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 735 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 735:
Ordered by author |
Order by title
| Order by date
|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||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||Life and character of Robert Watt, who was executed for high treason at Edinburgh, the 15th October, 1794|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: A. Shirrefs|
|Date of Publication||1795|
|Notes||A rare edition (only 3 copies on ESTC, all in U.S.) of this unsympathetic life of Robert Watt, a government spy amongst the political reform societies who underwent an extraordinary conversion to the cause of revolution. Described as the 'natural son of a respectable gentleman in Scotland', he spent his formative years in Perth before working as a 'much respected' clerk in Edinburgh. However it was all downhill from there - Watt got involved in smuggling and when his offer to provide information on the revolutionary Society of the Friends of the People, for the princely sum of £1000, was spurned, he joined that Society with some enthusiasm. He was arrested in possession of a large amount weaponry, some of which is illustrated in the frontispiece, and executed for high treason in October 1794.
This issue includes the name of William Lane, the London publisher and distributor, in the imprint. The other issue (copy at 3.855(3)) does not have Lane's name in the imprint. Both issues contain 'Verses written on seeing the execution of Robert Watt' which are frequently lacking in editions of this text.|
|Title||Marie der Koenigin auss Schotlandt eigentliche Bildtnuss.|
|Imprint||[Cologne: Johann Bussemacher]|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This is a fascinating broadside commemorating the execution of Mary Queen of Scots from a German Catholic perspective. The German text gives an account of her parentage and life, mentioning the role of Darnley, George Buchanan and Mary's son King James VI. There is an emphasis on Mary's European connections, and above all on her martyrdom for the Catholic faith. At the head of the text is a large and striking engraving by Johann Bussemacher; the central image is of Mary, wearing her crucifix and depicted with the arms of France and Scotland. Outside the border, which contains Latin phrases, are smaller images of her decapitation, and at the head of the engraving are (presumably cherubic) hands presenting a quill and the victor's laurels. This is in better condition than the only other known copy, in the British Library, which was David Laing's copy and has been cut up into four pieces. However, the British Library copy preserves some Latin verses which have been lost from the foot of our copy. These verses, by William Crichton or George Crichton, are as follows: 'Illo ego, quae Fata sum regali stirpe parentum, / Hoc tumulo parva contumulata tegor. / Hucque meo constans generoso in pectore virtus, / Prissacque me torfit, nec temeranda fides / Stemmata nil faciunt, nil prosunt sceptra, sed una, / Dum vixit, pietas, gloria nostra fuit. / Vtque Petri cathedram revereri discas, ob illam, / En mea martyris colla refecta vides' Despite this loss, this is a very desirable addition to our strong holdings of MQS material.|
|Reference Sources||Allison & Rogers, Contemporary Literature of the English Counter-Reformation, I, no. 805
BMSTC (German), p. 599|
|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||To all householders [4 Edinburgh broadsides]|
|Date of Publication||[1808-1816]|
|Notes||These four broadsides published at the behest of the city fathers of Edinburgh between 1808 and 1816 encapsulate the very essence of life in the northern metropolis at the time. Two deal with the Sabbath -- 'the improper practice of keeping open Ale or Tippling Houses, and also Shops, at all hours of Sunday' and 'measures...for keeping the Public Streets clean during the Lord's day'. In the latter case, the inhabitants were encouraged to get their servants to bring out their ashes on Saturday afternoon at the sound of a bell.
The other two broadsides deal with the perennial bugbear of public disorder. A reward of 100 guineas was offered to those providing information on the 'knocking down...maltreating and robbing' of 'gentlemen and police officers. The main suspects were deemed to be 'apprentices and youth' and the offences took place on 31st December 1811. Plus ça change... In 1812 the Lord Provost and city magistrates were also berated concerning 'riots and outrages unexampled in any other City in the Kingdom' which occurred on the anniversary of King George III's birthday and another broadside strictly prohibited the citizenry from 'breaking down, cutting, carrying away ... any trees, branches of trees, planting, flowers, shrubbery; or of throwing squibs, serpents, fireballs ...'. Shopkeepers were cautioned against selling fireworks to children and masters urged to caution their apprentices and journeymen from 'intermixing with any tumultuous or disorderly assemblage of persons on the streets'.
