Rare Books - Important Acquisitions List All

Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 775 of the most important items we have acquired since 2000. We update it regularly as new material comes in. The description gives information about why it was chosen and what makes it particularly interesting. You can order the list by date of acquisition, author or title.

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Important Acquisitions 1 to 15 of 775:

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AuthorEdinburgh (Scotland) Town Council
TitleNotice. The Magistrates, in consequence of a complaint by the possessors of shops between the North Bridge and the Stamp Office Close ? hereby give notice ... Given at Edinburgh, this 4th day of March 1814 years.
Imprint[Edinburgh] : Alex Smellie
Date of Publication[1814]
NotesThis broadside outlines the regulations affecting street sellers and casual vendors in Edinburgh in response to complaints from shopkeepers in Edinburgh's Old Town. The shopkeepers on the High Street in the area between the North Bridge and the Stamp Office Close were concerned that the pavement in front of their shops was being obstructed by "the number of carts, creels, stands, &c. placed there without any authority". The Edinburgh magistrates therefore decreed that "from and after this date, no stands or creels will be allowed to be placed on the street ... No carts bringing in vegetables, or fish of any kind, will be permitted to remain there after eight o'clock in the morning ... Nor will those exposing gingerbread for sale be allowed to stand on that part of the pavement between the South Bridge and the head of Niddry Street". The broadside warns those flouting these regulations that they would have their goods seized by police officers. Despite this attempt to gentrify part of the High Street, street vendors would continue to be a major presence in Edinburgh's Old Town throughout the 19th century and early 20th century. Gingerbread was a popular street food, particularly at Halloween and during the winter months. William Tennant's mock-heroic poem "Anster fair", first published in 1812, which describes the annual fair held in Anstruther in Fife in 16th-century Scotland, mentions the "market-maids, and apron'd wives that bring their gingerbread in baskets to the fair".
Acquired on15/05/15
TitleItinerary of the Lord Chancellor Broggam and Broomstick.
ImprintEdinburgh: Andrew Shortrede
Date of Publication[1834?]
NotesThis is a spoof diary making fun of the prominent whig politician Lord Brougham 'Lord Chancellor Broggam' (1778-1868) and his five-week tour of Scotland in the summer of 1834 when he made speeches in Edinburgh, Inverness, Perth, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. Written as a first-person account of Brougham's stay in his native Scotland, the anonymous author mocks the politics of the Scottish lawyer turned Westminster-fixer Brougham and his overbearing manner. A typical diary entry reads: "September 6. Met the lang-tongued clam'rous fouk o'Aberdeen-awa, and eat of their fine finnan haddocks. It was here that I displayed one of the completest specimens of my noted knack at eating my own words with unmoved impunity. I put out all my strength to convince the burghers of Aberdeen of my republican bias; because, it is well known, that the landholders of the county are amongst the most attached in Scotland to the monarchical form of government ...". Brougham's tour was part a campaign to preserve his political career and status as kingmaker within the whig party, but his efforts were to have the opposite effect, with his career as a politician effectively over by the end of 1834. "His behaviour throughout 1834 was in many ways bizarre. In the summer he went on a tour of Scotland, where he played to the gallery in a series of speeches which enhanced his popularity but offended his political peers (particularly when he upstaged [Earl] Grey and insulted [the Earl of] Durham at a dinner in Edinburgh) and outraged the king, who was not amused by reports of high jinks with the great seal, nor with the chancellor's portraying himself as the king's representative. Many began to comment that the often dishevelled-looking Brougham was not entirely of sound mind" (ODNB). This pamphlet is perhaps an offshoot of a newspaper campaign in the summer and autumn of that year, led by The Times and supported by King William IV's advisers, against Brougham. The campaign sought to discredit him and to imply that he was unfit for the office of Lord Chancellor by having chosen to leave London for five weeks.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on15/05/15
AuthorAnthony Trollope
TitleLinda Tressell
ImprintEdinburgh: William Blackwood
Date of Publication[1880?]
NotesThis novel written by Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) is a tale or star-crossed lovers and religious fanaticism set in the German city of Nuremberg. First serialized in Blackwood's Magazine in 1867-1868, a two-volume edition was published by Blackwood in 1868, but sold very poorly. The publishers bound up the unsold sheets of the first edition and reissued them as this single volume in c. 1879/1880, but again without any commercial success, making this issue something of a rarity.
