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: events@nls.uk.

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

Event this evening: Favourite Scottish Books

This evening (Wednesday 17 September) at 7pm NLS hosts the discussion Favourite Scottish Books. Share your favourite Scottish poems, stories, and books at this informal evening event. Bring along something special to read aloud to others, or just relax over a coffee and discover new favourites.

To start you thinking, here are some books from our literature case which could be contenders for favourite Scottish book:

'Not Burns – Dunbar!' - The Scottish Renaissance

Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978), who wrote under the pen name of Hugh MacDiarmid, is easily recognisable in the caricature which appears on the dustjacket of the third edition of his masterwork A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle from 1956 (the first edition, from 1926, is also on display). He spearheaded the 20th-century movement known as the 'Scottish Renaissance' with the cry 'not Burns – Dunbar!' Rejecting what he saw as the artificial sentimentality of Burns' later followers, MacDiarmid reclaimed and recreated the Scots language to voice his dazzling play of ideas. In the process he kickstarted a new Scottish literary scene.

Sorley Maclean, Dain do Eimhir.

Sorley Maclean's collection Dain do Eimhir, (Glasgow, 1943), consisting mainly of love poems set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, is seen by many as the greatest Gaelic poetry of the twentieth century. But it originally faced trials getting into print. Fellow-writer Douglas Young describes how he went through 'some vain attempts to find a publisher complete with a setter of Gaelic type and with paper to print upon', owing to paper shortages during the Second World War. This edition, with striking illustrations by William Crosbie, includes English translations by Maclean himself, Young, and others.

Scott and the novel

Walter Scott's novel Waverley was certainly not the first Scottish novel. By the time it was published anonymously in 1814, Scottish men and women had played a part in the thriving trade in novels published in Scotland and London. In terms of its appearance, Waverley looks very much like any other novel of the day, published in three volumes which could be bound to suit any owner's taste. But inside, it is a revolutionary text, inventing the historical novel as we understand it today as it goes along.

Scott's novels were global best-sellers. Later Scottish novelists were happy to publish their books in London, America, or anywhere else that ensured the biggest possible readership – and quintessentially Scottish novels, which found a financial reward. On display beside Waverley is a shelf of some Scottish novels which found a Scottish publisher for the first time in the Canongate Classics series.

On the shelf: John Galt, Ringhan Gilhaize, or The Covenanters, Edinburgh, 1995 [1st ed. 1823]. George Douglas Brown, The House with the Green Shutters, Edinburgh, 1996 [1st ed. 1901]. Catherine Carswell, Open the Door, Edinburgh, 1996 [1st ed. 1920]. Naomi Mitchison, The Corn King and the Spring Queen, Edinburgh, 1990 [1st ed. 1931]. Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Sunset Song, Edinburgh, 1988 [1st ed. 1932]. Nancy Brysson Morrison, The Gowk Storm, Edinburgh, 1988 [1st ed. 1933]. Edward Gaitens, Dance of the Apprentices, Edinburgh, 1990 [1st ed. 1948]. George Friel, A Glasgow Trilogy, Edinburgh, 1999 [1st ed. 1964-72]. Iain Crichton Smith, Consider the Lillies, Edinburgh, 1987 [1st ed. 1968].

You can find out more about many of these authors at the BBC Writing Scotland website and the NLS Digital Library The Write Stuff web feature.

I couldn't put my own favourite Scottish book in the exhibition as there is no Scottish edition of it. I'd vote for Catherine Carswell's The Camomile - and not just because it's set in a library (the Mitchell in Glasgow).

Gaelic in print

Yesterday evening I went to a fascinating talk at NLS by Mark Wringe about Gaelic in print. Mark is a lecturer at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, sits on the Board of Directors of the Gaelic Books Council and is hugely interested in Gaelic printing. His talk was entitled 'Striking the pages', a pun on the Gaelic word for printing, which is clo-bhualadh, literally 'striking the cloth' (from which paper was made).

