One final post: The Future of the Book - the votes are in!

I promised that we would share the results of the poll we conducted during Imprentit, where visitors were asked to vote on the question: 'Do you think that people will still be reading printed books in 100 years' time?'

Out of 881 votes, 812 voted YES and 69 voted NO.

Of course this was a traditional cross-in-ballot-box vote - maybe if we had asked people online, we would have had a different response. But my own personal opinion is that people will always read printed text, however the technologies of print will change, although they may use other ways to find information than reading printed texts. People still read newspapers, but they also get their news from all kinds of other sources; they still look at train timetables, but they also consult everything from teletext to twitter to get the latest travel news.

But even in the age of the e-book, I also think that there will always be a place for the codex - like the wheel, it's a simple invention that functions brilliantly.

So here ends our Imprentit blog - from the statistics, it looks as if some of these entries have had as many visitors as our real exhibition did. We're going to leave this site up - some time in the new year, we hope to launch a new NLS Rare Books blog which will be regularly updated with news about acquisitions, displays, events, and sometimes just interesting stuff that we find in our collections - watch this space...

Last Chance to See!

We are now in the last few days of our exhibition: the last day it will be open is Sunday 12th October (2-5 pm).

Next week begins the task of dismantling all the cases and returning the books to their homes in our stacks. And we have to count the votes in our poll 'Will people still be reading books in 100 years' time?'

Watch this space for the result...

A found poem for National Poetry Day

Beside our Literature case is a 'wall of words', consisting of quotations from some of the writers it contains. Here, for National Poetry Day, is that wall. I'll put an edited version with the sources in a comment below.

Auld Scotland has a raucle tongue,
She's just a devil wi' a rung;
An' if she promise auld or young
To tak their part,
Tho' by the neck she should be strung,
She'll no desert.

To speak in the poetical language of my country,
the seat of the Celtic Muse
is in the mist of the secret and solitary hill,
and her voice in the murmur
of the mountain stream.

A pale green light poured down from the wintry sky,
as though this earth were lit by chance rays from some other world.

'He canny help his feet. At least
he's no' a wee Glasgow bauchle like you.'

'Aye, all right, I'd rather be
A Glasgow bauchle than a drip like him.'

What they had was not love.
But it had beauty, and it served.

And there was the bridal bed, pulled out from the wall,
all in white it was, with sheet and blanket turned back,
the window curtains were drawn, and in the moment
they stood breathing from their climb of the stairs
Chris heard the sound of the snow that stroked the window,
with quiet, soft fingers, as though writing it there.

Oh my luve is like a red red rose
That's newly sprung in June

They gazed with blanched faces
at the House with the Green Shutters,
sitting dark there and terrible,
beneath the radiant arch of the dawn.

Thus were we all throng'd in so strait a cage,
I chang'd my looks and hair, before my age,
Dreaming on liberty (by strong desire
My soul made apt to hope) and did admire
Those gallant mindes, enslav'd to such a woe,
(My heart within my brest dissolv'd like snow
Before the Sunne) as one would side-wayes cast
His eye on pictures, which his feet hath past.

They won't let ye
dae it. They won't
let ye dae it,
because it's seen
as ah sign ay thir ain failure.
The fact that ye jist
simply choose tae reject
whit they huv to offer.
Choose us.
Choose life.

and there is that transient brightness of a minute blossom
almost invisible in the undergrowth,
uniquely recognisable by such as persist in the quest, but
unlisted in any index or encyclopaedia of the possible.

Fra that I saw that God was gane,
And I in languor left allane,
And sair tormentit to:
Sum time I sicht quhill I was sad,
Sum tyme I musit and maist gane mad,
I wist not quhat to do:
Sum tyme I ravid half in a rage,
As ane into dispaire:
To be opprest with sic ane page
Lord gif my heart was faire:
Like Dido, Cupido,
I widill and I warye:
Quha reft me, and left me
In sik a feire-farye.

I love to muse upon the skill that gangs
To mak' the simplest thing that Earth displays.
The eident life that ilka atom thrangs,
And uses it in the appointit ways,
And a' the endless brain that nocht escapes
That myriad moves them to inimitable shapes.

Yes today we're in love aren't we?
with the whole splintering city
its big quick river wintry bridges
its brazen black Victorian heart.
So what if every other tenement
wears its hearth on its gable end
all I want
is my glad eye to catch
a glint in your flinty Northern face again
just once.