Acquired on15/05/15
TitleThe history and love adventures of Roswal and Lillian
ImprintGlasgow: J. & M. Robertson
Date of Publication1788
NotesThis is an unrecorded Glasgow printing of a Scottish verse romance "Roswal and Lillian". The tale appears to be medieval in origin, and concerns Roswal(l) a prince of Naples who is forced into exile by his father, but who eventually finds love in his new home and marries the king's daughter Lillian. Sir Walter Scott records hearing the song sung in his youth in Edinburgh sung by an old person wandering through the streets. The first recorded printing of the work was in Edinburgh in 1663, there are then four recorded editions in the second half of the 18th century, printed in Newcastle and Edinburgh. The printers of this Glasgow edition, James and Matthew Robertson, were two of the principal printers of chapbooks in Scotland from 1782 onwards. From at least 1777 they were publishing children's books, most of which are reprints of titles published by John Newbery of London. They also imported them from England.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes, Scottish Book Trade Index
Acquired on06/03/15
Author[John Law]
TitleLettres patentes du roy : portant privilege au Sieur Law & sa Compagnie d'establir une Banque generale.
ImprintParis :Chez la Veuve de Franc¸ois Muguet
Date of Publication1716
NotesThis is the first letter patent issued on 2 May 1716 on behalf of King Louis XV of France, authorising the Scottish financier John Law (1671-1729) to found a general bank in France. Law is one of the most colourful and notorious figures in Scottish history. In the early 1690s he moved to England to make his fortune. Using his superior knowledge of mathematics and probability theory, he spent his time 'gaming and sharping'. His career as a gambler was, perhaps inevitably, fraught with risk; in 1692 he was forced to sell his rights of inheritance to his late father?s estate of Lauriston, a few miles west of Edinburgh, to his mother. In April 1694 he killed a man in a duel over the affections of a woman. He was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to death, but managed to escape from prison and fled to the Continent. Law then travelled widely in Western Europe, where he gained a reputation as a financial expert who was able to support himself through speculating in currency markets in France and the Netherlands. He also developed his theories of the advantages of establishing a national land bank, and of expanding the money supply to increase national output, by issuing banknotes backed by land, gold, or silver. Law tried, without success, to sell his ideas of a bank for national finance and a state company for commerce to the rulers of various countries in the early 1700s. He settled in France in 1713 and lobbied Louis XIV and his finance minister, Nicolas Desmarets, to form a national bank. His plan was initially favourably received, but rejected shortly before the king's death in September 1715. However, the old king?s death proved to be stroke of fortune which transformed Law?s career. Louis's successor, his great-grandson Louis XV, was only a child of five, so France was then governed by a regency council, presided over by Philippe, duke of Orleans, the late king?s nephew and son-in-law. The duke of Orleans, as a regent, was a bold leader; he was dedicated to reforming the policies of the late king and to restoring the finances of France, which were in a very poor state thanks to Louis XIV embroiling France in a series of expensive wars. The resultant shortage of precious metals had also led to a shortage of coins in circulation, which in turn limited the production of new coins. As a fellow gambler, the duke of Orleans was particularly interested in Law's plan for a bank as a way of dealing with the national debt. He agreed to the foundation of a 'banque generale' (General Bank), with the authority to issue banknotes. A further letter patent was issued on 20 May, stipulating the regulations for the operation of the General Bank. The bank proved to be popular and profitable within a short time, which encouraged Law to think on a bigger scale. In 1717 he set up the Compagnie d'Occident (formerly known as the Mississippi Company), which consolidated existing French trading companies who had control of the ports and islands of Louisiana, and a monopoly on the beaver trade in Canada. The company was strongly connected to the bank from the start, and in December 1718, to reflect its enhanced status, the Banque Generale became the Banque Royale, with Law appointed as director. In May 1719 Law added the struggling French East India and China companies to his own, and renamed the new company, the Compagnie des Indes. From being a simple trading company, the Compagnie des Indes took over the collection of indirect taxes in France and redemption of the debt; it had in effect become a giant holding company controlling almost the entire revenue-raising system in France, the national debt, the overseas companies, the mint, as well as the note-issuing bank. The rise of the company led to Law gaining a prominent role in the government of France; by May 1720 he was effectively chief minister and minister of finance in France. However, the rapid expansion of Law?s company led to boom and bust, with its shares being the subject of wild speculation on the French stock market, as adventurers and aristocratic gamblers from all over Europe bought and sold shares at vastly inflated prices. The Banque Royale was declared bankrupt in October 1720, having already temporarily closed in May of that year, and the share price of the Compagnie des Indes collapsed. Law lost his own personal fortune and in December he had to resign from his ministerial posts. He went into exile abroad, living for a brief spell in England. The death of the duke of Orleans in 1723 put an end to his hopes of ever returning to France. He died in Venice in poverty.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National biography
Acquired on06/03/15
AuthorFriedrich Eberhard Rambach & Ludwig Tieck
TitleDie eiserne Maske. Eine schottische Geschichte von Ottokar Sturm.
ImprintLeipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth
Date of Publication1792
NotesThis is the first (and only contemporary) edition of a very rare Gothic novel, "Die eiserne Maske"("The iron mask") by the Berlin schoolmaster Friedrich Rambach (1767?1826), writing under the pseudonym of Ottakar Sturm. Rambach was "a prolific writer of medieval adventures and horror stories and plays" ("Oxford Companion to German Literature"). Among his pupils was the 18-year-old Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853), later to find fame as a poet and translator and as one of the founders of the Romantic movement in German literature in the late 18th and early 19th century. Tieck contributed at least two Ossianic poems to the text of the novel, which were his first published poems and effectively his first literary translations from English. He also wrote a chapter and a half at the end of the novel(the text later published as a stand-alone piece, 'Ryno', in the "Nachgelassene Schriften", 1855). The novel itself is inspired by Friedrich Schiller's play "Die Raeuber" ("The Robbers"), which was first published in 1781. Rambach transplants the action to the medieval Scottish Highlands. The characters are all given Ossianic names such as Dunkan, Malwina, Carno, Toskar, Linuf and Dunchomar, and the author revels in bleak and chilling imagery and depicting the barren landscapes of the Highlands. The two main characters of the novel are the feuding brothers, Carno and Ryno, the sons of Tondal, who are in love with Malwina, the daughter of Toskar. She has promised that she will be given to the one who proves himself the braver, either the noble and brave Carno or the spiteful and sinister Ryno. Tieck's contribution to the novel was part of the seventh chapter and the whole of the following final one, in which his task was to depict Ryno's growing shame for his cruelty towards his brother, and the ensuing destruction he brings upon himself. Although "Die eiserne Maske" was reprinted as recently as in 1984, it has never appeared in English.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on06/03/15
Author[John Hood]
TitleThe letters of Zariora and Randale
ImprintEdinburgh : Walker and Greig
Date of Publication1814
NotesThis is an unrecorded, anonymous novel by a Scottish author. A contemporary MS note on the half title of this copy states 'Written by John Hood of Stoneridge A.D. 1813'. 'Stoneridge' refers to Stoneridge, or Stainrigg, House near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders. John Hood (1795-1878) was a local landowner. In 1841-1842 he travelled to Australia to visit his oldest son, and his account of his journey was published in 1843 under the title "Australia and the East". "The letters of Zariora and Randale" is an epistolary novel which would appear to be a youthful literary experiment of the 18-year-old Hood, presumably printed at the author's own expense. The novel is set in contemporary Spain and is moral tale about the dangers of excessive passion, in this case Randale's doomed love for a young woman Maria. The young Scot, the 'Chevalier Charles Randale', when living in Spain writes to his friend 'Mr. Zariora' of his love for Maria, the daughter of the Baron Lariana. When she suddenly dies he is overcome with grief and Zariora visits him in Spain, reporting his adventures to another friend 'Kalthander'. The novel closes with Zariora writing to Kalthander that his friend Randale refuses to leave the home of his dead lover and return to Scotland; he concludes "I fear that this dear man's emaciated form and disordered mind speak a quick decay". This copy appears to have been censored, as some lines have been ruled out to the point of illegibility on the title page, and a number of words throughout the text have been carefully removed by scraping away the surface of the paper. Pages 29-30 are also missing from this copy.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on27/02/15
AuthorRobert Burns
TitleThe works of Robert Burns
ImprintPhiladelphia: Rudd and Bartram
Date of Publication1801
NotesThe first collected American edition of Burns's poems, published in Philadelphia the place where Burns poems first appeared in print in the USA in the "Pennsylvania Packet" newspaper between 1787 and 1788. Two editions of "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect" had also been printed in the city in 1788 and 1798, evidence of the interest in Burns among the American public and the influence of ex-pat Scots in what was then the USA's printing and cultural centre. The Philadelphia 1801 edition is almost a page for page reprint of the Liverpool edition of 1800, the first collected edition of Burns's works, edited by the Liverpool physician, Dr James Currie. The Liverpool edition was conceived by the friends of the dead poet as 'memorial to his genius' and primarily as a means of raising funds for his widow and children. Currie's work as an editor has long been criticised for its omissions and inaccuracies and also for his lengthy biography of Burns in which he mentioned Burns's heavy drinking. The American edition contains an engraved frontispiece portrait of Burns in vol. 1 by the Philadelphia engraver Alexander Lawson, which is based on the famous portrait done by Alexander Nasmyth in 1787.