These items enhance the National Library's holdings of early 19th century ephemera and complements material being used in the RLS project 'Popular Print in Scotland'.|
|Title||Information for Ross of Auchlossin, against the possessors of the Temple-lands.|
|Date of Publication||1706?|
|Notes||This is a most curious document discussing the order of the Knights Templar in Scottish history, of which no other copies can be traced. The text is known from its appearance in 'Templaria', 1828 (shelfmark H.30.c.26): this edition seems to have used the copy we have just acquired, as the 1828 editor notes that the last page seems to be missing a few words of text. In 1828 it was stated that no other copies were known.
A dispute between Robert Ross of Auchlossin and his tenants on lands formerly held by the Templars led to the production of this document. It traces the fortunes of the order, in order to make the case that the Templars were not a religious order, and that therefore their lands were not directly annexed to the crown after the Reformation in 1587. The Lords of Session agreed that Auchlossin's case was correct.
This is a striking example of early Scottish interest in the medieval religious order, often associated with Freemasonry.
The conjectural date of 1706 is taken from a manuscript annotation on the first page.|
|Reference Sources||Fountainhall, 'Decisions', v. 2, 1761, shelfmark Nha.L74, pp. 94-5|
|Title||Historia regalis divi Iacobi VI. regis semper augusti|
|Date of Publication||1626|
|Notes||This is an unusual rarity for which no extant copies could be found in RLIN, ESTC, OCLC, CURL, or the British Library, Library of Congress, Harvard University Library or the Bodleian. It is a 30-cm. tall folio, bound in calfskin vellum with the word/name 'Solon' written in manuscript at the head of the top board. There are 13 unnumbered preliminary leaves and 89 numbered pages of text. The text ends with the inscription 'Libri Primi Finis' although there is no bibliographic evidence that any additional volumes were ever published. The preliminary leaves close with the signature of Bernardinus ab Angelis. The identity of this person or his nationality has not been determined.
There is an emblem on the title page of a woman's head with cornucopias, which resembles devices used by both the publishers Vautrollier in London and Andro Hart in Edinburgh. However, the emblem incorporated by both these publishers does not match precisely the emblem appearing this book. There are indications in the Latin text that the book may be Parisian in origin although no record for it could be located in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The work has a number of interesting textual and bibliographic anomalies. For example, on the recto of leaf e2 a slip of paper with the words 'Inclitissime Princeps Pietatis & Sanctitatis' has been pasted in to complete this missing line of text. Later, on page 36 a larger compositor's error was corrected by pasting in a new sheet of text over the existing erroneous text. There is a blank space at the beginning of the text on page 1 caused by the omission of the initial capital letter. The fourth leaf has been excised, as it was presumably blank. Lastly, the stub of the back pastedown and the stub of what would have been Z2 have been folded before signature Y. These occurrences suggest that the volume may have been a proof copy for a work that was never taken further to the publication stage.
Both the title page and the recto of the opening free flyleaf have the manuscript signature of Georg Rodolph Weckherlin (1584 -1653). Weckherlin is widely regarded as the greatest German poet of the period preceding the stylistic reforms later introduced by Martin Opitz (1597-1637). Weckherlin was born in Stuttgart, studied law at the University of Tübingen and later immigrated to England where he married Elizabeth Raworth in 1616. He entered the royal service shortly before the accession of Charles I in 1625 and served as secretary to all of Charles's Secretaries of State prior to the Civil War as well as serving as Under-Secretary for the German, Latin and French Tongues. His diary also shows that he was often called upon to act as personal secretary to the King himself. Weckherlin broke with the King around 1642 and was in Parliamentary service by 1643. In February 1644 he was officially appointed to the important position of Secretary for the Foreign Tongues. He retired at the end of 1648 and was replaced by Milton although he was later recalled and served as Milton's assistant during his blindness.
In March 2003 one of our readers read the text and concluded that it is indeed likely to be French, as there are many references to contacts between Scotland and France, including a story that Henri III tried to kidnap James. The text holds up James as the ideal example of kingship to the new King Charles. It is possible to speculate that Weckherlin is the author. He is known as a Rosicrucian, and much of the symbolic language in the text may stem from this; even the name Bernardinus ab Angelis could be a code-word of this cult movement.