Cha chiumhne leam do bhriathran,
eadhon ni a thubhairt thu,
ach abhainn Arois an àileadh iadhshlait
is àileadh roid air Suidhisnis.

I do not remember your words, even a thing you said,
but Aros Burn in the smell of honey-suckle
and the smell of bog-myrtle on Suishnish.

Dancing a reel

Dancing has always been a central part of Scottish social life. While the music to be played for dancing began to be printed in the 18th century, the first printed technical description of Scottish dance steps was Francis Peacock's Sketches Relative to the History and Theory, but more especially to the Practice of Dancing, printed in Aberdeen in 1805. Peacock gives the Gaelic names for the steps he describes, in a spelling that is all his own, but his book does not contain any illustrations.

Most dance manuals were published by dance teachers, who used their books to advertise their own classes. Donald Mackenzie's Illustrated Guide to the National Dances of Scotland (Stirling, [c.1910]) gives his own rates: 'three one hour lessons in Waltz, Military Two-Step, Scotch Reel Steps, &c., 10/6'.

Peacock Mackenzie's book comes with a fold-out guide to dancing a reel - by 1910, illustrations like this were easy and cheap to produce. You can see the full diagram here.

You can find out more about Peacock, Mackenzie, and other books about Scottish dance at the excellent Music of James Scott Skinner website created by the University of Aberdeen.

Information, please

In our exhibition we were keen to show the many ways in which print has influenced people's everyday lives. For hundreds of years, people turned to printed items for information about times, places and dates. Nowadays we increasingly look online for this information, but whether we buy a printed diary or print out an online calendar, we still find uses for the hard copy.

Here are some printed books to which Scots have turned over the centuries to find out what they needed to know.

Getting from A to B

During the period of the industrial revolution, print, new technology and transport improvements all worked together to bring about the standardisation of travel times. An early Edinburgh to Portpatrick time-bill (Edinburgh, 1796) would have been used by the guard on the official Mail Coach between Edinburgh and Portpatrick on the southwest coast (where the coach connected with a mail packet to Ireland). He would have been issued with a watch to record his journey times, to see if they matched the official time allowed for each stage. In the 20th century, the firm of MacBrayne's produced both colourful brochures for tourists and simple timetables for local travellers using the same steamers and ferries around the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The Commuter's Companion

The late Victorian era saw the beginnings of the urban public transport system. Tiny booklets like Murray's Edinburgh Diary and Alphabetical Time Table and The Edinburgh District Time Table and Monthly Diary, printed in Edinburgh throughout the 1890s, gave Edinburgh commuters all the information they needed about train, bus, tram and boat times for the month for one penny, at a time when a train journey from the suburbs to Waverley station cost sevenpence return. Today's commuters are more likely to look to satnav, the internet, radio and SMS for up-to-the-minute information.

A Country Man's Chapbook

All but the poorest farm labourers could have afforded to buy a chapbook like The Little Book of Knowledge, or The Country Man's Choice Companion (Dunbar, 1799). This chapbook, containing information such as weather lore, helpful hints about planting crops and remedies for sick animals. Cheaply and poorly printed, it would have been used and then discarded: the book on display is the only known surviving copy.

Almanacs from the 18th Century

Almanacs, the forerunners of today's diaries, contained factual information as well as calendars and prognostications for the future. On display are two almanacs produced by James Chalmers in Aberdeen in the 1770s, the centre of Scotland's almanac trade. The Aberdeen Almanac, later the Northern Year Book, was published until the mid-1950s.

A Gaelic Almanac

Through its dry factual content, the Victorian almanac Am Feillire: the Gaelic Almanac and Highland Directory for 1875 (Glasgow, 1875) illustrates how emigration was a fact of life for many Highlanders in the 19th century. The lists of Gaelic-speaking churches include Canada as well as Scotland; addresses are given for Gaelic associations in the colonies and at home; advertisements offer assisted passage for emigrants to Manitoba. You can read more about Am Feillire by searching for it on Scran.

Eminent Pharmacists

The Chemists' and Druggists' Year Book and Directory for Scotland (Glasgow, 1914) gave Scottish pharmacists a place to celebrate their own profession, with handsomely-illustrated articles about eminent men in the profession. It also provided practical information such as the laws governing the sale of poisons. However the major issue revealed by this edition was the effect on chemists of the recently-introduced National Insurance Acts, by which insured workers could get free medical treatment.

