March 2009 acquisitions

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

French cavalry

Detail from cavalry

Two volumes make up the first edition of a rare and extremely handsome book on cavalry drills and tactics. One is a text volume with 11 plates showing different cavalry positions. The other is an atlas volume with 32 folio-size folding plates. The text volume includes a bound-in letter by the Duchesse de Melfort, dated July 1773.

Louis-Hector Drummond de Melfort (1721-1788) compiled this, one of the most important textbooks on the cavalry, in 1776. He spent most of his life involved with cavalry, serving the French King on several campaigns on the Continent. Later he commanded the Royal Ecossais regiment in the French army. The radical opinions on the use of cavalry in battles expressed in his book made it important throughout Europe.

Drummond de Melfort (1721-1788) was the grandson of John Drummond, 1st Earl of Melfort. He in turn was James VII/II's right-hand man in Scotland. The Drummonds became one of the leading Jacobite families at the French court.


A German Byron

2 men on a bridge
Etching detail.

We recently bought an extremely handsome German edition of Lord Byron's historical drama 'Marino Faliero Doge of Venice'. It has black and white etchings by the German artist Sepp Frank (1889-1970). Frank was a leading etcher and lithographer who became famous for his work in producing bookplates. Many of these are considered masterpieces of art deco design.

Our copy is one of an edition of 275 numbered copies. It contains 12 original black and white etchings and a title page vignette by Sepp Frank.


An English book in a Scottish binding

Binding detail.

A characteristically Scottish red morocco binding with a herringbone design is not usually found on books printed in England. This kind of binding is normally found on Scottish bibles, or bibles for Scottish use, and on legal and medical theses.

The front and back boards have been elaborately tooled in gilt. The spine features seven compartments with the title also in gilt. The front and back pastedowns have floral Dutch gilt endpapers. On closer inspection it looks like a remboîtage. This is a binding removed from the book it was originally made for, to cover a different book.

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