An overview of the National Library of Scotland's activities and collection acquisitions during the year 2006-2007.


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Annual Review page showing picture from an NLS event


The National Library of Scotland is an organisation that has to take the past, present and the future equally seriously. As our collections stretch back nearly 1500 years, we are surrounded by history, knowledge and enlightenment. Our founders at the Faculty of Advocates began collecting material in the late 17th century. The advent of legal deposit, nearly 300 years ago in 1710, greatly accelerated the growth of these collections, and has provided the bedrock for them ever since. Today our work in collecting digital material prompts change and development at a remarkable rate.

This year was another of exciting challenges, and some major landmarks. The year was book-ended by the arrival of two major new collections. It began with the arrival of the John Murray Archive, one of the most important archives in British publishing history, and ended with the merger with the Scottish Screen Archive. This film collection adds a new dimension for those researching Scottish culture over the last century or so.

The need to meet the expectations of our customers today has never been felt so urgently. This is why we have developed a new customer charter, it is why we are progressing with plans to develop a visitor centre to showcase and interpret our collections and to create spaces tailored to exhibitions, events and learning activities, and it is why we have responded to demand for improved reading room facilities.

The long-term nature of our primary role, to make our recorded heritage available for centuries to come, means that the future is never far from our thoughts. The digital revolution continues apace, as does the Library's response. Customers increasingly expect immediate access to information delivered with the maximum of convenience. To meet this demand we continue to digitise materials from our own collections and to deliver licensed digital collections remotely, so that people throughout Scotland and beyond can use them at home, work or overseas.

Our commitment to develop leading digital services was acknowledged this year with the funding secured to build a Trusted Digital Repository that will safeguard the future of electronic information, in all its many forms.

Our fundraising activities are another area in which we are building for the future. An encouraging start in 2006 is paying dividends for the Library and will further increase the scope and scale of what we can offer customers, today and tomorrow. Our updated strategy, published early in 2008, will set out how we plan to build on all of these achievements and develop a National Library that is outward looking, dynamic and innovative. As ever, we are greatly indebted to our staff for making all of this happen, and to our Trustees and partners for the support they have given throughout the year.

Martyn Wade, National Librarian
Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees


Our mission

The National Library of Scotland exists to:

  • Enrich lives and communities
  • Encourage and promote lifelong learning, research and scholarship
  • Provide universal access to information by comprehensively collecting and making available the recorded knowledge of Scotland
  • Promote access to the ideas and cultures of the world.

Inspiring audiences

Our vision to make a connection with an increasingly diverse audience of new and existing visitors went from strength to strength this year.


Our programme of free public events continued to grow in number and diversity this year. Topics covered included wildlife photography, the Holy Grail, African explorers and epic Indian literature.

The 1707 Union of Scottish and English Parliaments provided a focal point, with the popular Road to 1707 series of events featuring leading historians and authors.

The modern political landscape of Scotland was covered by Brian Taylor, Political Editor of BBC Scotland, at the 2006 Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture. In its fifth year at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the lecture looked at the roles played by Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels in Scottish politics today.

NLS houses the archives of many modern Scottish writers, so the launch of a new series of monthly events showcasing the work and ideas of the Scottish literati was fitting. The Bridge Readings featured Alasdair Gray, Christopher Brookmyre, Ian Rankin and A L Kennedy reading from and discussing their latest work to full houses.

The in-depth knowledge and expertise of our own curatorial staff was spotlighted this year, with a series of lunch time talks covering treasures from our South Asian collections, Shakespeare's First Folio, the John Murray Archive and tours 'behind the scenes' of the 'Birds of a feather' exhibition.


The Library played a key role in the celebrations surrounding Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Kidnapped' this year. The 'One Edinburgh, One Book' campaign, organised by the UNESCO Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, aimed to get Edinburgh reading by publishing and distributing three very different versions of the classic adventure story.

NLS devised a raft of events and workshops to tie-in with the project, including talks and lectures from leading international scholars, family-friendly storytelling events and a workshop with Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy, the creators of the exciting graphic novel version. On the digital side, we also put a complete digitised version of the first edition of the book online to complement our existing web resources on the life and work of Stevenson.