It might be useful to compare this with a work in the John Rylands library:
James, I, King of England, 1566-1625. - Kurtze Summarische / vnd Wahrhafftige Beschreibung / der Geburt / Lebens vnd. - [S.l.], 1625, shelfmark R19122.|
|Reference Sources||Sotheby's London Thursday 14th December, 1989. The Trumbull Papers, the property of the Most Honourable the Marquis of Downshire.|
|Title||Holy Bible [with Holy Bible. London, 1772 and Psalms. Edinburgh: b. Colin Macfarquhar, 1771]|
|Imprint||Oxford: b. Thomas Baskett|
|Date of Publication||1755|
|Notes||These nice examples of mid-eighteenth century Scottish binding come with significant Scottish provenance. The first Bible, bound in one volume, was owned by the Veitch family, who achieved prominence in the eighteenth century when the learned lawyer and MP James Eliock (1712-1793) was appointed judge, with the title Lord Eliock. This volume has Lord Eliock's bookplate, and manuscript notes on the front flyleaves record births, baptisms and deaths in the Veitch family into the nineteenth century. The actual binding is of very dark blue morocco, the boards decorated with a wheel design; the gold tooling in very good condition, as are the gilt green endpapers.
A rather unexpected feature of this Bible is the note on the last free blank, which reveals that this was held up as exhibit A in a trial at the High Court of Justice in 1876. This trial related to the estate of Ann Clementina Wilson, deceased, and it seems likely that the annotations in the Bible were used as evidence. A note reads 'This is the Bible marked A referred to in the affidavit of Harry Veitch Hunter sworn in this matter before me this 15th day of March 1877'.
The second Bible is bound in two volumes; although it lacks a title-page, the colophon gives the imprint as London, 1772, and the Psalms which follow the Bible has a title-page with the imprint Edinburgh, 1771. Both volumes are inscribed by 'G. Dundas Sept. 22nd. 1778.' This is a member of the famous Dundas family of Arniston. Further manuscript notes explain that the Bible was presented to Grace Dundas by Robert Colt at their wedding, and other notes record the fortunes of the Colt family into the twentieth century. Both volumes have the bookplate of Grace Colt. Various sentimental greetings cards are tipped in. The binding is of red morocco, with a design in the 'herring-bone' tradition, with some interesting stipple tooling and a fine border roll; our collections do not seem to have anything similar from this period.|
|Reference Sources||DNB, Bindings rubbings|
|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||Edinburgh Calotype Club Album, Volume 1|
|Date of Publication||c. 1848|
|Notes||By an extraordinary sequence of events, the Library, in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, purchased the 'lost' Edinburgh Calotype Album at auction on 12 December 2001. The sister album (volume 2) was acquired by Edinburgh Central Library in 1952. Having the output of the club, acknowledged as the first photographic society in the world, reunited in Edinburgh is a remarkable coup. The Edinburgh Calotype Club was formed in the early 1840s after a group of Edinburgh gentlemen, mostly advocates, doctors and academics, were introduced to the process by Sir David Brewster (1781-1868). The photographs in the album are a mixture of portraits, landscapes, buildings and sculptures, most of them showing locations in Scotland such as Edinburgh, Newhaven, St Andrews, Fairlie and Inverness. These invaluable images enable the researcher to discover a wealth of information about Scotland and its people in the mid-19th Century. As part of the project, both albums have been digitised and mounted on a specially designed website www.nls.uk/pencilsoflight to enable the widest possible access to this resource.
The project received financial support from:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
The National Art Collections Fund
The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust
Edinburgh City Council
|Title||Holy Bible [with Psalms, 1726]|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: b. John Baskett|
|Date of Publication||1726|
|Notes||This is a binding of black goatskin, gilt tooled all over in the distinctive eighteenth-century Scottish style, with border rolls, a central panel, and various 'herring-bone' designs radiating like spokes from the centre. The spine is tooled to a saltire design, the turn-ins and board edges are also tooled, and there are gilt endpapers signed 'Apolonia Maiestderin', possibly the name of the German workshop where they were manufactured. Inside the front board is a leather label indicating that the book was a wedding present on the marriage of Sarah Thomson to Robert Cross in Glasgow in 1738. Manuscript notes record the fortunes of Sarah's family.
Eighteenth-century Scotland made a unique contribution to the art of book-binding through the development of the 'wheel' and 'herring-bone' bindings. This large, elegant and balanced binding in excellent condition contains design elements from both styles. In terms of the overall aesthetic quality, nothing equivalent is to be found in our existing binding collections. There are also individual tools which we have not been able to trace elsewhere, such as that used to make the 'filling' of the half-pear shapes. The sheer variety of tools used is extraordinary: stars, flowers, roundels, leaves and spear-heads. This acquisition will be central to our binding collections as an example of Scottish work at its very best.