You can see an enlarged image of this advertisement here.

James VI and the establishment of Scottish printing

After Chepman and Myllar printed the first books in Scotland around 1508 to 1510, it took the best part of the century for printing to become firmly established as a permanent industry in Scotland. Thomas Davidson was appointed King's Printer under James V, and produced the splendid The New Actis and Constitutionis of Parliament in 1542, but the turbulent mid-century saw printers hustled around the centres of power, printing for Catholic and Protestant factions in Stirling and St Andrews when they were thrown out of Edinburgh.

It was not until the reign of James VI that Edinburgh became a stable centre for printing and bookselling, with leading figures such as Henry Charteris and Andro Hart publishing books printed to a high standard. The place of print was helped considerably by the fact that the young king was himself an author who obviously liked to see his works in print. Our exhibition features several of James' publications, all produced to the highest possible standard by the Scottish presses of the day.

Poet King

James VI in his youth was a keen poet, with a high opinion of his own talents. Essays of a Prentise, a collection of his poems published anonymously in 1584, his eighteenth year, includes some poems in praise of him by Scottish court poets. The printer, Thomas Vautrollier, pulled out all the stops to produce a book which was attractive to look at: on these pages, a poem in memory of James' friend Esme Stuart is presented in the form of a column.

'These detestable slaves of the Devill, the witches or enchaunters'

Daemonologie,James' 1597 book on witchcraft, was probably inspired by James's role in supervising the trials of the North Berwick witches in 1590. It was also written to contradict contemporary writers such as Reginald Scot, who had tried to disprove the widespread existence of witchcraft. The book would later be regarded as having encouraged the hysteria which led to the witch hunts of the 17th century.

The King on politics

James was a prolific author whose output ran from poetry to theology and political theory. The Basilikon Doron or 'Kingly Gift' was a practical manual of kingship, written for his oldest son Henry. James dispensed common-sense tips on areas such as religion, dealing with the nobility, and exercising moderation in one's private life. Only seven copies of this first edition were privately printed in Edinburgh in 1599 for James to hand out to specific individuals.

You can read a type-facsimile of the Essays of a Prentice online at Google Books, and find out more about James at the NLS webfeature James VI and the Union of the Crowns.

Immigrants Find a Voice

Today, some newspapers which you might not expect to see in an exhibition on the Scottish printed word.

Large-scale immigration to Scotland began in the 9th century with Irish settlers, and then Italians, mostly from the Lucca and Abruzzi regions. Since 1945 Asian communities have become established in Scotland. The recent immigration from Eastern Europe is not new: at the end of the 19th century a large number of Lithuanians left the Russian Empire and settled mainly in Lanarkshire where they worked as miners. Our exhibition contains three newspapers which show how the printed word has played an important role in keeping immigrant communities informed of events in Scotland and abroad and reminding them of their own identity.

Published in Golspie, Gazeta z Highland is the first bilingual newspaper in Scotland for the Polish community, aimed at Polish people living in the Highlands.

Iseiviu Draugas (The Immigrant's Friend) was published in Mossend for the Lithuanian immigrant community.

The Asian News Scotland, published in collaboration with the Pakistan News Post, was the largest circulated Asian newspaper in Scotland with articles in Urdu and English.

Exhibition Tours and German Prisoners of War

This Saturday is Doors Open Day in Scotland, and like thousands of other buildings across the country, our George IV Bridge building will be open.

Exhibition curator Graham Hogg will be offering tours of Imprentit at 10 am and 12 noon, and you can also sign up for a general behind-the-scenes tour of the George IV building at 11 am and 2 pm. You can visit the exhibition hall as usual on Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

All tours are free but booking is recommended. To book, get further information, or join the events mailing list, please phone 0131 623 4675 or email:

I asked Graham to write about his favourite item in the exhibition for the blog, and he has chosen an unusual newspaper, the Stobsiade:

Graham says: One of the items I was keen to include in this summer's exhibition was an issue of Stobsiade, a German-language newspaper printed for German prisoners of war (POWs) held in a prison camp at Stobs near Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. It is a great example of printing in Scotland being done for non-Scots in a non-native language. An army camp had been at Stobs in 1903, but when the 1st World War broke out in 1914, it was converted to a prison camp to hold interned German civilians and POWs. During 1915 the civilians were moved elsewhere, leaving a camp population of around 5,000 German soldiers.

