In 2018 the University published “Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow: report and recommendations of the University of Glasgow History of Slavery Steering Group.”. The report authors, Stephen Mullen and Simon Newman, identified three non-financial gifts from people or families who had profited from the transatlantic slave trade. This resource contextualises one of those gifts - The Stirling Maxwell Collection of emblem books.
The Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies and the Stirling Maxwell Centre for the Study of Text/Image Cultures in the College of Arts, are collaborating with Archives & Special Collections and the Digital Education Unit in Information Services, to create this resource to inspire critical reflection on what it means to the University to be custodian of such an important collection.
Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878) was the University of Glasgow's Chancellor from 1875 until 1878. Born William Stirling, he was the only son of Archibald Stirling of Keir and Elizabeth Maxwell of Pollok, and a descendant of the former University Rector Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollok. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1839 and MA in 1843.
In 1839, Stirling embarked upon a tour of Europe which included travelling to Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy and in the 1840s he travelled to the Middle East and Spain. He took a keen interest in Spanish culture and artists and wrote a number of books on the subject. During his lifetime, Stirling amassed an impressive collection of Spanish art which can be viewed today at Pollok House in Glasgow. Sir William's granddaughter, Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald gave Pollok House to the City of Glasgow in 1967; it is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
- University Story Biography
- Stirling Maxwell Wikipedia Page
- Works by Stirling Maxwell in the Library
- A University Set on a Hill Overlooking One of the Richest Cities’: Stirling Maxwell, Spanish Culture and the University of Glasgow. Hilary Macartney (2018) - Article (full access with GUID)
The 2,000 books in this collection include Sir William’s important collection of emblem literature, which he assembled over a period of forty years, and which benefited in part from his inherited family wealth. His emblem books range in date from the first edition of Alciati’s Emblems (1531) to the 19th century, and in space over Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia and England. This collection was bequeathed to the University of Glasgow Library in 1956 under the terms of the will of Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1866-1956) Sir William’s son.
University of Glasgow Library
The University of Glasgow Library is one of Europe’s oldest and largest university libraries. Today the university library system provides access to approximately 2.5 million print books and journals and a similar number in digital format. The University also holds extensive unique materials curated by a team of Archives & Special Collections professionals.
The Library of the University of Glasgow has been accumulated since 1475. Generations of staff, students and alumni have contributed to what is considered as one of Europe’s greatest academic libraries. The interests and views of previous generations are clearly reflected in the collections today. However the University today is a more diverse community than ever before. Do the collections, and the systems in place to access the collections, reflect who we are today?
History is the study of the past to help us to understand our society today. Our knowledge and understanding is built on the views of previous generations. By understanding how the University acquired the Stirling Maxwell Collection, we understand something of how Scottish society operated in the past. With that knowledge, we are better able to make decisions about how we move forward in the future.
- University of Glasgow Library Diversity Initiative
- Research Libraries UK Diversity and inclusion discussions
- Archives & Records Association Diversity Statements
- It Wisnae Us – The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery
- Lisa Williams, Race and the Scottish Enlightenment (National Library of Scotland film, 2020)