The Library continued to support four awards that promote the finest and most unique contributions made to publishing, writing and book-making in Scotland. The 2006 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for Scottish poetry pamphlet publishing was won by Pauline Prior-Pitt for her self-published and handmade work, 'North Uist Sea Poems'.

Tom McEwan, from Ayrshire, fended off international competition to be named the student winner of the 2006 Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Competition, with his binding of Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Gold Bug', while the overall winner was German Annette Friederich for her binding of Virginia Woolf's novel 'Mrs Dalloway'.

At the 2006 Saltire Society Literary Awards<, held at NLS, the Library-sponsored Scottish Research Book of the Year Award went to John MacInnes for his Gaelic book 'Duthchas Nan Gaidheal: Collected Essays of John MacInnes'.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship gave five more writers the opportunity to develop their work and exchange ideas this year. The award is organised annually by NLS and the Scottish Arts Council and rewards published writers with a two month stay at a writer's retreat and international arts centre in France's Grez-sur-Loing. The 2007 recipients of the Fellowship were Diana Hendry, Hamish Whyte, Brian McCabe, Ian Macpherson and Jill Dobson.


Highland 2007, the national Government-led initiative, provided the catalyst for the first major collaborative travelling exhibition from Scotland's national collecting institutions.

NLS joined forces with National Museums Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland to produce in celebration of Highland cultural life past and present. The exhibition put rare manuscript and printed material alongside iconic objects and artworks to produce a fully rounded picture of the Highland landscape, people and culture, as these have evolved over the centuries. The travelling exhibition was designed to traverse the country, starting in January 2007 at the newly opened Inverness Museum and Art Gallery with further residencies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stornoway.

The Scottish experiences of 19th century American naturalist and wildlife artist John James Audubon was chosen for the basis of the Library's summer exhibition, 'Birds of a feather: Audubon's adventures in Edinburgh'. The exhibition paid tribute to Audubon, the author of Birds of America, one of the world's most valuable books, and in particular the influence that key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment had on his work and legacy.

Partnerships were struck with Renfrewshire Education and Leisure Services and Glasgow Libraries to display a bound volume with life-size illustrations from 'Birds of America' and to deliver a wide range of events, workshops and activities. A particular highlight was the Big Draw family event at the Mitchell Library. The Big Draw is the annual UK showcase festival organised by the Campaign for Drawing. Our event with the Mitchell Library gave visitors the opportunity to work together to reproduce a giant version of an Audubon plate, as well as providing a variety of storytelling, illustration and art and craft activities.


Every year we take advantage of opportunities to share our collections with a wider audience by lending items to other institutions for events and exhibitions.

A notable example this year was the loan of Wedderburn's 'Vocabula', the book containing evidence that organised football was 'invented' in Scotland. The book went on display in April 2006 at an exhibition in Hamburg to coincide with the 2006 Football World Cup. We also arranged a manuscript display on the poet Sorley MacLean at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, to coincide with the screening of the documentary film 'Hallaig', part of the Filmhouse's Poetic Cinema season.

Education and outreach

The John Murray Archive (JMA) arrived in March 2006, sparking a number of exciting education projects. The education programme was launched with a regular series of schools visits. Poet Ken Cockburn was appointed as the first John Murray Archive writer-in-residence, thanks to support from the UNESCO Edinburgh City of Literature. He spent several months at the Library, delving into the papers of Byron, Livingstone and others, and subsequently led a series of workshops with school and community groups exploring the creative potential of this vast collection of 19th-century history, literature and ideas.

Growing collections

The arrival of two major new collections, the John Murray Archive and the Scottish Screen Archive, added a new dimension to our collections and set new standards for the way in which our collections are brought to life for visitors.

