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 751 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.
Please let us know what you think of this resource, if you have information to add about an acquisition, or if you have rare Scottish books that you would like to donate or sell. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Important Acquisitions 1 to 15 of 751:
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|Title||Collection of single-sheet items, mainly posters and advertisements relating to land and agriculture in Scotland, dated between 1805 and 1903|
|Notes||These items include descriptions and valuations of estates and commercial property up for sale or rent, lists of farming equipment to be sold at auction, and a sheet of regulations for containing an outbreak of swine fever. Most are in excellent condition, particularly considering their age and ephemeral nature. The marks where the sheet was fixed to the wall can be seen on at least one item. Further evidence that these were working documents is supplied by the numerous manuscript annotations, including calculations and additions to the lists of goods. The detailed information regarding the pricing of materials, credit arrangements and the quality of particular areas of land should interest anyone researching agriculture, trade or local history in Scotland. It is also of interest as containing examples of Scottish provincial printing, in Linlithgow, Beith and Paisley. Family historians could also make use of the collection; several of the sales or re-lettings clearly came about as a result of the tenant's death, and these advertisements provide useful inventories of the tenant's furniture, tools and livestock.|
|Title||Genuine copy of a letter from a merchant in Stockholm to his correspondent in London. Containing an impartial account of Doctor Alexander Blackwell, his plot, trial, character, and behaviour, both under examination, and at the place of execution|
|Date of Publication||1747|
|Notes||This rare and probably spurious pamphlet, describes the involvement of 'Doctor' Blackwell in the machinations of Swedish politics in the 1740s. It also contains a scaffold speech, which seems also to be a fabrication.
Sweden was divided between a dominant French and a smaller English faction. The pamphlet, written ostensibly by a supporter of Blackwell's, describes the sequence of events leading to his execution. Blackwell 'a petty doctor of physick' was accused of plotting to poison the heir in an effort to alter the succession to the Swedish crown. If the alleged plot had succeeded the Duke of Cumberland would have ascended the throne. The unfortunate doctor 'endured for several days the torture of the pill with great resolution and constancy of mind, but upon the rack he confessed some intercourse with foreign courts'. He managed to put his head on the wrong side of the executioner's block, remarking that 'it was the first experiment he had made in that way'.
Blackwell was born in Aberdeen, and studied medicine at the University of Leyden, though it is doubtful if he ever completed his degree. He spent some time in the Hague and Sweden before working as a printer in Aberdeen and London. On becoming bankrupt in 1730 he spent two years in a debtors prison. Blackwell also worked for the Duke of Chandos as director of his agricultural improvements at Canons, Middlesex and published a pamphlet on 'A new method of improving cold, wet and barren lands' in 1741. He collaborated with his wife Elizabeth in producing 'A curious herbal' in two volumes in 1737. Clearly, a man of many parts, Blackwell was employed as a physician by the Swedish king and involved himself in further agricultural projects in Sweden prior to his demise.|
|Title||Engineer and machinist's assistant: being a series of plans, sections, and elevations, of steam engines, spinning machines, mills for grinding, tools, etc., etc., taken from machines of approved construction at present in operation.|
|Date of Publication||1856|
|Notes||This is a 'new and improved edition' of a book first published by Blackie in 1847. Lavishly illustrated with 138 engravings, it was intended to provide a broad range of information and practical examples for the instruction of the many aspiring mechanical engineers and millwrights to extend what they had learned in theory during their arduous apprenticeships. The scale of the engravings are sufficiently large 'to render them available as working drawings for the reproduction of similar machines' (preface). The plates, with very detailed accompanying explanatory text, are preceded by essays on the steam engine, mill gearing, machine tools and water wheels.