Reference SourcesEgerer no. 64
Acquired on20/02/15
Title[Volume of 16 early 19th-century Scottish chapbooks, mostly printed in Kilmarnock]
ImprintScotland: s.n.
Date of Publication[1815-1820]
NotesThis volume contains 16 rare Scottish chapbooks, 15 of which are printed in Kilmarnock and one in Ayr (no. 16). It includes 4 unrecorded Kilmarnock printings (nos 3, 6, 7 and 12 in the volume). The chapbooks all contain versions of popular ballads and songs of the period. The volume is in a 19th-century half-leather binding by Henderson and Bisset of Edinburgh and all the chapbooks have been interleaved with laid paper. There are no visible marks of provenance in the volume.
Acquired on20/02/15
AuthorScotus, Michael.
TitlePhisionomia Magistri Michaelius Scoti.
ImprintParis: Renault Chaudiere
Date of Publication[c. 1527]
NotesAn early edition of Michael Scotus's "Liber physiognomiae": first printed in 1477. Despite its title, the true concern of Scotus work lies in more of an Aristotles Masterpiece vein, reflecting on physiognomys relation to intercourse, pregnancy, and embryology. The text is related to another medieval work, On the Secrets of Women, attributed to Pseudo-Albertus Magnus, but in fact drawing on Scotus. Most of what appears as book I in the printed editions contains a detailed treatise on generation of human beings, with anatomical and physiological descriptions, information on the best time for conception, on sexual behavior, and on the state of the fetus during each of the nine months after conception. The rest of book I deals with differences between genera and species of animals. Books II and III contain the Physiognomia proper (apart from some chapters on dreams and auguries from sneezes). In these a systematic survey of the different parts of the body, in connection with the basic or other qualities affecting them, is meant to show how souls are intrinsically dependent for their natures on the bodies that they inhabit: 'animae sequuntur corpus'" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Born in Scotland (at Balwearie, according to Sir Walter Scott), Michael Scotus (ca. 1175-1234) was educated in England but spent most of his life in Italy and Spain. The legend which grew up around the name of Michael Scot was due to his extraordinary reputation as a scholar and an adept in the secret arts. He figures as a magician in Dante's "Inferno" in Boccaccio's "Decamerone", in local Italian and Scottish folk-lore, and in Sir Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel (Catholic Encylopedia).
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes; Universal Short Title Catalogue
Acquired on13/02/15
AuthorDavid Hume
TitleSaggi filosofici sull' umano intelleto
ImprintPavia: Pietro Bizzoni
Date of Publication1820
NotesThis two-volume set contains the first Italian translations of two of Hume's works, "Enquiry concerning Human Understanding" (first published in 1748)and his own brief autobiography (first published posthumously in 1777 as "The Life of David Hume, Esq.") and a further translation of his 'Dissertation on the Passions' from the "Four Dissertations". The present Italian editions though issued separately and complete in themselves were also published as volumes XIV & XV of the Collezione dei Classici Metafisici. Founded by Defendente Sacchi (1796-1840) and Luigi Rolla, this was the first Italian series devoted to classic philosophical texts and included translations of works by Descartes, Condillac, Locke, Malebranche and Kant. This copy is in the original publisher's paper wrappers and includes a frontispiece portrait of Hume in vol. 1 engraved by Luigi Rados (1773-1840).
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on10/02/15
AuthorElizabeth Helme
TitleSt. Clair, der Eilaender oder die Geachteten von Barra
ImprintMagdeburg : Heinrichshofen
Date of Publication1811
NotesThis the rare German-language translation of Elizabeth Helme's novel "St. Clair of the Isles; or, The outlaws of Barra" first published in English in 1803. The only other surviving copy of the German edition is recorded in the USA. Little is known of the Elizabeth Helme's life. She was born in the North East of England; she moved to the London area where she married and raised a family and also worked as a schoolmistress at a school at Brentford. To supplement her income, from the 1780s onward she wrote ten novels and translated works from French and German, as well writing didactic works for the young. She died either in 1810 or c. 1814. ""St. Clair of the Isles" is set in medieval Scotland and concerns the young outlaw St. Clair Monteith, a Robin Hood-like figure who lives on a fortress on the isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The novel was later turned into a play in 1838 by the equally obscure dramatist Elizabeth Polack.
