Printed Book Purchases

  • Duns Scotus. [3 works edited by Salvatore Bartolucio.] Venice, 1580-1581.
    • The Library was recently able to acquire this most pleasing volume of three Duns Scotus works, bound in vellum and with gauffered floral designs on all edges. The works are Quaestiones Quolibetales, Disputationes Collationales, and Syllabus generalis (this last being a concordance to the Scriptum Oxoniense super Sententias). These editions seem to be quite rare; the third item is not found in the Bibliothèque Nationale or Adams' catalogue of foreign books in Cambridge libraries. The printer uses a rather striking device of a cat carrying a mouse in its jaws. The only indication of provenance is the manuscript note on the first title-page, 'Cornelio Francescucci'.
  • Marie der Koenigin auss Schotlandt eigentliche Bildtnuss. [Cologne, 1587.]
    • This striking broadside commemorates the execution of Mary Queen of Scots from a German Catholic perspective. Probably produced shortly after Mary's death, it gives an account of her parentage and life, mentioning the role of Darnley, George Buchanan and Mary's son King James VI. There is an emphasis on Mary's European connections, and above all on her martyrdom for the Catholic faith. The engraving by Johann Bussemacher shows Mary wearing her crucifix and also includes the arms of France and Scotland. Outside the border, which contains Latin phrases, are smaller images of her decapitation, and at the head of the engraving are (presumably cherubic) hands presenting a quill and the victor's laurels.
  • Historia regalis divi Iacobi VI. regis semper augusti. [n.p., 1626.]
    • A bibliographic conundrum and an exciting purchase for the National Library of Scotland! No other copy of this work - an account of the reign of King James VI - is known. Research carried out to date suggests that the volume was printed in Paris and may have been a proof copy for a work that was never taken further to the publication stage. Both the title page and the recto of the front free flyleaf have the manuscript signature of Georg Rodolph Weckherlin (1584-1653), regarded as the greatest German poet of the period. Weckherlin served as secretary to all of Charles I's Secretaries of State prior to the Civil Wars. Given the rarity, a high auction price was anticipated, but in the event the Library was able to purchase it for a sum which might be termed a bargain.
  • Korb, Johann Georg. Diarium itineris in Moscoviam. Vienna, [1700].
    • Surprisingly, this account of the Austrian diplomatic mission in 1698 to the court of Peter the Great reveals the important role played by a Scot - Patrick Gordon - in Russian political and military life. Gordon, born in Auchleuchries, Aberdeenshire in 1635, had served in Russia since the 1660s and was responsible for putting down the streltsy rebellion while the Tsar was on a tour of western Europe. The magnificent and graphic plates in this volume depict the fate of those who dared to rebel. Because of the brutal way in which the Russian authorities were portrayed, the Austrians deemed it politic to suppress the book and hence few copies have survived to this day. This copy comes from the library of Archibald, fifth Earl of Rosebery, one of the greatest early benefactors of the National Library of Scotland.
  • A full, true, and particular account of the trial and condemnation of Wilson Potts, late Captain of the Dreadnought Privateer, belonging to Newcastle, who was sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark, near Leith, on Wednesday the 13th of February next. [Edinburgh, 1712 or 1723?]
    • An unrecorded broadside, consisting of two columns of text printed on one side only, with a woodcut of a ship at the top. Captain Potts was tried in Edinburgh for rape, theft, robbery and piracy; in particular, he was accused of having kidnapped a woman from the Faeroe Islands. Most of the charges were not proven, but he was convicted of piracy and sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark, 'a rock about two miles in the sea'. No year is given but it appears to be an early eighteenth-century printing. February 13th fell on a Wednesday in 1712 and 1723.
  • Collection of petitions, informations and answers to the Lords of Council and Sessions. Edinburgh, 1721-1745.
    • This collection of 150 rare eighteenth century legal publications, compiled during the nineteenth century, mainly deal with the day-to-day preoccupations of the citizens of Edinburgh and the surrounding area. Included are cases about property developers building tenements higher than their neighbours, merchants seeking to recover debts and wig-makers attempting to strengthen their guilds against competition. Contemporary manuscript notes often describe the outcome of a case, thus giving the documents a useful context.
  • The history of the horrid and unnatural murders, lately committed by John Smith in the parish of Roseneath, and shire of Dumbarton ... Edinburgh, 1727.
