Important acquisitions

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Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 865 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 865:

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AuthorJames VI
TitleAne Fruitfull Meditatioun contening ane plane and facile expositioun of ye 7.8.9 and 10 versis of the 20 Chap. of the Revelatioun in forme of ane sermone
ImprintEdinburgh: Henrie Charteris
Date of Publication1588
NotesBound with John Napier of Merchiston's A Plaine Discovery of the whole Revelation of Saint Iohn: set downe in two treatises (Edinburgh: Robert Walde-grave, 1593). This volume contains two examples of 16th-century Scottish printing bound together in one volume. Both works concern the apocalyptic passages in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, commonly attributed to John the apostle. Best known for his work as a mathematician, John Napier?s most widely published work was this theological work, the "Plaine Discovery". Napier adopts a strongly anti-Catholic attitude and urges his king James VI to purge the court of papists, atheists and "newtrals". In his dedication to King James, Napier refers to James's earlier "Ane fruitfull meditatioun", written in the summer of 1588 while England and Scotland prepared for the much-heralded arrival of the Spanish Armada. Although Scotland was officially neutral, for James a Spanish victory in England would have meant at best a forced public conversion to Catholicism and submission to King Philip of Spain, and at worst deposition or assassination by the powerful Scottish Catholic lords. However, the young king prevaricated on offering support to England and only wrote to Queen Elizabeth at the last minute to offer military aid. Instead he devoted himself to a writing a meditation on some selected passages of the Revelation, which is preceded by a translation in Scots of these passages. Although James only indirectly refers to the Armada, he concentrates his attack on papal authority by demonising Philip's supporter, the Pope, as an instrument of Satan, and emphasises his own position as a key opponent of national (and international) importance who can counter Satan?s ability to deceive "the nations universall". His second published work only appeared at the beginning of October as the last remnants of the Spanish fleet struggled to find their way home around the north coast of Scotland and Ireland. Although both works were written primarily for a Scottish readership, the volume has a provenance which goes back to 17th-century England. It been heavily annotated in two or three neat early 17th-century hands. Three early owners have been identified: a Robert Langley; Richard Lodge, wealthy Leeds woollen cloth merchant, builder of Red Hall, Winmoor, Shadwell, near Leeds; Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S. (1658-1725) antiquary, of Leeds, with his ink inscription ?ex Libris Rad Thoresby pr 16d? at the foot of A3r of the Napier. Thoresby includes the present volume in ?A Catalogue of the Various Editions of the Bible in this Musaeum? appended to his "Ducatus Leodiensis: or, the Topography of the Ancient and Populous Town and Parish of Leedes" (London, 1715), pp. 501-14). Although the Napier edition is widely held in UK libraries (although this copy does include the first leaf which is blank apart from the printed letter 'A' and which is missing from all the National Library's existing copies), there are only four copies of "Ane Fruitfull Meditatioun", recorded in ESTC (S101073) and none of them are in Scotland. Acquired with the assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on24/11/17
TitleDe rerum natura, libri VI
ImprintParis: Jean Bienné
Date of Publication1570
NotesOne of a small group of books that are known to exist in bindings that were produced for James VI before the union of the crowns in 1603. Of the nine examples identified, two are already held by the National Library (Bdg.l.33 and Bdg.m.104), and there is only one other held in Scotland at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The significant feature of the binding is the finely gilt stamped royal arms of Scotland which, unlike the other two examples held by the Library, is flanked by the initials I and R with a 6 above. The vellum binding is also complete in its original form: the Library?s other two examples having been rebacked with loss of the original leather. From contemporary documents we know that Edinburgh binder John Gibson was appointed bookbinder to the King on 29 July 1581 and continued in this role until his death on 26 December 1600. Among these documents is a receipt signed by the King listing 59 books bound by Gibson but none of these have been located. There follows further receipts for binding but, unfortunately, without the inclusion of the titles of the books bound. The book itself is an edition of Lucretius published in Paris in 1570. Titus Lucretius Carus was a first-century BC Roman poet and philosopher whose only known work is De rerum natura, a philosophical poem on Epicureanism: the pursuit of happiness through an understanding of the world, limiting one?s desires and living modestly.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes; ?The Library of Mary Queen of Scots, and of King James the Sixth? in The Miscellany of the Maitland Club, I, 1840
Acquired on06/10/17
AuthorLa Planche, Louis Régnier de
TitleA legendarie conteining an ample discourse of the life and behaviour of Charles Cardinal of Lorraine, and of his brethren, of the house of Guise
Date of Publication1577
NotesA translation from the French original thought to be published in Geneva in 1576. It is a Calvinist work, strongly against Mary and her family, and following the contemporary undercurrent in such literature that Catholicism replaces true devotion with a lust for power and sex. The latter influencing a passage that John D. Staines in his Tragic Histories of Mary Queen of Scots (2009) described as "the most gratuitous attack upon Mary Queen of Scots found in sixteenth century English, as well as the one with the least basis in fact." The book was bound for Thomas Wotton (1521-1587) with his gilt stamped arms on the front and back boards.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on06/10/17
AuthorNicholas Bohny
TitleThe new picture book: being pictorial lessons on form, comparison, and number, for children under seven years of age.
ImprintEdinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas
Date of Publication1858
NotesThe purchase of the first edition of this work compliments the Library's holdings of the 3rd (1866) and 5th (1869) from which it differs in some of the illustrations. The book teaches observation skills to children with over 100 hand-coloured illustrations depicting animals, plants, games, activities, farm life, objects found in the home, types of work with captions posing questions for readers to answer. Being a children's book it is now rare to find an example in such good condition.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on01/09/17
TitleOn Monday first will appear "The Merry Elector".
Date of Publication[1857?]
NotesA satirical cartoon poster (37 x 58 cm.) on the 1857 political campaign of James Merry (1805-1877). Born in North Lanarkshire, Merry made his fortune in the iron industry. By 1871 he owned twenty-three collieries and three iron-works employing over 4500 men in five counties: Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Fife, Dumbarton and Stirling. However, he is remembered as an autocrat who treated his workers badly. Merry ran unsuccessfully for parliament as a Liberal at Glasgow in February 1857. He was elected MP for Falkirk Burghs in April 1857 but was unseated on petition the following July. At the 1859 general election Merry was elected MP for Falkirk Burghs and held the seat until 1874.
Acquired on19/05/17
AuthorJames Busby
TitleJournal of a recent visit to the principal vineyards of Spain and France
ImprintLondon: Smith Elder, and Co.
Date of Publication1834
NotesThe father of Australia's now very lucrative wine industry was a Scot, James Busby (1801-1871), who emigrated to New South Wales in 1824. He began experimenting with vine growing on the land he received in the Hunter Valley, publishing several papers on viticulture. In 1831 he returned temporarily to Britain and the following year he made a four-month tour of Spanish and French vineyards, investigating the local vines and production methods. This book is an account of his tour, originally published in Sydney the previous year.
Acquired on05/05/17
Author[William Bailey]
Title[Collection of printed and manuscript material relating to a dinner held in honour Provost William Bailey]
ImprintEdinburgh? : s.n.
Date of Publication1848
NotesA "rich and elegant bound album" consisting of printed and manuscript material relating to a dinner held on 24 August 1848 in honour of William Bailey (d. 1859), first Provost of Portobello, a town on the outskirts of Edinburgh, now part of the city. Having worked in the flint glass trade in Newcastle, William Bailey came to Portobello about 1826 and in 1829 bought the chemical works there as a site for the manufacture of cut glass crystal and flint glassware. He built up a successful business manufacturing tumblers, decanters and other household articles, but, faced with increasing competition from glass factories in Leith and Edinburgh, Bailey decided in 1848 to convert the works to the more profitable manufacture of green bottles. In 1833 he was made the first Provost of Portobello and the old Leith-Dalkeith road was renamed Baileyfield Road after his house, Baileyfield, built about 1836. This album was presented to Bailey at the dinner and is in a handsome calf binding by Robert Seton of Edinburgh.
Reference Sources
Acquired on29/04/17
Author[Charles Edward Stuart]
Title C. P de G R. de la G = B. &c., A tous les rois, princes, republiques, &c. ... C. P of W R of Gr. Br. &c. To all kings, princes, republiques, &c..
Imprint[Paris?: s.n.]
Date of Publication1748
LanguageFrench & English
NotesA single sheet proclamation issued on behalf of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender) on 16 July 1748, with parallel text in two columns in French and English. Two years after the failure of the Jacobite uprising in Great Britain, Charles found his position in exile in France becoming increasingly precarious after the terms of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle had been agreed between Britain and France. The treaty put an end to the 8-year war of Austrian Succession which had been fought in northern Europe, and which Charles had taken advantage of to launch his uprising in Scotland at a time when British soldiers were fighting on the Continent. One clause of the treaty compelled the French to recognise the Hanoverian succession to the British throne and expel the Jacobites from France. In this proclamation, presumably intended for a British as well as French readership, Charles stated that he regarded as void anything stipulated against his or his father's rights to the throne of Great Britain. In reality there was nothing he could do about the treaty and in December of that year he was finally expelled from France. Only one other copy of this version of the proclamation is known in the UK, the Library also has a French language-only version of it.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on29/04/17
Author"Dr Milsintown"
TitleAusfuehrliches Leben und besondere Schiksale eines wilden Knaben
ImprintFrankfurt und Leipzig: s.n.
