January 2007

Here is some information on a sample of items recently acquired by Rare Book Collections at the National Library of Scotland.

A miniature Bible and book stand

Book stand detail
Book stand detail

David Bryce, the Glasgow printer, produced the first complete miniature Bible in 1896. The edition we now have is a 1901 reprint. Although intended more for show, it contains a removable magnifying glass in the back cover.

The Bible is accompanied by a brass book stand in the form of a bust of an 18th-century gentleman, perhaps Samuel Johnson. It measures under 5 cm.



Coach travel in the 1770s

Ticket detail
Ticket detail

On 2 July 1776 a Mrs Inchbald was issued with a ticket for the 'fly coach' between Edinburgh and Newcastle. She may have been the writer and actress Elizabeth Inchbald (1753-1821). On the back of the ticket are details and prices for journeys from Edinburgh to London via Newcastle, York and Grantham.

Coach travel between Scotland and England was still a bit of a novelty in the 1770s. Regular passenger-carrying services only started in 1753. At that time, the journey from Edinburgh to London took 10 days in summer and 12 in winter. The 'fly coach' run by James Dun from Edinburgh in the 1770s only took four days - a considerable improvement!



Wartime book for French children

Black Watch illustation
Black Watch

Le bon Anglais is a children's book published towards the end of the First World War. The book wants to create a positive impression of the British among French children. It shows soldiers in a variety of peace-time settings. One illustration depicts members of the Black Watch standing around a table drinking.

The stencilled illustrations are by Guy Arnoux (1886-1951), who illustrated some 80 books during his lifetime. In 1921 he was appointed official artist of the French Navy.



A 'lost' book of sermons

Title page detail
Title page detail

We may have bought the only surviving copy of a previously unknown edition of a book of sermons. Andrew Gray (1633-1656) was a Church of Scotland minister. His collected sermons were published well into the 18th century under the title The spiritual warfare. Their main theme is mortification, which here means the Christian's struggle against lust.

Gray's sermons were not printed until after his death. The first edition appeared in Edinburgh in 1670, and the first known Glasgow edition was printed in 1715. But here we have a complete copy of an edition published in Glasgow in 1688!



Unwanted illustrations for Treasure Island

Cover detail
Cover detail

The first illustrated edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure story Treasure Island was in fact the first American edition. It was published only two months after the first British one. In addition to the famous frontispiece map based on Stevenson's own design, this American edition had four plates drawn by F T Merrill.

Stevenson described his plates as 'disgusting', and he was at first opposed altogether to the illustration of the novel. However, the success of the numerous illustrated editions produced over the years proved Stevenson's objection wrong.



Bible shared with Thomas Carlyle

Endpaper detail
Marbled endpaper

Jane Baillie Welsh was given a Bible in 1814. The binding has a fold-over flap to protect the book. Inside, the flap is lined with green leather, and it is gilt-stamped 'J. B. Welsh 1814'. Her signature 'Jane Baillie Welsh' also appears on a flyleaf.

In 1814 Jane was just 13 years old and lived with her parents in Haddington, East Lothian. The book clearly stayed with her, as her future husband, Thomas Carlyle, later put his own bookplate on the front pastedown.


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