Sir William Alexander was an important Scottish poet and member of the court of James VI and I. This copy of his works, printed in 1637, is of great importance, as it has a fine impression of the rare portrait.
The portrait has a manuscript note, 'Liber Fra: Kinaston ex dono Nobilissimi Authoris', indicating that the book was given by the author to the English poet Francis Kynaston. Alexander, like other Scottish poets, modified his verse to make it less Scottish after the court moved south in 1603. Here is another instance of him forming literary connections with English writers.
It is easy to guess the fate of the unfortunate Robert Watt, shown here with the symbols of punishment. Watt, who grew up in Perth, was inspired by the French Revolution to try to overthrow the government. After joining the Society of the Friends of the People, he was found in possession of much weaponry, and executed at Edinburgh in October 1794.
This portrait is from a rare copy of this 1795 edition of the 'Life and Character of Robert Watt'.
This photograph is a fine example of the work of John Thomson, the pioneering Scottish photographer who travelled in the Far East in the 19th century. The stone carving of an elephant is in Cambodia. Thomson's photograph appeared in the 1868 Christmas volume of 'The China Magazine', a Hong Kong periodical, which the Library has recently acquired. See also our web pages exploring John Thomson's work in more detail.