In less than an hour, Mark managed to give a fascinating insight into five centuries of printing in Gaelic. The first Gaelic book was published in 1567: a translation of sorts of Knox's Liturgy. That much I was aware of - but I had no idea that it was the first book ever printed in Gaelic in any country (including Ireland). Also, it had not crossed my mind that it was translated into classical Gaelic, which was still understood by Scots and Irish Gaels, in order to serve the Protestant mission of both Scotland and Ireland!

Mark then moved on to the second Gaelic book (published 1631), of which we hold the only known copy, and which you can see in the religion case:

Mark had lots to say about Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, or Alexander MacDonald, a schoolteacher and fierce Jacobite poet who published the first original and creative Gaelic book, Ais-eiridh na sean chanoin Albannaich, a collection of his own poems, in 1751. We have a copy of this book in the exhibition too! Ten years earlier, in 1741, MacMhaighstir Alasdair had compiled the first non-religious book published in Gaelic:

You can see a copy of this first Gaelic-English dictionary in the Education case.

When Mark got to the 19th century, the talk moved across the Atlantic to Canada, esp. to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, where Gaelic printing thrived enormously. He ended with one of the latest Gaelic novels, Dacha mo ghaoil, a story of breeding ostriches in Uist.

I was delighted that Mark took every opportunity to point out that books he was talking about are actually in the Imprentit exhibition, and that the Front of House staff kept the exhibition open after normal hours so that people could actually see some of the items Mark had mentioned.

Events at NLS next week: Scots and Gaelic in print

Two events at NLS's George IV Bridge building next week celebrate the languages of Scotland in print. Discovering the story of how these languages have been captured in print over the centuries was one of the most exciting parts of our research for this exhibition, and these events offer an opportunity to explore the subject further.

On Tuesday 9 September at 7pm, we have the performance Scots: The Mither Tongue. Writer and Broadcaster Billy Kay is joined by one of Scotland's greatest traditional singers, Rod Paterson, to celebrate over 500 years of history, literature, story and song in the national treasure that is the Scots language. Billy and Rod performed brilliantly at our exhibition opening - I'm sure that Tuesday will be another wonderful evening.

On Thursday 11 September at 7pm, Mark Wringe, presenter of Radio nan Gaidheal programme Leugh an Leabhar, will give the talk Striking Pages: The History of Gaelic in Print. In this talk, he will trace five centuries of Gaelic in print, looking at some of the individuals and issues that helped and hindered a Gaelic press on both sides of the Atlantic.

Advance notice of another event for anyone interested in the languages of Scotland: on Tuesday 23 September at 7pm, there will be a Panel Debate on The Scots Language Today at our Causewayside Building. This event, in association with the Scots Language Centre, will be attended by Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs & Culture. More details to follow nearer the event.

All NLS events are free but booking is advised: phone 0131 623 4675 or email events@nls.uk. For more information, see the Events page on our website.

Events at NLS next week

Next week sees some eagerly awaited Imprentit events at NLS.

First, on Monday 1 September at 7pm, leading piobaireachd authority Roderick Cannon will give the talk 'Calling the Tune', telling how Scottish pipers managed the transition from an oral to a printed tradition, illustrated with manuscripts and books from the Library's collections.

On Wednesday 3 September, also at 7pm, Linda Fleming of the Scottish Archive of Print and Publishing History Records will give the talk 'Better than a Gin and Tonic'. In this talk she will give an introduction to Scottish Readers Remember, an oral history research project at Napier University, exploring how Scots born before 1945, from Lerwick to Larbert, have made the practice of reading a part of their everyday lives.

You can listen to Scots talking about their experiences of reading, recorded as part of this project, in our exhibition.

Finally, Sunday 7 December from 11am to 12:30pm sees the event Books at Brunch. This is a family event where you can have a bite to eat, and share your favourite Scottish poems, stories and books at this relaxing brunch-time event. Bring along something to read aloud to others, or just feel free to listen and discover new favourites - all ages welcome.

