Lit Long: Edinburgh.

A Guardian piece by Nicola Davis describes an enticing project:

From Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark’s maverick schoolteacher, to Edward Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson’s alter ego villain, Edinburgh has long provided a backdrop for some of literature’s most enigmatic characters. Now a digital initiative is offering you the chance to explore the city’s streets through the eyes of the authors they inspired.

Launching on Monday, Lit Long: Edinburgh has an online interactive map that pinpoints the locations referred to in narrative extracts. “We wanted to find a way to look at the sedimented literary history of Edinburgh in a new way,” says Professor James Loxley of Edinburgh University, who led the work. By applying filters to the map, it is possible to narrow the extracts – depicted, appropriately enough, with a quill – to works based on keywords, titles or authors.

“Grassmarket, for example, is linked to a host of extracts including a grim description of the gallows from Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian: ‘This ill-omened apparition was of great height, with a scaffold surrounding it, and a double ladder placed against it, for the ascent of the unhappy criminal and executioner’.”

That “Lit Long: Edinburgh” link takes you to the Palimpsest project, “a 15-month programme by the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, and the Edina data centre.” The actual Lit Long: Edinburgh site will launch Monday, and I for one am looking forward to exploring it; this kind of mix of literary history and geography is one of the things the internet was made for. (Thanks, Eric!)


  1. It’s only half-related, but on the subject of literary Edinburgh I recommend James Buchan’s Capital of the Mind, a study of the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment that focuses less on the thinkers’ outputs and more on the Edinburgh that produced or nurtured them. Buchan is one of the most interesting novelists in Britain. Like his novels, his non-fiction veers between brilliance and eccentricity. Always enjoyable.

  2. That sounds right up my alley — thanks!

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