Date of Publication1759
NotesThis German work is supposedly by a 'Dr Milsintown', an Edinburgh physician, who records how, in the summer of 1756, while on the Hebridean island of Barra, he discovered a feral boy on a beach. Milsintown endeavoured, without success, to humanise the boy and turn him into a Christian. He also operated on the boy's cleft palate but the child died soon after the operation. Shortly before his death he was baptised and given the name Edward. The text of the work is supposedly translated via French from the original Scots ("even more difficult to understand than English"), but no such source texts have been identified. There were a number of examples of feral children being discovered in Europe in the 18th and early 19th century. Their behaviour and the attempts to turn them into civilised human beings formed the subject of books and scholarly articles. The apparent existence of wild human beings, completely unaware of the norms of civilised society, was a subject which fascinated Enlightenment readers, who at the time were questioning traditional values and educational practices. It is not clear whether the Barra boy was the product of someone's imagination or was a real person.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on29/04/17
AuthorJohn Ferdinand
TitleThe sword's-man: containing a series of observations on the use of the sword
ImprintEdinburgh: A. Robertson
Date of Publication1788
NotesThis is an unrecorded pamphlet on fencing. It is aimed at the gentleman amateur and aims to impart lessons which are "easy, safe, and void of those flourishes, only intended to divert the curious and ignorant." The author, John Ferdinand, is recorded in a contemporary post office directory as a "Fencing master" residing in Gavinlock's land, a close off what is now known as the Lawnmarket, nothing more has been discovered about him. The pamphlet was originally part of a volume in the library at Fettercairn house, home of the family of Forbes of Pitsligo, which was sold off at auction in 2016.
Acquired on22/04/17
TitleObservations of the management of flax from the field to the heckle.
ImprintEdinburgh: to be had of the booksellers
Date of Publication1784
NotesFlax was widely grown in Scotland in the 18th-century for the textile industry and was an important part of the national economy. The anonymous author has written a detailed guide to the efficient cultivation and harvesting of the crop "from the field to the heckle", a heckle being the toothed comb-like implement used for dressing flax. He has also embellished the pamphlet with illustrations of machinery and added a second, separately paginated, part "a plan of farming books, to answer from five acres, to ten thousand, or any number", designed to aid farmers in employing their workers and farm animals efficiently when harvesting crops. The pamphlet was originally part of a volume in the library at Fettercairn house, home of the family of Forbes of Pitsligo, which was sold off at auction in 2016. Only two other copies are recorded.
Acquired on22/04/17
AuthorJohn Gregory
TitleA comparative view of the state and faculties of man with those of the animal world.
Date of PublicationPrinted for J. Dodsley
NotesThe Scottish physician John Gregory (1724-1773), was a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. He considered human nature to be a uniform non-variant, whose principles and function can be discovered through experiment. In this, the first edition of his work, the anonymous author brings together the contents of his lectures to the Society. Gregory wrote that "The task of improving our nature, of improving man's estate, involves the proper development and exercise of the social principle and the other principle of instinct, with reason subordinate to instinct and serving as a corrective on it". The study of nature is then, according to Gregory, the best means of cultivating taste and religious understanding, the aim being to produce morally well-formed individuals.
Acquired on22/04/17
AuthorAnnie S. Swan
TitleThomas Dryburgh's dream: a story of the sick children's hospital.
ImprintEdinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier
Date of Publication1886
NotesThis is the first edition of one of Annie S. Swan's most popular Scottish tales, only three other copies are recorded in major UK libraries. Swan (1859-1943) was a prolific author of novels which never earned critical acclaim but were popular successes. Thomas Dryburgh's dream was one of her early works of fiction which drew on her personal experience as the wife of a medical student in Edinburgh.
Acquired on22/04/17
AuthorJames Porterfield
TitleGod's judgements against sin: or, a relation of three dreadful fires happening in the city of Edinburgh
ImprintEdinburgh: James Watson
Date of Publication1702
NotesFirst edition of a long poem taking as its main subject three major fires in Edinburgh during the years 1696 to 1701, all seen as evidence of God's displeasure with the sins of the city. The fire of 3 February 1700, which is covered in depth, was one of the most serious in Edinburgh history, destroying all of the tenement buildings on the eastern and southern side of Parliament Close. It also threatened the Advocates Library. James Stevenson, the then librarian, acted heroically in evacuating the books from the building. Unfortunately some of the books were dropped in the street during the evacuation and the Advocates made an appeal in the "Edinburgh Gazette" for any books with their ownership inscription to be returned.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on22/04/17
TitleThe red-breast, a tale
Imprint[Edinburgh?: s.n.]
Date of Publication1787?
NotesThis is an unrecorded printing of a mock erotic poem, dated at the end 'Edinburgh, 1787'. The less than polished nature of the printing suggests that the item was printed on a private press where the amateur printer had limited typefaces to hand and did not correct the errata at proof stage. The poem is prefaced by quotes from James Thomson's "Seasons" (Winter) and his "Castle of Indolence", and is written in the overwrought style of a contemporary love poem. The main content of the poem itself concerns a 'robin' creeping into a bedroom where 'Miss Fanny' is sleeping in a chair. The robin hops up to between her legs and leaps up with "hopes of bliss" only for Fanny to wake and tear him from his 'nest' and dash him lifeless to the floor.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on07/04/17
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