Books published by or about the Library

The National Library of Scotland has a long history of publishing books on subjects of historical, cultural and general Scottish interest. You can find details here of our latest publications, as well as other books about items in our collections, and where to buy them.

If you have a publishing-related enquiry, please contact the Communications team: phone 0131 623 3739 or email


Edinburgh: Mapping the city

Cover of 'Edinburgh: Mapping the city'

By Christopher Fleet and Daniel MacCanell


This lavishly illustrated book uses historic maps to provide insights into the history of Edinburgh over the past five centuries.

The focus is on 71 main maps, dating from around 1530 to the present day, that illustrate particular themes and places in Edinburgh's history. Many of these maps have not appeared before in print. They have been selected for the particular stories they reveal, and the different political, commercial and social uses to which they have been put.

The book makes full use of high-resolution digital imaging, and focuses on details to provide excellent legibility, accompanied by extended captions to explain the background, content and context to each of the maps.

Some of the maps promote the special accomplishments of the people who made them, especially those who lived and worked in the city. As well as leading surveyors and world-famous map publishers, there were mathematicians, geographers, sociologists, engineers, geologists, physicians, public health officials and town planners all creating and using maps, particularly during the 19th century.

303 pages
Published by Birlinn, in association with the National Library of Scotland: 2014

Hardback (25 x 24 cm): £30.00
ISBN: 9781780272450

Where to buy this book

Buy 'Edinburgh: Mapping the city' from Birlinn. Also available in the National Library shop.


Concerning the Atlas of Scotland and other poems

Cover of 'Concerning the Atlas of Scotland and other poems'

By Tom Pow


This delightful selection of poems was inspired by Tom Pow's experience as Maps Collections Writer in Residence at the National Library of Scotland in 2013. The book's title takes its name from one of the poems, relating to the compilation of the Blaeu Atlas of Scotland (1654).

Tom's residency drew particularly from the Bartholomew Archive, and many of the other poems relate to craft of cartography — compiling, engraving and colouring maps — and the personal stories associated with mapmaking.

Illustrated with colour maps, mainly from the Bartholomew Archive, the book also provides a collection of personal insights into the delights, pains and pleasures of maps, and the memories, stories and secrets that they reveal.

Tom Pow is an Edinburgh-born award-winning poet, who has also written young adult novels, picture books, radio plays and travel books. He was the first Writer in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival from 2001 to 2003, and lectured at the University of Glasgow in Dumfries from 2000 to 2009.

64 pages
Published by Birlinn, in association with the National Library of Scotland: 2014

Paperback (26 x 16 cm): £12.99
ISBN: 9781846973017

Where to buy this book

Buy 'Concerning the Atlas of Scotland' from Birlinn. Also available in the National Library shop.


Dreaming and declaring American independence

'Dreaming and declaring American independence' cover

By Dora Petherbridge and Chris Taylor


A colour illustrated catalogue featuring a selection of iconic collection items from the National Library of Scotland's 'Treasures' display (2012) on the American Revolution.

The focus is on the American Revolution and its role in founding the United States of America. Rare and unique material from the Library's collection illustrates the conflicts, alliances and friendships of the period.

Scots, and Americans of Scottish descent, were key participants in the debate over independence. Loyalty to a British monarch and the economic value of transatlantic trade did battle with notions of liberty, independence, and republic.

'Dreaming and declaring American independence' celebrates the special connections between Scotland and the United States, representing political figures that still influence and inspire US politics today.

24 pages
Published by the National Library of Scotland: 2012

Paperback (26 x 16 cm): £5.00

Where to buy this book 

Available to buy in the National Library shop.


Scots beneath the banyan tree: Stories from Bengal

'Scots beneath the banyan tree' book cover

Texts and translations by Bashabi Fraser
Illustrations and lyrics by Gurupada Chitrakar


'Scots beneath the banyan tree' tells the story of several key Scots who lived and worked in Bengal during the time of the Raj. Each of these figures made their mark and became part of the folk memory of Bengalis.

This highly original book features pull-out illustrations in the traditional and charming narrative style of Bengali Patua scroll painters.

The Patuas, also known as 'Chitrakar' ('picture-makers'), are a group specialising in the painting of narrative scrolls and performing with lyrics and tunes they compose themselves.

Stories in the book about significant and colourful Scots include:

  • Alexander Duff, the first Scots missionary and educator
  • Lord Elgin, the Viceroy who developed the railways in India
  • Ronald Ross, who discovered the connection between mosquitoes and malaria
  • William Roxburgh, Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden.

Lyrics and paintings are by prominent patua painter Gurupada Chitrakar, and the text and translation is by Bashabi Fraser, the internationally renowned Edinburgh-based Bengali writer and poet.

The book is partly funded by the National Library of Scotland, in association with Luath Press, with design by Isabelle Ting (Owl & Lion Gallery).

70 pages
Published by Luath Press, in association with Owl & Lion: February 2012

Hardback (260 x 160mm): £25
ISBN: 978 0 95680 8103

Where to buy this book

Available to buy in the National Library shop.


