pics to see the larger versions on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream)

Apologies for the reflections here, but as the books were under glass there wasn’t really anyway round them – it was either reflections of the lights or stand right over it and get my camera in the reflections, but the quality of the draughtmanship here was far too good not to try taking a pic. These books pre-date the Act of Union between Scotland and England.

Just look at the detail in this anatomical study of the human skeleton and musculature; the cross hatching and shading is amazing. More so when you consider this is around three centuries old and an artist created this by hand and another artist would then have laboriously created a negative inscribed into a copper plate for printing. Books like this, being disseminated all over Europe by groups like the Royal College, are physical artefacts of the birth of the modern era, the move from superstition to reason and science, exploring the natural world and our own physiques to find new wonder even the greatest minds of Classical Antiquity could never have dreamed of. They are also gorgeous works of craftsmanship and art. A modern Gray’s Anatomy (a standard text for most doing medical degrees) may be more informative and accurate, but it lacks the elegance and beauty of this work.