Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through
purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 840 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 840:
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|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||Short address to the weavers of Paisley and the neighbourhood : (suggesting a plan for their relief.) by an Inhabitant.
An answer to the address (lately sold at three-pence) "by a Burgess," (on the road to preferment) to the feuars and burgesses of Paisley by "Shifty". Paisley, 1817.
And 3 others|
|Date of Publication||1819|
|Notes||A collection of five rare tracts published variously in Ayr, Paisley and Glasgow between 1817 and 1819 and bound in one volume. The tone is radical and reforming reflecting the appetite for electoral and civic reform in the industrial west in the years after Waterloo.|
|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||Holy Bible, containing the old and new testaments|
|Date of Publication||1769|
|Notes||A contemporary Scottish binding in fine condition of brown morocco, gilt tooled with a herringbone design in the centre of both boards; this is contained within a rectangular panel displaying elaborate tooling in gilt of thistles, arabesque, annular and plain dots, and fleurons. With worn marbled endpapers and corners bumped. Otherwise a very good example of an 18th-century Scottish binding.|
|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||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.|
|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||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.|
|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||Third Part of the Bible ... Containing Five Excellent Books, Edinburgh: by Robert Young, 1637|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: by Robert Young, 1637|
|Date of Publication||1637|
|Notes||Bound with: The New Testament, London: Robert Barker & Assigns of John Bill, 1638; and: The whole booke of Psalmes, London: I. L[egat]. F. the Company of Stationers, 1640.
The first work in this volume is not found in STC, apparently an Edinburgh edition of STC 2334.5. Details: 24o, [288 pp.], sig. A-M12, slightly stained. Sig. H4 missigned G2. The two following works are STC 2954.3 and STC 2698. The main interest of this volume is, however, the elaborate embroidered binding. The design on front and rear boards is a silver wirework crown above a lily executed in green, pink and gold silks, enclosed within an oval surrounded by foliage. The spine is heavily decorated with formal designs of foliage within six panels. The binding has been restored by a V&A conservator and remounted; the new pink silk ties are dyed to match the originals. The page edges are gilt; the endpapers are Old Dutch marbled. See Cyril Davenport, English Embroidered Bookbindings, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & co., 1899, p. 2. for the claim that embroidered binding is a particularly English art. Davenport provides several useful photographs of seventeenth-century embroidered Bibles and Psalms in chapter IV, 'Books bound in Satin', pp. -110. This acquisition complements the library's existing holdings of embroidered Bibles printed in Scotland, such as the 1626 Aberdeen Psalms at PDP.10/18, the 1638 Edinburgh Bible at Cwn.483 and the fine 1646 Edinburgh Bible at Bdg.m.73.|
|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||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||Montrose illustrated in five views with plan of the town and several vignettes, to which are added a few explanatory remarks.|
|Date of Publication||1840|
|Notes||This is a pristine set of exemplars of early lithographic printing in Scotland, of which only one other copy is recorded in Britain. According to David Schenck, this volume appears to have been a prototype for a series of views drawn by James Gordon Jun. and published by J. & D. Nichol of Montrose under the general title 'City & towns of Scotland illustrated'. Views of Aberdeen, Perth, Glasgow and Dumfries were subsequently published.
Lithography did not begin in Scotland until 1820, over two decades after its discovery in Germany. However Edinburgh and Glasgow soon developed into significant centres of lithographic printing in a British context. The lithographer responsible for this work is William Nichol, who was based in Hanover Street, Edinburgh, probably related to the Montrose publishers of this work. He wrote the entry for 'Lithography' in the seventh edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1841.|
|Title||Account of the trial of Thomas Muir.|
|Date of Publication||1794|
|Notes||This is the only known copy in Britain of the first American edition of a book describing the trial of Thomas Muir for sedition in 1793. It is one of very few eighteenth-century American publications of Australian interest. Two other editions were published by Samuel Campbell and another by W. Durrell, also in New York, which is indicative of a high level of interest in the case in the United States. The book is a detailed account of the trial, published with the approval of Muir. It also contains an appendix with copies of documents used as evidence against the accused during the trial.
Thomas Muir, born in Glasgow in 1765, was a lawyer inspired by the French Revolution and by Thomas Paine's 'The rights of man'. He was one of the prime movers in the Society of the Friends of the People, which advocated moderate parliamentary reforms. For his involvement with this organization and for his associations with the authorities in France and the United Irishmen in Ireland, Muir was arrested in August 1793. Following his trial he was sentenced with four of his compatriots (who later became known as the Scottish Martyrs) to 14 years transportation to New South Wales. In effect, they were the first 'political prisoners' sent to the colony. Muir managed to escape in 1796 and made his way across the Pacific via Mexico and eventually to France, where he died in 1799.|
|Title||New Testament and Psalms
(Unidentified copy, t.p. missing)|
|Date of Publication||ca. 1867|
|Notes||This small format Bible (16mo) belonged to Rev. John Baird, father of John Logie Baird, inventor of the television. It is heavily inscribed with Biblical notes by Rev. Baird on pastedowns and endpapers including his signature dated 'Jany: 1867'. It was in this year that Baird was awarded his B.D. from the University of Glasgow. He was ordained as minister of West Parish Church in Helensburgh on 19th August 1869 and became first minister of the parish in 1883, resigning on 23rd October 1918. After his ordination he remained in Helensburgh for the rest of his life though made occasional trips through Europe and Africa. Although devoting his life to the one congregation and holding fast to the strict tenets of the Church of Scotland he was also interested in German culture and eastern religion. John Logie Baird was born in Helensburgh on 13th August 1888.
The Bible comes with; a port. of Rev. Baird pasted to an endpaper, a newspaper clipping reporting on a memorial window to John Logie Baird to be unveiled in Helensburgh to mark the centenary of his birth and a provenance note written by Mrs Edith Brown whose family was in possession of the Bible until a move from Helensburgh to the Moray Coast in the 1930s/40s.|