Palimpsest: Literary Edinburgh

About the project

The name Palimpsest was chosen to evoke the multi-layered imaginative, conceptual and historical cityscapes of our everyday settings that the resource seeks to bring to life.

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The Palimpsest project involves a collaboration between literary and informatics scholars in order to develop an interactive, mobile-friendly website that will enable users to experience a wide range of literary works from the early modern period to the twentieth century which have over time contributed to the creation of this fictional, poetic and remembered city. Through a range of maps and accessible visualisations, users will be able to choose to interact with Edinburgh's literature in a variety of ways, exploring the spatial relations of the literary city at particular times in its history, in the works of particular authors, or across different eras, genres and writers. They will be able to follow focused and planned routes through the cityscape, or be receptive to unanticipated textual conjunctions. They will be able to access a synoptic literary historical map of the city's development, and to explore moments and dimensions in that development. Palimpsest will constitute a major intervention into our apprehension of the Edinburgh literary cityscape, with the potential to shape the experience and understanding of critics and editors, residents and visitors, readers and writers.

This project, generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will bring our literary cityscape more fully into view, and so encourage us to reflect on, question and celebrate the urban communities, cultures and environments in which we live.

What a wonderful City Edinburgh is! – What alternations of Height & Depth…the infinity swelling out the mind, the enormity swelling it with wonder…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1803)

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Banner image by Bing Liu, map © National Library of Scotland ( and Satellite Imagery © 2012 Google.