Reference Sourceshttp://extra.shu.ac.uk/corvey/corinne/1Helme/BioHelme.html; http://orlando.cambridge.org/public/svPeople?person_id=helmel
Acquired on06/02/15
TitleA postehaste conveyance for S-[cottish] members
Imprint[London] : James Bretherton,
Date of Publication1784
NotesThis is a satirical print by the famous caricaturist James Sayers (1748-1823) dated 20 January 1784. It shows an archetypal Scotsman in bonnet and tartan stockings, whose body is mostly enclosed in an envelope. He is being posted (in this case being hurled through the air) from Scotland to London. The envelope is addressed "To the Majority St Stephens Westmr. Free Duke or No Duke" and has been franked with the word "Free". The print is an attack on William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809) who in April 1783 had become Prime Minister, as the figurehead of a coalition government dominated by Charles James Fox and Lord North. Portland's government was reluctantly accepted by King George III, who worked in private to undermine it. When Portland presented an ambitious bill to reform the East India Company, the King was able to influence the House of Lords to reject it. "Portland failed to rise to the daunting challenges of persuading the Lords of the merits of the India Bill and countering the king's unconstitutional interference. The duke's speeches were lacklustre, and he also contrived to bungle the management of parliamentary procedure" (ODNB). By the time this print was on sale Portland had already resigned as Prime Minister, along with Fox and North, leaving William Pitt to struggle to form a minority government. His reputation had been damaged by what his enemies regarded as his government's cynical and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to hold on to power. One of the accusations levelled at Portland was that he had created a special fund for travelling expenses in order to win the favour of Scottish MPs. Sayers's engraving thus depicts a Scottish MP travelling to Westminster to prop up Portland's regime.
Reference SourcesBM Satires 6381; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on30/01/15
AuthorBoursalt, Edme, (1638-1701)
TitleMarie Stuard, Reine d'Ecosse, Tragedie.
ImprintParis: Jean Guignard
Date of Publication1691
NotesThe first edition of this remarkable addition to the canon of French Mary studies: a hot-blooded re-imagining of the life and execution of the Queen of Scots. Thought to be the earliest surviving work to contain the wholly fictional meeting between Elizabeth I and Mary. Boursault's tragedy is able to count its place in a certain lineage of French Mary plays, beginning with Montchrestien (1601) and Regnault (1634) and extending well into the 19th century. Like its predecessors, Marie Stuard amply reflects the age in which it was written: the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1683 (the year in which Boursault's play was first performed) officially ended the toleration of Huguenots, somewhat explaining his extreme vilification of Elizabeth and his tendency to idealize Mary. Nevertheless, Paulson et al. find it to be of significant theatrical and historical value. The plot of Montchrestien's play seems relatively simple and Reganult's shows scarcely much more complexity. Boursault, utilizing a novelesque approach and profiting from the advancements in theatrical technique, presents a complex series of intrigues... Norfolk's love affair with Mary, Morray's hatred of his sister and love of Elizabeth, Newcastle's betrayal of Norfolk and the abandonment and betrayal of Elizabeth add life and interest to the play. We feel that for this reason alone, it would be interesting and rewarding for Marie Stuard to be performed by a modern repertory group, which would revive Boursault's work from an unjust oblivion. Boursault is also guilty, however, of severe historical anachronisms, the least among them the inclusion of characters killed long before Mary's execution (Norfolk and Morray). Far more glaring, however, is the entirely made-up personal meeting between Elizabeth and Mary  an episode which enjoyed an important and enduring legacy, as Paulson et al. point out.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes. M.G. Paulson, The Queens' encounter: the Mary Stuart anachronism in dramas by Diamante, Boursault, Schiller, and Donizetti, New York: Lang, 1987
Acquired on16/01/15
TitleThe distillery of Scotland a national benefit; and the importation and use of foreign spirits, a national detriment.
ImprintAberdeen: J. Chalmers, R. Farquhar
Date of Publication1755
NotesThis pamphlet, by an anonymous author, discusses the economics of Scottish production of spirits in the form of two letters to a friend, dated the 3rd and 22nd May. The author, who informs his friend that he was lately in Edinburgh, takes as his cue the topical theme: Whether the distillery of Scotland was a national profit or loss? He discusses the production of whisky in Scotland in relation to its annual use of 50,000 bolls of bear (i.e. barley). He also looks at the production other alcoholic spirits in England, Europe and the colonies, analysing the costs of the ingredients and profit margins of exports and imports. His argument is that cheap imports of foreign spirits are harming the production of locally-produced whisky, which was suffering from high levels of taxation, in particular after the Act of Union and the imposition of an English malt tax in 1725. The author's concerns were no doubt motivated by the fact that in Scotland there were very few licensed distilleries, prepared to pay the taxes, but hundreds of illicit stills supplying the domestic market. Only two other copies of the is pamphlet are recorded by ESTC (at the British library and Harvard).
Acquired on09/01/15
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