Scotland: Mapping the nation

'Scotland mapping the nation' cover

By Christopher Fleet, Margaret Wilkes and Charles W J Withers


'Scotland: Mapping the nation' brings together many historic and unusual maps for the first time to demonstrate how maps reveal Scotland's history.

The book shows how Scotland has been viewed differently over time, from the first Roman maps to today's 'satnav'.

It is also the first book to take Scotland's map and mapping seriously as a form of history.

Beautifully illustrated with more than 230 full colour plates, mostly drawn from the National Library of Scotland's collections, it includes:

  • The first road maps, from the 17th century
  • A Soviet map of Greenock pinpointing factories and military installations
  • Maps specially designed for blind people
  • Temperance maps showing the location of public houses
  • Glasgow's former extensive tram network.

Images are explained in their historical, intellectual and geographical context.

Chapters cover a number of themes:

  • Scotland occupied and defended
  • Towns and urban life
  • The changing countryside
  • Travel and communications
  • Popular culture
  • Mapping science.

Chris Fleet is Senior Map Curator at the Library, Margaret Wilkes was formerly Head of the Map Library at the National Library of Scotland, and Charles Withers is Professor of Historical Geography at the University of Edinburgh.

288 pages
Published by Birlinn, in association with the National Library of Scotland: September 2011

Hardback (252 x 248 mm): £20.00
ISBN: 9781841589695

Where to buy this book

 Buy 'Scotland: Mapping the nation' from Birlinn. Also available in the National Library shop and from all good booksellers


Rax me that buik

'Rax me that buik' cover

By Iain Gordon Brown


This authoritative and lively book highlights the extraordinary and eclectic Scottish collections of the National Library of Scotland.

It is a celebration of the Library's vast store of material that is 'Scottish', in its broadest sense, reflecting the major contribution that Scotland and the Scots have made through history and across the world.

Richly illustrated, the book presents and describes a wide range of items and aims to place each in its historical, cultural or literary context.

With the volume's emphasis on highlights, rather than 'treasures', some items may seem a surprising choice. Although not well-known or overtly 'Scottish', they are fascinating, intriguing or historically significant, and have their part to play in the Library's history and development.

Author Iain Gordon Brown, Principal Curator in Manuscripts Collections at the Library, has had a long involvement in the selection and acquisition of material for the national collection. His choice of items for 'Rax me that buik' highlights areas where the Library's world-class collections have a strong focus, and many good stories to tell.

A graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge universities, Dr Brown is a Fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is a widely published author and a respected scholar, also known for his light and humorous touch.

144 pages
Published by Scala: October 2010

Paperback (274 x 196mm): £16.95
ISBN: 978 1 85759 634 2

Where to buy this book

Available to buy in the National Library shop and from all good booksellers.

Scottish printed books

'Scottish printed books' cover

By Antony Kamm
Foreword by Alexander McCall Smith


In Scotland, printing began in 1508. This lively account of the next 500 years introduces notable books and other printed literature, the people who wrote, printed, published, and sold them, and their methods.

It also reveals some memorable talents and describes Scotland's remarkable dynastic contributions. Highlights include:

  • Bibles
  • Proclamations and the secret press
  • Public and personal education
  • Scientific, technological, and medical books
  • Broadsides and chapbooks
  • Figures of the Scottish Enlightenment
  • Poetry and drama
  • A timeline of significant events and curiosities.

Many of the images from rare books in National Library of Scotland collections are reproduced here for the first time.

Antony Kamm's publications included (as author) 'Collins Biographical Dictionary of English Literature' (1993), 'The Israelites: an introduction' (1999), 'Julius Caesar: a life' (2006), 'The Romans: an introduction' (2nd edition 2008), and (with Malcolm Baird) 'John Logie Baird: a life' (2002); (as joint compiler) 'A Book of Old Edinburgh' (1983), and 'Scottish Traditional Rhymes' (new edition, 1991).

48 pages
Published by the National Library of Scotland in association with Sandstone Press Ltd: June 2008

Pamphlet (260 x 175 mm): £5.99
ISBN: 13 978-1-905207-21-3

Where to buy this book

Buy 'Scottish printed books' from Amazon. Also available in the National Library shop.


'A swing through time: Golf in Scotland 1457-1744'

'A swing through time' cover

By Olive M Geddes


The origins of golf are a matter of mystery and controversy.

Only by piecing together the evidence of early documents can we gain an insight into the 'dark ages' of the sport — the 400 years before the earliest surviving Rules of Golf appeared in 1744.

Olive M Geddes is a Senior Curator in Manuscript Collections at the National Library of Scotland.

In 'A swing through time', she guides us expertly through the earliest written records of golf, shedding light on its birth and the techniques and equipment used.

Above all we learn of golf's social standing as it began to develop from an outlawed activity to the world's most internationally popular game.

112 pages, 70 illustrations
Published: April 2007

Softback: £6.50
ISBN: 978-1-905267-09-5

Where to buy this book

Available in the National Library shop.


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