Examples of the designs of the foremost British (and some French) manufacturers are portrayed at a time when Britain, in the wake of the Great Exhibition of 1851 was very much regarded as the 'workshop of the world'. The designs of James Nasmyth's steam hammer and steam pile driver and William Fairbairn's corn mills, steam frigates and water wheels are among those of Scots engineers whose work features. Also included are designs by Caird & Co, Greenock, James Smith of Deanston, and Robert Napier, Archibald Mylne, Robert Sanderson & Co. from Glasgow. The book belonged to John Fowler, probably of John Fowler and Co., the Leeds based builder of railway and rolling stock.|
|Date of Publication||1999|
|Notes||2 vols. 1 of 400 copies
Over the years the Library has been building an impressive collection of Private Press books produced throughout the world. Many have been donated, for example, the Paterson and Gregynog Press collections, and others have arrived through legal deposit and purchase. In this area recently, and due to funding constraints, the Library has reduced its purchasing but has tried to acquire 'landmark' publications as well as works by Scottish authors published abroad. The present work falls into the former category, and has been described as the last great private press book of the 20th Century. It is an illustrated folio edition of the King James Bible on Zerkall paper (Germany) and printed in GALLIARD type, on a vellum spine binding with handmade paper over the boards. The 235 engravings by Barry Moser were done using a new medium called Resingrave, a white polymer resin, that has been championed by Mr Moser. The design, layout and feel of the publication recalls the famous Doves Press Bible of 1903-1905. The Pennyroyal Caxton Press is a partnership between Barry Moser and Bruce Kovner, a patron of the arts living in New York.|
|Title||Arboflede, ou le mérite persécuté. Histoire Angloise. Première [-seconde] partie|
|Imprint||Imprimé à la Haye, & se vend à Liège, chez J.F. Bassompierre, libraire & imprimeur en Neuvice|
|Date of Publication||1747|
|Notes||An unusual novel set in medieval England and Scotland, centering on the figure of Arboflede, a disgraced member of the English court who is forced to live in exile in a forest in the Scottish borders. The storyline, which involves the royal houses of Scotland, England, Denmark and Finland and which ends very tragically, is complicated and verges on the absurd. This, together with the fact that the author remains anonymous, could well be an indication of a satire on current European affairs, although with the tale being so phenomenally abstruse, it is hard to pin it down on anything in particular. The author may have been inspired by current Anglo-Scottish politics (?not the Jacobite Risings?)
The novel was first published in 1741, also in the Hague; one of the known copies of the 1741 edition has a slip pasted over the date reading 1745. Both editions are very scarce; no other copy of either traced in Scotland.|
|Title||New history of the city of Edinburgh, from the earliest times to the present time|
|Date of Publication||1800|
|Notes||There are two different printings of this work in 1800: ESTC N20175 &T110293). The Library has two copies of T110293 but does not have a copy of N20175. Apparently Brown published an edition in 1790 and another in 1797, but these are not recorded in ESTC. The book presents an interesting history of the city starting with a general part tracing its origins back to the Picts and then moves onto to discuss the main features of building and topography: Parliament House, New Town, Register Office, The South Bridge, Palace of Holyrood House etc. Towards the end, the book contains a section of 'Lists and Regulations' which have in part been annotated by a contemporary hand. The 'Regulations for keeping the streets clean' for example are 'violated every day' with such as 'water, ashes 'thrown from the windows... [and] carpets shaked from the windows'.
Although not called for in ESTC, the present copy contains the fold-out map.
Further interesting ink notes on the front pastedown.|
|Title||New South Wales calendar and General Post Office Directory, 1836|
|Date of Publication||1835|
|Notes||This copy of the short-lived New South Wales calendar, published from 1832 to 1837 has an notweworthy Scottish provenance. The upper flyleaf has the signature of one Alexander Imlay (1801-1847), surgeon, landowner and speculator. He was one of a trio of Aberdeenshire brothers, all surgeons, who arrived in Sydney in the early 1830s, a time when the colonies were expanding beyond the south-east corner of the continent. In 1832 Alexander toured the southern coast with Governor Bourke and six years later made a pioneering journey in South Australia across the Mount Lofty Ranges to the Murray river. At the peak of their land speculation the Imlays owned some 1500 sq. miles of southern territory. They remained in the area and in 1839 Alexander, described by 'The South Australian' as an 'eminent and enterprising colonist' arrived in Adelaide with a cargo of cattle and sheep.
The volume contains some useful information about the development of the burgeoning colony in the 1830s. Included are 'regulations for the assignment of male convict servants' and a 'Report on the epidemic catarrh, or influenza, prevailing among the sheep in this colony' which resulted in the loss of 2,500 animals. There are also lists of ministers of the Church of Scotland, (p.325) and arrivals (some from Leith) and departures of ships in Sydney harbour (p. 378-p.397) The Post Office Directory at the back of the volume reveals many Scottish surnames, as well as a number of finely engraved advertisements.