    • This hitherto untraced pamphlet details the pathetic life of one John Smith who was hanged in 1727, aged 29, for the murder of his sister and his wife - both of whom were pregnant. Smith was born in Greenock, and his early career involved smuggling goods to Ireland. He subsequently married and became a tenant farmer, but financial and personal problems resulted in his resorting to murder. Smith murdered his sister in order to inherit his stepfather's estate before disposing of his wife to keep a promise to marry his mistress. The pamphlet notes that at his execution Smith 'seemed much affected and concerned for the horrid cruelties he had been guilty of'.
  • [Mercer, John.] An exact abridgement of all the public acts of assembly of Virginia. Glasgow, 1759.
    • The importance of Scotland's trade with North America is illustrated by this edition of the legislative acts of colonial Virginia. Glasgow was the hub of the colonial trade with the southern states, and so was an appropriate place to print this informative work. Chronological tables give summary information, but the bulk of the text is taken up with an abridgement of the acts under alphabetical headings such as 'Deer', 'Duty on Slaves', 'Executions', 'Madeira Wine', 'Runaways' etc. Mercer had produced his first collection of acts in 1737, which was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Maclean, Hector. History and Travels. Glasgow, 1769.
    • This autobiography is one of the most significant (not to mention expensive) chapbooks that the Library has purchased in recent years. Born in Argyleshire in 1728, Hector stowed away on his brother's ship at the age of eight. He ended up in Greenock, which so delighted him that he wandered the town until it was dark, and got lost. Not speaking any English (presumably because his native tongue was Gaelic), Hector ended up being put to work as a servant. After some years he managed to return home, and was taught to read and write: the urge to travel, however, was still strong, and he took ship for Virginia. His observations of North American wildlife and society are keen. This is the first instalment of Maclean's account, which we can now place beside the Library's existing copy of the second instalment (1771). Maclean apparently paid for the printing of these chapbooks himself, probably in small numbers. When placed together, the two instalments constitute a fascinating account of an eighteenth-century Scottish traveller, with some real literary merit.
  • Josephus, Flavius. Genuine Works. Edinburgh, 1777.
    • These six volumes form an attractive set of an interesting edition of William Whiston's famous translation of the works of the Jewish historian Josephus. Whiston's translation had its first Scottish publication in Scotland in 1777. There seem to have been two issues, one of which was printed for Alexander Donaldson. This acquisition is of the other issue, which was printed for the Leith bookseller William Coke, who was once Donaldson's clerk. Only one other set of this issue is recorded. Each volume is bound in contemporary polished calf, and each has the attractive armorial bookplate of Thomas Lowndes.
  • Robertson, William. Histoire de l'Amérique. Maestricht, 1777.
    • The historian William Robertson was one of the many writers of the Scottish Enlightenment whose works attracted interest on the continent of Europe. As part of its mission to document the influence of Scots on the rest of the world, the Library purchases versions of Scottish works printed and translated abroad. Among Robertson's popular works is the History of America, which explores the conquest of America by the European powers. This early translation into French is by Marc-Antoine Eidous. This is a particularly attractive copy, bound in contemporary patterned paper boards.
  • [Mercer, James]. Lyric Poems. London, 1797.
    • This is a rare first edition of Mercer's Lyric Poems published anonymously in 1797. A manuscript note indicates that this copy was presented to Dr. James Beattie (1735-1803), the poet and Professor of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen University. Mercer was born in Aberdeen in 1734 and spent most of his life as a professional soldier in both Great Britain and the Continent before retiring to Scotland in 1772. He then concentrated on what his biographer calls 'the secret of his poetical amusements'. A second edition of Lyric Poems appeared in 1804 and a third edition was published posthumously in 1806. Several changes were made to the text in these different editions, so it is particularly pleasing that we now have the first edition of this Scottish poet's works.
  • Bentham, Jeremy. Scotch Reform. London, 1807.
    • Jeremy Bentham, the political philosopher who has come to be known as one of the founders of utilitarianism, wrote this work in favour of reforming the Scottish legal system as a series of letters. Clearly written and full of detail and practical examples, his proposals relate in particular to the workings of juries and appeal courts. This is a presentation copy, with a note from the author, of the 1807 unpublished printing of this important work. This copy is in good condition and complete with both large folding tables.
  • Spence, Elizabeth Isabella. The Wedding Day, a Novel. London, 1807.
    • This three-volume work by the Scottish-born writer Elizabeth Spence is extremely rare. Spence (1768-1832) was born at Dunkeld, and produced several sentimental novels and travel books from 1799 onwards. Niece of the Aberdeen-born preacher James Fordyce, Spence ended up orphaned and poor in London, and seems to have written to support herself. The Wedding Day enjoyed little critical success, but does not seem wholly devoid of merit. It is deeply Scottish, full of descriptions of landscapes and buildings from Roslin Chapel to Calton Hill, although most of the action takes place in England. Literary quotations abound, suffering aristocrats write wordy letters, and the heroine endures everything from shipwrecks to romantic catastrophe with the same moral resolution.