Scottish Screen Archive

The Library welcomed a major new addition to its collections this year, as the Scottish Screen Archive merged with NLS. The archive contains over 30,000 moving images documenting Scottish life in the 20th and 21st centuries. Thousands of hours of footage, including home movies, public announcement films, documentaries, newsreels, adverts and recent Gaelic language broadcasting, joined the Library's collections in April 2007, offering researchers a full range of formats with which to study Scotland.

Topics represented are as broad as the last century of Scottish culture, with particular strengths in subjects such as family life, working life, industry, war, entertainment, transport, education and sport.

A particularly unique feature of the archive is the viewing and lending collection of VHS videotapes available for research and non-commercial use. All this is supplemented by a small non-film archive comprising written material about the history of Scottish film production and cinema exhibition, photographs and sound recordings, and a growing number of film clips made available online.


The Library's literary archives continued to proliferate this year, with a raft of important acquisitions from the 19th and 20th centuries. Two major donations greatly enriched our manuscript collections this year.

The first was the 1924 manuscript of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Adventure of the Illustrious Client'. One of the last Sherlock Holmes stories, the manuscript provided valuable evidence of the author's narrative skill. Secondly, we were also delighted to receive the papers of novelist Robin Jenkins. Mr Jenkins was one of the most important but overlooked Scottish authors of the late 20th century, his archive included a number of unpublished novels.

The archive of George Mackay Brown was boosted by a donation of 160 letters, spanning two decades, between the poet and the writer and biographer Jenny Robertson, including one of his last poems, 'To Heather'. Contemporary poet Don Paterson became the latest writer to join the ranks of those who entrust their literary archives to the nation. His prolific collection of poetry started at the age of seven and dates to the present day.

Robert Southey was Poet Laureate when he joined engineer Thomas Telford for a tour of Scotland in 1819. This year we bought the manuscript of his verses in tribute to Telford's work on the Caledonian Canal, which will be used in the collaborative exhibition with the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 'Telford: Father of Modern Engineering', opening in October 2007.

Many writers in our collections are also major artists. This year we were fortunate to acquire both a major collection of Alasdair Gray's artwork, some of which will feature in his forthcoming visual biography 'Life in pictures', plus the complete artwork for Cam Kennedy and Alan Grant's innovative graphic novel version of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Kidnapped', published by Waverley Press in February 2007 as part of the UNESCO Edinburgh City of Literature project to get Scotland reading.

Rare books

Appropriately enough in the year in which 'Kidnapped' was celebrated, several other Robert Louis Stevenson items were bought. The tiny and very rare poetry pamphlet 'Not I, and other poems' (1881) was written in Davos, Switzerland, to entertain Stevenson and his stepson and printed on a small hand press. We also acquired the earliest edition of 'Treasure Island' (first published 1883) to have illustrations in addition to the famous frontispiece map: it was published in Boston, USA, in February 1884, over a year before the first illustrated British edition.

Important scientific acquisitions this year included a collection of nine scientific papers (1812-31) featuring David Brewster and Mary Somerville presented to James Veitch, a self-educated polymath from the Borders. Veitch's interests covered mathematics, mechanics and astronomy. He is best known today as the man who inspired David Brewster (1781-1868), the inventor of the stereoscope and the kaleidoscope, to take an interest in science.

Among our most handsome acquisitions this year was an 1879 edition of the poet Oliver Goldsmith's 'History of the Earth'. This included 24 original fine watercolours by James Stewart and Harrison Weir, to accompany Glasgow publisher Blackie's science series and was reproduced using chromolithography.


Agreements were concluded this year to make annual snapshots of Ordnance Survey's MasterMap series available in NLS and the five other Legal Deposit libraries in the British Isles. These comprise the very latest and most detailed digital mapping for the whole of the United Kingdom in an updated, user-friendly web based system. MasterMap offers improved layers of information, allowing more precise recording of changing landscapes. As well as acquisitions of modern maps and atlases, highlights of antiquarian maps acquisitions included:

John G Bartholomew, 1860-1920
Western hemisphere ceramic map paperweight.
This unusual ceramic map paperweight of the Western hemisphere was acquired because the map was drawn by John G Bartholomew and engraved by the Bartholomew firm, whose considerable archive is held at NLS.