We have a copy of this edition at Bdg.m.46, which is also heavily tooled, although there are no notable tools in common. A variant of this edition recorded in Maggs 1212, no. 92, shows some of the same spine tools and the overall design is comparable.
Tools found on bindings we already have:
The floral tool used to make the 'bones' of the central and radiating herring-bone patterns, and the tool which makes the 'spear-point' at the head of the herring-bone pattern, are also found in Ry.II.d.31 (Historical and Genealogical Essay, Glasgow, 1723). The 'spear-point' tool and some of the spine tools are also found on Bdg.s.584 (Bible, Oxford, 1729). The roll forming the border of the central panel is found on NG.1534.c.16 (Phaedrus, London, 1745). The outer roll of the border at the edge of the covers, as well as some spine tools, is found on Bdg.s.759 (Bible, London, 1735).
Tools not found elsewhere:
The 'filling' of the half-pear shapes.
The six floral / herring-bone patterns with curved lines.
The two horizontal herring-bone patterns, at either side of the central panel.
No other examples of this design or these tools have been found in Davis, Sommerlad, Nixon, or in the digital library, or in our bindings files.
A generous contribution of £500.00 towards the cost was received from the Friends of the National Libraries.|
|Reference Sources||Maggs catalogue 1075 / 1212
Henry Davis Gift
Sommerlad, Scottish 'wheel' and 'herring-bone' bindings in the Bodleian Library
Nixon, Five centuries of English bookbinding|
|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||Holy Bible. With Psalms. Edinburgh, 1744.|
|Date of Publication||1743 |
|Notes||These two volumes of the Bible and metrical Psalms are bound in black goatskin with gold-tooling in outstanding condition. The design is unusual: each board has a central column of eight roundels with dotted centres, which are flanked by elegant floral tooling, all within a dog-tooth roll border. The design was clearly considered thoughtfully, and the blind guide-lines around which it is structured are still visible. The style is comparable to that of the binding on our copy of a 1720 Book of Common Prayer at Bdg.s.768, but there the tools are quite different and the overall impression is graceful but less substantial. This new acquisition has a highly demonstrative binding, and it seems to have been commissioned as a celebratory wedding gift. Inside each volume is a red goatskin label with gold tooling, which reads 'Helen Scott 6th March 1765'. On the first blank leaf of the first volume is an ink list of births, Isobell in 1766, Marion in 1768, and John in 1770.
Additionally, there are green and gilt endpapers with a floral design. The spines are finely tooled with five panels separated by raised bands; the second gilt compartment contains the volume number, the other compartments have a saltire design. There is gilt roll tooling to the board edges, and an attractive floral roll on the turn-ins. The textblock is complete and in good condition, the leaf edges are gilt. The second volume is perhaps very slightly more worn (at head and foot of spine) as a possible indication of the fact that this volume contained the metrical Psalms and was hence more likely to be carried to church or used for family worship. This is a bright and appealing addition to the bindings collection, with a human story in it.
The bookseller has donated with this purchase an imperfect copy of a Bible printed in Edinburgh by Alexander Kincaid in 1778. Although this is only the first volume, without the title-page, it is attractively bound in red goatskin with a deep floral border. The spine is tooled with five compartments, each containing an oval green leather label, the second with the volume number, the others containing the image of an urn. There are marbled endpapers and the edges are gilt. A very different item to the acquisition described above, but also highly attractive and, again, showing some unusual tooling.|
|Title||Selection of blocks from the collection of John A. Birkbeck|
|Imprint||Alan Anderson and Alex M. Frizzell|
|Date of Publication||1971|
|Notes||This is a most attractive selection of examples of printing from the ornamental blocks in the collection of the Scottish printer John A. Birkbeck. Many of Birkbeck's manuscripts and books are now held by the Library, including those in the Birkbeck special collection. This acquisition complements these existing holdings. It is also notable that this is printed by the Edinburgh-based Tragara Press, whose publications we have been collecting over the years. This work was printed by Alan Anderson and Alex M. Frizzell on 15 June 1971, in a run of 25 copies only. It is in fine condition, loose in blue wrappers as issued.|
|Reference Sources||Anderson, Alan. The Tragara Press 1954-1979. Edinburgh, 1979.|