  • To all householders within the ancient royalty of the City of Edinburgh. Edinburgh, 1808. [And three other broadsides, Edinburgh, 1812-1816.]
    • This is one of a number of broadsides published at the behest of the city fathers of Edinburgh in the early nineteenth century which encapsulates the very essence of life in the northern metropolis at the time. The citizens must have been somewhat reluctant to perform their civic duty by getting their servants to bring out their 'ashes, water, or any nuisance' in advance of the Sabbath. Other broadsides deal with public disorder - specifically 'riots and outrages' on the streets of Edinburgh on the occasion of King George III's birthday and the 'maltreating and robbing' of gentlemen and policemen perpetrated by 'young lads armed with bludgeons' on Hogmanay.
  • Scott, Walter, Sir. Character of Lord Byron. [Edinburgh, 1824.]
    • This is a very rare edition of Sir Walter Scott's Character of Lord Byron, the text of which first appeared in the May 19, 1824 issue of the Edinburgh Weekly Journal and was later reprinted in The Pamphleteer, vol. 24, 1824. This edition of the tribute to Byron has a different typeface and layout. James Shortrede, an apprentice in James Ballantyne's printing office, recalls Scott visiting the office shortly after Byron's death and dictating to Ballantyne the article which appeared in the Weekly Journal. He also mentions separate copies being printed for Byron's friends of which this is probably one of the very few surviving examples.
  • Smith, Leveson. Remarks upon an essay on government by James Mill. London, 1827.
    • The Scottish-born historian and philosopher James Mill, who was father of John Stuart Mill, was an important writer on politics and economics in his own right. His article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on government, which was strongly influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham, provoked this critical response from the young writer Leveson Smith. Smith dislikes Mill's style, ideas and beliefs, and is strongly hostile to democratisation; he is also critical of David Hume. Smith's essay was published posthumously in this volume, edited by his mother. Also included are notes on the contemporary debate over Catholic emancipation (Smith was in favour), a selection of poems, and an elegant portrait of Smith himself.
  • Dyer, William. Aimneanna cliuteach Chriosd. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 1832.
    • This is an important addition to the National Library's collection of books in Scots Gaelic printed in Canada. It is a translation of Christ's famous titles, a book first published in 1663, written by William Dyer, a non-conformist minister with Quaker sympathies. It was clearly a popular work - no less than six Gaelic editions were published in Scotland in the 19th century. Ownership inscriptions indicate that the book belonged to one Fergus Ferguson of New Gairloch, Nova Scotia and a bookseller's list at the back of the book includes 39 Gaelic titles - an indication of the market for Gaelic material among Scots emigrants in Nova Scotia at that time.
  • Roberts, David. Picturesque sketches in Spain taken during ye years 1832 & 1833. London, 1837.
    • This volume of tinted lithographs was David Roberts's first published set of views. He visited Spain and Tangier during the 1820s on the recommendation of fellow-Scots artist David Wilkie. Though not as well known as his later sketches of the Holy Land and Egypt, these prints helped to establish Roberts as a topographical artist. The views were enormously popular - within two months 1,200 copies had been sold and reprints were still selling well into the 1850s.
  • The Edinburgh Calotype Club Album, Volume 1
    • By an extraordinary sequence of events, the Library, in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, purchased the 'lost' Edinburgh Calotype Album at auction on 12 December 2001. The sister album (volume 2) was acquired by Edinburgh Central Library in 1952. Having the output of the club, acknowledged as the first photographic society in the world, reunited in Edinburgh is a remarkable coup. The Edinburgh Calotype Club was formed in the early 1840s after a group of Edinburgh gentlemen, mostly advocates, doctors and academics, were introduced to the process by Sir David Brewster (1781-1868). The photographs in the album are a mixture of portraits, landscapes, buildings and sculptures, most of them showing locations in Scotland such as Edinburgh, Newhaven, St Andrews, Fairlie and Inverness. These invaluable images enable the researcher to discover a wealth of information about Scotland and its people in the mid-19th Century. As part of the project, both albums have been digitised and mounted on a specially designed website www.nls.uk/pencilsoflight to enable the widest possible access to this resource. The project received financial support from: The Heritage Lottery Fund; The National Art Collections Fund; The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust; and Edinburgh City Council.