During the period in which this calendar was published, the number of 'unassisted' immigrants from Scotland, mainly from the Lowlands, increased noticeably. Of the 110,000 assisted immigrants who arrived in Australia between 1832 and 1850, about 16,000 (14.5%) were Scots. Although Scots settled throughout the colonies, they tended to favour New South Wales (which then included Queensland and Victoria) as opposed to South Australia, Van Diemen's Land or Western Australia.|
|Title||Weekly miscellany [of instruction and entertainment]|
|Imprint||Glasgow: William Bell|
|Date of Publication||1791|
|Notes||The Weekly Miscellany was published from 1789-1792, but few copies of its later years seem to survive. The NLS already has No. 1 (25th June 1789)-no. 26 (16th Dec. 1789) (NG.1588.b.5); this is a rare copy of the issues for 1791: No. 85 (2nd Feb) to No. 131 (21st Dec). The journal contains articles covering a wide range of subjects - contemporary politics, the anti-slavery debate, and historical articles are mixed with essays, poetry and fiction. While the subjects are world-ranging, there is a special interest in Scottish affairs, such as recollections of the Jacobite rebellion (including an 'Imitation of Psalm CXXVII. by a Scots Gentleman upon his arrival in France, summer 1746' (p. 142). More notably, this particular volume contains what is probably the first appearance in print of Robert Burns' poem 'Written in Friars Carse Hermitage' (p. 382, 31 Nov 1791). (Certainly it is the first surviving appearance, though Egerer conjectures that this poem may have been printed in 1789). It also contains Burns' Address to the Shade of Thomson (p.319, 2 Nov 1791), which had already appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser.
This particular copy is not perfect, lacking some numbers and with some torn pages, but these imperfections are greatly outweighed by the rarity of the volume.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC P2351
J.W. Egerer: A bibliography of Robert Burns. London, 1964. Item 1260, p.344. (Friars Carse)
Item 24, p. 37 (Thomson)|
|Title||Central India photographs|
|Date of Publication||1863|
|Notes||19 albumen prints by an unknown photographer in a portfolio. From the collection of Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin.
An important group of early photographs assembled between 1850 and 1867 by James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, and his son Victor Alexander Bruce, the 9th Earl, providing a visual record of the distinguished careers of the two earls as diplomats, military strategists, and politicians in India and the Far East. The four albums form a valuable source for the study of colonial and imperialist expansion, global commercial travel, and, not least, the rapid growth of commercial photography. The purchase was made possible by generous contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund (National Heritage Memorial Fund) and the National Art Collections Fund.|
|Title||Inaugural ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley ... Published under the patronage and by authority of the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council.|
|Imprint||Paisley: J & J. Cook|
|Date of Publication||1868|
|Notes||Folio, , 92
This limited, imperial edition of 40 copies was 'published by request of a few gentlemen who wished to have a special edition de luxe'. There was also an edition for the general public and a 'drawing room' edition for subscribers. The book is dedicated to Thomas Coats, a local cotton manufacturer, who purchased the grounds for £20,000 and donated them to the town of Paisley. The gardens were designed by the Glasgow landscape architect James Niven, former assistant to Joseph Paxton at Chatsworth, and the fountains were erected by George Smith & Co. of the Sun Foundry, Glasgow. The Coates Family is indelibly bound up in the industrial history of Paisley, through their domination of cotton manufacturing output with four large mills at each corner of the town. Following the Victorian spirit of charitable works, laced with a strong Baptist belief, they endowed many buildings and gardens in Paisley during their period of Economic hegemony including the construction of the largest Baptist church in Europe (Coates Memorial Church) and the Fountain Gardens.|
|Title||Narrative of the loss of the Abeona, which was destroyed by fire, on the 25th of November, 1820 ... Compiled by some of the survivors.|
|Imprint||Second edition. Glasgow.|
|Date of Publication||1821|
|Notes||This narrative follows in a long tradition of providing an 'eye witness' account of a disaster and publishing it in pamphlet form. In this case, it provides a vivid description of the horrendous consequences of a sailor drawing rum from a barrel using a candle to light his way and resulting in a conflagration that devoured the Abeona and killed 112 passengers, most of them settlers who had embarked at Greenock with the intention of establishing a settlement at Algoa Bay near the Cape of Good Hope.
