Jean Butchart Bursary catalogue project

In partnership with Edinburgh Libraries, the Club has launched a project to create a digital catalogue of the manuscript collection held by the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection in the Central Library.

This little-known archive has a fascinating range of documents relating to the history of the city. There is currently a card index but it provides scant indication of the contents of each item.

We have established the Jean Butchart Bursary, which provides a £1500 grant plus modest provision for conservation work. The bursary started in September 2023, and has been undertaken by Matthew Ferrie, a post-graduate student from the University of Strathclyde who has just completed a master’s course in Information and Library studies and also has BA honours in History from the University of Stirling.

Matthew (pictured right) said: “I grew up in Falkirk, an area steeped in Scottish history, and I was raised on stories about our role in the Scottish wars of independence, our importance to the industrialisation of Scotland, and all the other weird little local tales you’re not likely to come across elsewhere.

“From a young age this sparked a deep passion for local history that has never left me. I am therefore honoured and excited to be granted this opportunity to help the Old Edinburgh Club in making local history materials more easily accessible to all. The manuscript archive of Edinburgh Central Library offers a trove of fascinating documents charting the local history of Edinburgh going back centuries, covering everything from documents that recount the evolving architectural history of the city to letters and diaries that offer insight into the personal and social lives of its residents.

“I’m so passionate about this I cannot overstate how grateful I am to be receiving the Jean Butchart Bursary. The generosity of the club – and Jean Butchart, of course –  is astounding and I can’t wait to get started in earnest. I am sure this work will help deepen our understanding and enjoyment of the city’s history and heritage.”

Progress will be reviewed regularly – with the option of further support – and updates, particularly interesting finds, will be reported here and promoted with the Library via our social media channels.

Our benefactor Jean Butchart (pictured above) had a great interest in Edinburgh history and was a member of the Old Edinburgh Club for many years. She was determined to honour the work of her father, who was City Librarian from 1942 until 1953 and author of Prints and Drawings of Edinburgh in 1955.

He believed this collection, held in the Edinburgh Room of the Central Public Library constituted the “finest collection in existence of topographical and historical prints of the City.”

Miss Butchart presented her father’s own collection to the City Library Service, which later featured as an exhibition in its own right.

She funded the digitisation of the Old Series of the Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, and the name of the bursary recognises her lifelong connection with Edinburgh Libraries.

An article on the project is also available on the Edinburgh Libraries website.


  • Image courtesy of City of Edinburgh Council – Edinburgh Libraries. A video about the Butchart Bequest is available on YouTube.