  • Kohl, Johann Georg. Resor i Skottland. Norrköping, 1846.
    • This is the rare first edition in Swedish of J.G. Kohl's account of his travels in Scotland in 1842, part of an eight month trip to England, Scotland and Ireland. The author, who was regarded by contemporaries as the most outstanding geographer in Europe, explored Scotland between Abbotsford and Crieff. He was generally quite complimentary and asserted that the Union of 1707 has set the country 'on the road to wealth and improvement'. Described by Charles Dickens as 'an indefatigable scholar', Kohl wrote no less than 26 works about his journeys throughout Europe and North America.
  • Thomson, John. Group of thirteen cartes-de-visite. Singapore, 1862-65.
    • These photographs taken by John Thomson during his stay on Singapore are the rarest images produced by this important Scottish photographer during the early years of his photographic career. Depicted are both European and Oriental men and women. On the verso of each photograph in a variety of styles and typefaces is printed 'Thomson Singapore'. Thomson's studio was advertised in a local newspaper The Straits Times on 12 June 1862. The studio ceased to function in 1865 when the photographer left for Bangkok to travel to Angkor in Cambodia.
  • Copy of verses on the Tay Bridge Disaster [1880.]
    • The Tay Bridge Disaster of 28 December 1879, in which some 75 people died when the bridge collapsed as their train was crossing, inspired many outpourings of verse. The dealer from whom we bought this felt impelled to point out that this is not by William McGonagall, whose poem 'Beautiful railway bridge of the Silv'ry Tay' is one of his most notorious compositions. This broadside poem perhaps scans better than McGonagall's efforts, but it is still essentially sentimental doggerel. Apparently these verses were sung (to the air known as 'Rock me to sleep'): the modern media's tasteless reporting of tragic events is nothing new.
  • Burrard, S.G., Sir, and Heron, A.M. A sketch of the geography and geology of the Himalaya Mountains and Tibet. Delhi, 1933.
    • This is a revised and updated edition of the 1907 work by Burrard and H. H. Hayden, which had been produced to mark the centenary of geographical and geological exploring expeditions of the Himalaya Mountains. This had become an invaluable reference work for surveyors and explorers. The present work, purchased with money from the Graham Brown Fund, contains a large number of plates, maps and illustrations.
  • Storia di Milano. 20v. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1995-1996.
    • A new, updated and expanded edition of the classic work on the history of Milan, for long Italy's leading economic centre and a key European focal point for the arts and culture. The encyclopedia, first produced between 1953 and 1966, is the result of co-operation between internationally respected historians and specialists.
  • Mireur, Hippolyte. Dictionnaire des ventes d'art faites en France et à étranger pendant les xviiime & xixme siècles. Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or: Artprice.com, 2001. 7v.
    • A new edition of a standard work on the art market first published between 1901 and 1912. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the establishment of some of the biggest auction houses in Europe and the work documents in some detail the sale of over 50,000 works of art - paintings, drawings, prints - during this period.
  • Stati pontifici; Ducato di Urbino (1443-1631); Ducato di Castro (1537-1649). 7v. Milano: F M Ricci, 2001.
    • Part of a vast project to survey the history of the Italian States from the 15th to the 18th century. These finely-produced volumes are particularly noteworthy for the quality of their colour reproductions.
  • La Basilica di San Francesco ad Assisi. Edited by Giorgio Bonsanti. Modena: F C Panini, 2002. 4v.
    • A further volume in the series Mirabilia Italiae, of which the Library holds several earlier volumes, devoted to an in-depth examination of buildings and monuments of importance for the history, culture and art of Italy. The Basilica of St Francis is dedicated to the saint, born in Assisi and founder of the Franciscan Order, who in 1939 became patron saint of Italy. Founded in 1228, shortly after the death of Francis, the Basilica contains the most important and extensive late medieval painted decoration in central Italy.
      Work on the volume was interrupted in 1997, and its publication delayed four years, when Assisi and the surrounding areas were struck by a severe earthquake.
  • Sidney E Berger. Forty-four years of Bird & Bull: a bibliography, 1958-2002. Newtown, PA: Bird & Bull Press, 2002.
    • Following earlier bibliographies to mark twenty-one and thirty years of the Bird & Bull Press, the present work gives an exhaustive and fully detailed bibliography of works produced by the Press since 1988. Included is a portfolio containing specimens, posters, prospectuses and a booklet with the complete woodcuts of Three Lions and the Cross of Lorraine, with humorous annotations of chapter illustrations in Wynkyn de Worde's De Proprietatibus Rerum.

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