All NLS events are free but booking is advised: phone 0131 623 4675 or email events@nls.uk. For more information, see the Events page on our website.

Susan Deacon in Conversation at NLS: Politics and Everyday Life

On Wednesday 27 August at 7pm, Susan Deacon, former Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland and now Professor for Social Change at Queen Margaret University, will be in conversation with Glenn Campbell, BBC Political Correspondent at NLS.

Professor Deacon will be talking about her experience of the impact of print media on politics, our everyday lives, and the possibility of social change.

Tracing the ways in which print has changed people's everyday lives over the past 500 years has been one of the most fascinating aspects of putting our exhibition together. One early example of a printed text telling people how to act is the book A collection of such orders and conditions, as are to be observed be the Undertakers, upon the distribution and plantation of the escheated lands of Ulster (Edinburgh, 1609). Would the history of the Plantation of Ulster have been different without this book guiding the planters?

All events at NLS are free but booking is advised. You can find out more information on our Events webpage.

Guided Tour of the Exhibition, Friday 22nd August

This Friday, 22 August there will be a guided tour of the exhibition by one of its curators, Graham Hogg, starting at 2pm.

Graham says, 'This will be a chance for visitors to find out more about individual exhibits and why they were specifically selected for the exhibition, and to learn about the process of how the exhibition came together.'

If you can't make the 22 August, he will also be doing tours of the exhibition on Doors Open Day on 27 September.

Like all events at NLS, the tour is free but places are limited so do book in advance, by calling 0131 623 4675 or emailing events@nls.uk.

For more details of events at NLS, see our Events webpage.

Next week at NLS: Alastair Mann on Censorship and Scottish Print

On Wednesday 6 August at 7pm, Alastair Mann, author of the prizewinning book The Scottish Book Trade, 1500 to 1720: Print Commerce and Print Control in Early Modern Scotland (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2000), will give a talk entitled 'To be Burned by the Hangman' at our George IV Bridge building.

In this talk, Dr. Mann will review the myths and realities of print censorship in the first three centuries of the Scottish press. From John Knox to the Jacobites, Scotland has something of a dark reputation as a nation of political and religious extremists - but is this a misconception? What are the realities of early Scottish print censorship?

All NLS events are free, but booking is advised. For more information, including a location map, see the events page on our website.

Imprentit events at the National Library next week!

The events and education team at the Library has come up with a great programme of events, talks, discussions, workshops and family activities to go with our exhibition this summer. Here's what's happening in our George IV Bridge building next week:

On Tuesday 29th July at 7pm, Chris Atton, a leading UK expert in alternative media, will be talking on Fanzines: Popular Culture and Creativity, exploring the rich history of the fanzine from its beginnings in science fiction to today's diverse subjects, focusing on popular music fanzines. This is the background from which Rebel Inc., blogged here previously, came; also on display in the exhibition are fanzines from Motherwell football supporters and Dundee Star Trek enthusiasts.

Scottish music of a different kind is the subject of Wednesday's event: Dr. Fred Freeman will be talking about the 18th-century Paisley songwriter Robert Tannahill, with musical examples from his recently released CD of Tannahill's music.

For people of all ages who would like to make some books of their own, two workshops are taking place.

On Sunday 27th, 11am-2pm, a Family Workshop on 'Family Albums' takes place: families can work together to create a beautiful hand-made album in which to treasure special memories, stories, and images. Refreshments provided.

On Thursday 31st, an Artists' Books workshop takes place at 6:30. This workshop, for adults only, offers you the chance to celebrate 500 years of printing by creating your own limited edition book. Artist Isabelle Ting will guide you through a range of simple folded book making and printmaking techniques in this inspiring workshop. No previous experience necessary (and no refreshments at this one!).

Both these workshops are in collaboration with the Owl and Lion Gallery, Edinburgh.

All events at NLS are free but booking is advised. You can find out more information on our Events webpage

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