Special and Named Printed Collections in the National Library of Scotland
One of the most notable acquisitions made by the Advocates’ Library, this collection of 3,617 volumes was formerly part of the library of the Marqueses de Astorga. The famous book collector Richard Heber (1773-1833) had been given first choice from the collection, but the rest of it was purchased by the Faculty in 1826 for £3,000 from the London bookseller Thomas Thorpe. The Faculty was acting on the advice of the Hispanist, John Gibson Lockhart (see Abbotsford Collection), who may have been informed of the collection through Heber’s friendship with his father-in-law, Sir Walter Scott. As a result the Advocates gained, against competition from the Bodleian Library, one of the leading collections of early Spanish books in Britain at that time. Although it is not the complete Astorga library, the collection as it stands has a remarkable variety of subject matter, and extends from the 15th century (11 incunables) to the early 19th century. It is strong not only in the traditional subjects of law, theology and history, but also in mathematics, geography and travel, and the practical arts and sciences. There is, however, an absence of Spanish ‘Golden Age’ literature, with few works by Calderón and Cervantes, which may be due to Heber having acquired such items beforehand. The collection admirably displays the high and low points of Spanish printing and book production, from the distinctive and handsome books of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, through the doldrums of the 17th and the early 18th century, to the revival of standards from 1750 onwards, outstandingly represented by Ibarra’s Sallust (1772), one of the finest volumes produced in any country during the 18th century.
J.H. Loudon, ‘The Astorga Collection of Spanish books in the National Library of Scotland’, in Le IIIème Congrès international de bibliophilie: actes et communications, Barcelona, 1971, 89-93.