March 2006

Here is a small sample of books recently acquired by Rare Book Collections at the National Library of Scotland.

Engraving detail
Detail from

This is an illustration from a German translation of Alexander Burnes's 'Cabool: being a personal narrative of a journey to, and residence in that city in the years 1836-38'. It shows Beluchi men 'doing their job'. The book was published posthumously in 1842. Burnes (1805-41), a Montrose man, was dispatched by the British government on a mission to Kabul in 1836. In 1839 he acted as second political officer in Kabul. When the political situation deteriorated in 1841, an infuriated crowd besieged Burnes's house in Kabul and murdered him. This event marked the beginning of Britain's disastrous retreat from Afghanistan.


Cover detail
Cover detail from
'If Tam O'Shanter
had a wheel'

This is the cover illustration of Grace Duffie Boylan's 'If Tam O'Shanter had a wheel'. This collection of writings includes poems on religion and social justice as well as short stories set in many lands. The title of the volume comes from the first poem, which whimsically re-writes Robert Burns's famous poem, 'Tam O' Shanter', imagining instead a young man on a bicycle pursuing a witch-like lady also on two wheels. This acquisition suggests the influence of Burns on radical American literature. Boylan (1862-1935) was a writer for the 'Chicago Journal', a poet and a novelist.


Illustration detail
Illustration detail from
'An account of a
voyage of discovery'

This is a detail from an illustration of Tungusian reindeer breeders in their summer dresses. It comes from the first English edition of Gavriil Andreevich Sarychev's 'Account of a voyage of discovery to the north-east of Siberia, the frozen ocean, and the north-east sea'. Originally written in Russian, the book recounts an important voyage of exploration sent by Catherine the Great of Russia to explore the Arctic and North Pacific Oceans.

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