By all accounts Stobs was a bleak, depressing place, some of the inmates complaining of the rain and mud (although it cannot have been half as bad as the conditions endured by soldiers fighting on the Western Front!). A highly-organised mini-society sprung up in the camp, with a library, school and hospital, and its own newspaper, written and edited by the POWs. I had originally assumed that the actual printing was done in the camp itself, but on closer inspection it turns out that the type was set by one of prisoners in the camp, and then was sent to Hawick for printing. The appearance of a prison camp newspaper every three to four weeks must have been a welcome break from the monotony of life in Stobs. The first issue of Stobsiade for the POWs (there was apparently an earlier version produced for the civilians, which I have not seen) appeared in October 1916 and a further 24 issues were produced until January 1919, when the POWs were finally repatriated. The title is a pun on the popular 18th-century mock epic poem Jobsiade by the German physician and writer, Carl Arnold Kortum.

The content of the four-page newspaper was devoted largely to the cultural and sporting events held in the camp, as well as handy DIY tips, short stories and poems. The print-run of each issue was an impressive 4,000, as copies were sent to subscribers back in Germany. The money raised from subscribers presumably subsidised its production (these copies were sent direct from the printing press in Hawick rather than the camp, as the newspaper was subject to British censorship and the authorities wished to avoid these copies containing extra remarks from the prisoners). Similar newspapers appeared in POW and civilian internment camps all over Europe during the 1st World War and provide a fascinating insight into this comparatively neglected area of the history of the period.

Scots songs and proverbs

Tonight sees an important debate at NLS's Causewayside building on Scots language today.

Does Scots matter and why? Should Scots be revived? Does it matter if people only use a few words of Scots in English conversation or should we try to develop a range of registers and enhanced capacities? Guests at this panel event include Rab Wilson, Gillian Munro, Professor John Corbett, Professor James McGonigal and David Purves. Chaired by Michael Hance. With special guest Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture. Organised in partnership with the Scots Language Centre.

To mark this event, here are two of the many Scots books in our exhibition.

Firstly, a page from David Fergusson's Nine Hundred & Fourty Scottish Proverbs. Fergusson's collection, first published in 1641, some forty years after his death, was the first book which collected traditional Scots sayings, some of which are still familiar today. This page is from the second edition of 1659. If you have access to EEBO, you can read the full text of the first edition.

Secondly, an early collection of Scots songs. The first major published collection of Scots songs was Allan Ramsay's The Tea-table Miscellany (1723-27). This is the second, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (Edinburgh, 1776) compiled by David Herd (1732-1810). Born as a farmer's son in Kincardineshire, he became a collector of folksongs and a member of the Cape Club. His book provides a scholarly collation of previously unpublished material drawing on manuscripts as well as performance, but also is itself part of a living tradition. Herd's Cape Club associates such as the poet Robert Fergusson and could well have sung this comic drinking song at their meetings.

Fumbler's Rant

Come carles a' of fumbler's ha',
And I will tell you of your fate,
Since we have married wives that's bra,
And canna please them when 'tis late;
A pint we'll tak our hearts to chear;
What fau'ts we hae our wives can tell;
Gar bring us in baith ale and beer,
The auldest bairn we hae's oursell.
Chr'st'ning of weans we are redd of,
The parish priest this he can tell;
We aw him nought but a grey groat,
The off'ring for the house we in-dwell.

You can read the rest of this book online at the Internet Archive and Google Books

Two medical books

Today, a brief look at two very different kinds of medical books published in eighteenth-century Edinburgh.

First, a great moment in the history of medicine: the cure for scurvy.

Scurvy is a disease now known to be caused by insufficient intake of Vitamin C. For centuries it had been the scourge of sailors on long voyages. In the first controlled trial in medical history, Edinburgh physician James Lind (1716–1794) established in 1747 that feeding sailors with citrus fruit prevented them getting scurvy. He first published his observations in his Treatise of the Scurvy (Edinburgh, 1753).

Secondly, one of the first modern books of popular medicine.

William Buchan (1729–1805) was an Edinburgh-based doctor whose home health manual Domestic Medicine; or, the Family Physician (Edinburgh, 1769) became an instant success; the first print run of 5,000 sold out in months and least 142 English language editions were eventually published, as well as translations into all the major European languages. It was still in frequent use in Scotland 150 years later. The opening on display covers smallpox, a now eradicated disease, which killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year during the 18th century. Buchan's book also played an important role in North America, as this Boston Medical Library webpage shows.

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