Choosing six quotes from the Scottish Enlightenment period to project across buildings in Edinburgh seemed – at first – a pretty daunting task. But we’d had our noses stuck in various great books and particularly James Buchan’s The Capital of the Mind; they brought the time period to life so vividly that the words just jumped off the page.
Edinburgh during the late 1700s much have been an amazing place, bubbling with debate, bursting with new ideas, on the cusp of transforming itself and quietly influencing the world. We chose quotes from the key figures of the time, and wanted to capture something of the range of thought – new ideas in architecture, science, philosophy, poetry, geology – and also the fact that this was a shift away from the dark, superstitious times of old, into a new era of logic and rational thought. But never forgetting the human heart, the importance of freedom and connecting to one another.
We owe a huge debt to the many voices that made up the Scottish Enlightenment and it’s an honour to write large their words on the streets of our city.
175 Rose Street:
‘There is nothing so pleasant and wholesome to the human heart as to love and be loved.’
– Alison Rutherford, Lady Cockburn
Read more about 175 Rose Street, the life of Lady Cockburn and Kirsty Logan’s commissioned response, ‘Sleep Pictures’
‘A succession of worlds… no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.’
– James Hutton
Read more about Charlotte Square, the life of James Hutton and J L Williams’ commissioned response,’The Wisdom of Stone’
81 George Street:
‘… we aften find
The brawest drest want peace of mind,
While he that gangs wi ragged coat
Is weel contentit wi his lot’.
– Robert Fergusson, from ‘Ode to the Gowdspink’
Read more about 81 George Street, the life of Robert Fergusson and listen to James Robertson reading and talking about the poem
St Andrew Square:
‘Truth springs from argument amongst friends’
– David Hume
Read more about St Andrew Square, the life of David Hume and William Letford’s commissioned response, ‘Monuments of the Mind’
1 Rose Street:
‘Schools polite shall lib’ral Arts display,
And make auld barb’rous Darkness fly away’
– Allan Ramsay
22 George Street
‘Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition’.
– Adam Smith
Read more about 22 George Street, the life of Adam Smith and Ken MacLeod’s comissioned response, ‘Maxwell’s Platter’
With thanks to Professor Tom Devine, Professor Ian Campbell, James Boyle, Donald Smith, Robyn Marsack, Lizzie MacGregor and David Hicks for their comments and support in helping select the quotes for this project.