John Adair's map playing cards, 1660-1718
An extremely rare collection of map playing cards. The original map was drawn by John Adair, and published in 1689. It was engraved by James Moxon, who took it to London playing card specialist John Lenthall. Map playing cards were fashionable in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and the map was dissected into playing cards, marked with suits by a coloured stamp, and numbered by hand.

George Atkinson, Ceylon, 1813
This map of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is dedicated to Thomas Maitland, a Scot and governor and commander in chief over the Island of Ceylon. It was published by William Faden, the leading London-based map publisher of his day, whose father came from Scotland.

William Skinner's Plan of Fort George, 1763
Shows the might of one of Scotland's most impressive fortifications at the time of its construction in 1767. This plan portrays the castle in an almost finished state. The hand colouring and shading are in the distinctive style used by military engineers in the Board of Ordnance, green for embankments and pink for buildings.

Legal deposit

We acquired 95,788 books and 135,314 issues of newspapers and magazines this year, thanks to our legal deposit status. This huge asset for the people of Scotland and beyond is worth millions of pounds a year, but its value to our users, who find material they cannot get elsewhere, is priceless. While many UK publications are sent automatically by publishers, work is always needed to ensure that we collect Scottish publications as comprehensively as possible.

A particular focus this year has been obtaining publications produced by the growing Polish community in Scotland, as well as those produced for incoming refugees and asylum seekers: for example, 'Gazeta z Highland' published in Golspie and 'Glos Polski' published in Dalkeith.


We were delighted to buy several rare Gaelic music scores this year. Among these were a book of Christmas carols published by the Gaelic language college Sabhal Mór Ostaig on the Isle of Skye in 1975 and an antiquarian item of Highland hymns, with Gaelic psalm tunes and spiritual songs, published in 1889. Scottish Gaelic music publications are usually rare as they tend to be published in smaller print runs compared to the large international music market.

Another interesting acquisition was 'A curious collection of the most celebrated country dances & airs which are now in vogue'. This 18th-century music publication contains 'hidden' Scottish music, alongside country dances and Italian guitar music.


The collaborative NEWSPLAN Scotland project this year delivered an online guide to indexes to Scottish newspapers. The guide lists details of Scottish newspaper titles, which have been indexed, and includes the type of index, the dates covered and the holding locations for the indexes. Printed, electronic and online indexes are all included and it is searchable by title of the newspaper and keyword.

Digital collections

Our physical collections are complemented by a growing body of digital collections, licensed from publishers and made freely available to users in our buildings and remotely. These vast resources include biographies and other in-depth reference works and thousands of fully digitised newspapers, journals and books. A number of important additions to these collections were made this year.

'Science Full Text Journal Collection via Wilson Web' provides full-text access to over 330 journal titles from the 1990s onwards covering a broad range of science subjects.

'Oxford Journals Online' provides full-text access to over 200 academic and research journal titles published by Oxford University Press, covering science, humanities, law, medicine and the social sciences, from 1829 to the present day.

'House of Commons 19th and 20th Century Parliamentary Papers' provides full-text access to Parliamentary Papers from 1801 to 1945, plus indexing to 2004.

'The Making of the Modern World' provides full-text access to over 60,000 printed works covering economic, political, business and social history from 1460 to 1850.

'Early American Imprints' provides access to the full text of over 39,000 titles printed in North America between 1639 and 1800, many of which are otherwise unavailable in the UK. You can search for and view the images of the original pages of virtually every work of early American publishing.

NLS is supplying titles for publication in Thomson Gale's digital archive '19th Century UK Periodicals'. Around 50 19th-century periodical titles from our collections were selected for the first unit of the archive 'New readerships', covering women's and children's magazines, leisure, sport and humour. This useful online resource for anyone researching 19th-century British popular culture features original colour illustrations from many of these titles. Unit 1, covering about 1.2 million pages of text, is scheduled to be published in the autumn of 2007. A further four units are planned for publication.

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