There seem to have been two substantially different versions published in 1821: the present version Narrative of the loss of the Abeona, which was destroyed by fire, on the 25th November, 1820 ... when one hundred and twelve individuals perished. Compiled by some of the survivors. Second edition. Glasgow: Printed by James Starke, for Chalmers and Collins, 1821 (APS.2.200.002) and A brief narrative of the loss of the Abeona. Written chiefly by one of the survivors, A Sabbath school teacher on Board. Glasgow: Printed by Young & Gaillie for Archibald Lang, Bookseller, 1821 (APS.1.78.132). The first edition is shorter than the second and is written by a single author 'a sabbath school teacher' while the second and longer version seems to be the work of the original author and other survivors. It is substantially different and takes a more secular approach whilst the first is laced with that author's ecclesiastical leanings and imagery. Both are fascinating accounts, and complementary, the second edition providing a completely revised, extended and fuller text.|
|Title||[Volume containing 25 items, mainly chapbooks, relating to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce]|
|Date of Publication||c.1800-1865|
|Notes||This volume, which formerly belonged to the poet Sydney Goodsir Smith, includes 21 chapbooks telling the tales of the exploits of Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce in prose, verse and song. These items date from 1801 to 1861 and include imprints from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Montrose, Dumfries, Kelso, Newcastle, London and Belfast. The publication and distribution of chapbooks in Scotland reached its height between 1775 and 1825. Subsequently the market for this kind of material was absorbed by commercial publishers, examples of whose output is contained in this volume.
With their simple wood-engravings and straightforward narratives, they would have been avidly read by children, at whom they were primarily aimed. It is interesting to note the similarities, and in some instances the exact copying of the text of the stories from one publisher to another.|
|Title||Complete Glossary for Sir W. Scott's Novels and Romances.|
|Imprint||Paris: Baudry's European Library|
|Date of Publication||1833|
|Notes||This volume contains three works which were published in Paris, in English, in the nineteenth century. All have been annotated, most likely by a French owner, whose notes provide a fascinating insight into how much, or how little, the Scots dialect was understood abroad in the period. The third item is Thomas Moore's poem The Loves of the Angels (1823), and the second is a collection called Tales for the Fireside or the Road, by Popular Living Authors (1854). These tales include Mrs Norton's 'The Ruined Laird', and James Hogg's 'Extraordinary History of a Border Beauty', in both of which the Scots dialect is glossed by the annotator.
But the most interesting item is the Glossary to Scott, where the annotator has written in many additional entries, presumably representing words encountered in his reading of the Waverley novels. These include 'Plaid, a worsted mantle' ; 'Claymore, epee avec garde en osier'; 'Quhom, whom'; 'Sonsy, merry'; 'Yoursell, yourself'. Scott was hugely popular in Europe: this book shows how one contintental reader coped with the language in which he wrote.|
|Title||Volume of Edinburgh newspapers, 1759-1770|
|Date of Publication||1759-1770|
|Notes||This volume of newspapers comes from the library of the Writers to the Signet, and also displays the bookplate of Steuart of Allanton. The papers are in generally good condition, with tax-stamps and occasional manuscript notes; there are a few tears and worm-holes. The run of the Edinburgh Weekly Journal is darkened and damaged at the edges, probably because it is notably larger than the other newspapers. It is this run which gives the volume its particular interest, as these editions (from 7 August 1765 to 11 October 1769, with many gaps), do not seem to be represented elsewhere in the National Library, or indeed in any other collections. Published on Wednesdays, the Edinburgh Weekly Journal was sold at the printing-house of William Auld & Co., later Auld, Smellie & Co., in the Lawnmarket at 2½d. Later editions give details of the price of subscription (10s10d a year for collection from the shop, 11s10d a year for delivery within Edinburgh, 14s a year for post to any town in Scotland). Typically for a journal of this period, it contains extensive foreign news, news from London, Edinburgh and America, and miscellaneous advertisements: for miracle cures, the sale of land and buildings, and for dramatic performances and new books. Storms, explosions, murders and 'remarkable occurrences' are described with gusto. There are also a number of poems and letters. See W.J.Couper, Edinburgh Periodical Press (1908), II. 93-6; M.E.Craig, Scottish Periodical Press (1931), 26.|
|Title||Full, true, and particular account of the trial and condemnation of Wilson Potts, late Captain of the Dreadnought Privateer, belonging to Newcastle, who was sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark, near Leith, on Wednesday the 13th of February next|
|Date of Publication||s.n., 1712 or 1723?|
|Notes||A broadside, printed recto only in two columns with a woodcut of a ship at head of title. It concerns Potts' trial for rape, theft, robbery and piracy. The first three charges were not proven but he was found guilty of the latter and sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark "a rock about two miles in the sea". No year is given but it appears to be early 18th century with February 13th falling on a Wednesday in 1712 and 1723.|