University features twice in Edinburgh’s 101 Objects campaign

Napier’s Bones and Wilfred Owen’s personal copy of The Old Huntsman by Siegfried Sassoon among items highlighting the history of Scotland’s capital

Date posted

15 May 2017


Last updated

14 June 2022

Two historical objects at Edinburgh Napier feature in a new campaign that aims to immerse visitors in the rich history of Edinburgh through 101 of its most treasured objects. Coinciding with celebrations for the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Edinburgh's 101 Objects will bring Edinburgh’s vibrant past to life.

Included in the 101 objects are two currently on show at Edinburgh Napier. 

Napier’s Bones (object 43) are a calculating device invented 400 years ago by John Napier, from whom the University takes its name. Napier, who also invented logarithms in the 17th century, created the ivory rods as a simple way of multiplying and dividing large numbers. A replica of the device alongside a small John Napier exhibition is now on show at Merchiston in the year that marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the mathematician who also popularised the use of the decimal point.

Napier's Bones and The Old Huntsman

At Craiglockhart, visitors can see a first edition copy of The Old Huntsman by Siegfried Sassoon (object 38) that was owned by fellow war poet Wilfred Owen. The two met at Craiglockhart while being treated for shell shock there during the First World War and this year marks the centenary of that important first meeting.

Assistant Principal Iain McIntosh said: “Participating in Edinburgh’s 101 Objects provides a wonderful opportunity for the University to showcase some of its most treasured objects relating to Edinburgh’s rich history, in celebration of the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“We hope that both residents and visitors to the city will embrace the challenge of visiting The Tower of Merchiston to see Napier’s Bones, and the War Poets Collection at Craiglockhart to see Wilfred Owen’s personal copy of The Old Huntsman as part of their quest to capture Edinburgh’s 101 Objects.”

Lord Napier and Ettrick, Head of Clan Napier and a descendant of John Napier, said: “I am very proud to have a strong connection with Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city with a tremendous sense of diversity and lots of rich history since it was settled at the end of the 1st century. The 101 Objects exhibition should be enjoyable, providing plenty of fascination and fun.” 

Other objects on display elsewhere in the city include an honourable penguin at Edinburgh zoo, a signed copy of the National Covenant at St Giles’ Cathedral and the original screenplay of Trainspotting signed by Ewan McGregor at the National Museum of Scotland.