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 765 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 765:
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|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||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.|
|Title||Copy of verses on the Tay Bridge Disaster|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||The Tay Bridge Disaster of 28 December 1879, in which some 75 people died when the bridge collapsed as their train was crossing, inspired many outpourings of verse. The bookseller here felt impelled to state 'NOT BY McGONAGALL', as William McGonagall's poem beginning 'Beautiful railway bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!' is one of his most notorious compositions. This broadside poem perhaps scans better than McGonagall's efforts, but it is still essentially sentimental doggerel. Incredible though it may seem, the writer thought that this was an appropriate composition to be sung, and suggests that this be done to the air known as 'Rock me to sleep'. There is even a chorus: 'Down 'neath the waters, down in the deep, / With the train for their coffin, in the river they sleep, / The Tay was the grave that received their last breath - / Near 100 poor souls went from pleasure to Death.' If this seems in rather poor taste, it compares quite well with the lurid media reporting of modern-day tragedies.|
|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||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||Catalogue of books belonging to the library of St. Andrew's Chapel, Aberdeen.|
|Imprint||Aberdeen: printed by George Cornwall|
|Date of Publication||1839|
|Notes||This pamphlet adds significantly to the Library's holdings of works providing information about the history of libraries and collecting in Scotland. St. Andrew's Chapel in Aberdeen was built in 1816 and opened in 1817 as a meeting-place for the Episcopalian congregation. It was raised to the dignity of a Cathedral church in 1914. The chapel library was apparently formed in 1831, and according to the preface in this work, several catalogues had already been issued before 1839. It would seem that the library was well-organised (at least on paper!): the preface discusses the collection development policy and notes that the holdings of serials are particularly strong. Detailed rules and regulations are given before the catalogue itself.
Naturally, the books are mainly theological, and particularly relate to the cause of the Episcopal Church. What is particularly notable is the number of early works, including several seventeenth-century Scottish books (Aldis items). There are also novels, biographies and collections of pamphlets. It would be interesting to know more about the ways in which this collection was formed (and, indeed, its eventual fate).|
|Imprint||Glasgow, David Bryce|
|Date of Publication||ca. 1900|
|Notes||This is a miniature copy of The Koran, in Arabic, published by David Bryce of Glasgow around the turn of the 19th century. The book measures 19 x 27 mm. and is accompanied by a metal locket with an inset magnifying glass to help facilitate reading the tiny script. The edges of the book are gilt and it is bound in red morocco with a gilt pattern very reminiscent of that which was used on Bryce's miniature version of the Bible published in 1896. According to Louis W. Bondy's 'Miniature Books: their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day', many copies of Bryce's Koran were issued to during World War I to Muslim soldiers fighting with allied troops.|
|Reference Sources||Bondy, Louis W. Miniature books, their history from the beginnings to the present day (London: Sheppard Press, 1981) pp. 111-112.|
|Title||[Pamphlets relating to Nova Scotia, 1830s]|
|Date of Publication||[1830s]|
|Notes||A most interesting collection of pamphlets, manuscript letters, maps and newspaper cuttings relating to the claims of one Alexander Humphrys that he was the legitimate Earl of Stirling, with extensive rights in Nova Scotia and Canada. These rights had first been granted to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie in 1621, who died without recognised male heirs. Alexander Humphrys attempted to claim the title in the 1830s, offering to create people baronets of Nova Scotia (for a fee). His lawyer, Thomas Banks, helped to prepare extensive documentation for the court cases which followed, and may well have prepared this very volume. The DNB gives an amusing account of Banks's attempts to further all kinds of spurious peerage claims. The Humphrys claim was ignominiously dismissed in 1839. Most of these items, particularly the ephemera, are not held by NLS, and as a collection this is a most valuable resource for anyone investigating the case. The maps, showing the extent of Humphrys' claims to vast tracts of North America, give a good indication of the ambition and imagination behind this audacious scheme.|
|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||Bunch o' gatherings glean'd from the two past generations consisting of eight-page ballads, songs, tales, elegies, executions, &c., mostly poetical …|
|Imprint||Paisley: William Anderson|
|Date of Publication||1860|
|Notes||These two volumes of chapbooks were compiled by the Paisley 'broker and bookseller' William Anderson. Apparently he had come across a pile of undistributed chapbooks languishing in a Paisley warehouse. He then had them bound up into collections and issued them in volumes of between 30-100 chapbooks as is stated on the title page. Both these volumes containing 53 and 56 items were issued with a frontispiece of Robert Tannahill the Paisley poet/song-writer. Only one other copy - in Cleveland Public Library - has been traced.
Most of the chapbooks date from the 1820s and were printed in towns throughout Scotland including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Falkirk and Paisley. Most of them are already included in the National Library's collections, but there are a number of additions to the collection including 'The news to which is added, the humours of Glasgow Fair' printed by R. Hutchison at the Saltmarket, Glasgow and the wonderfully titled Paisley chapbook 'The wonderful advantages of drunkenness'
Included in the second volume are a number of issues of the Paisley Repository published in the early decades of the 19th century. Anderson had published issues of a penny periodical called the 'New Paisley Repository' between 1852 and 1853.|
|Date of Publication||c. 1837|
|Notes||This is a rare and unrecorded edition of the ever-popular Aesop's fables. It was published in Edinburgh by William Darling who is recorded in Gray's annual directory as having an address on South Bridge in 1837. Darling published a number of children's books in a similar format of which the NLS holds four titles. A bookseller and printer of the same name was working at various addresses in Edinburgh between 1765 and 1796 but the illustrative style and typographic layout suggest a later date. The cover is printed on yellow paper with a very fine copper engraving of a family looking out of a window at an old man (presumably Aesop) writing surrounded by a group of animals. The book is composed of 12 fables, each one superbly illustrated with a half page wood-engraving with the text beneath.|
|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||History of the horrid and unnatural murders, lately committed by John Smith in the parish of Roseneath, and shire of Dumbarton|
|Date of Publication||1727|
|Notes||This is an 8-page pamphlet bearing the stamp of the Birmingham Law Society. No bibliographic record for it can be found in ESTC or in other bibliographic databases. It details the pathetic life of John Smith who was hung in 1727 at the age of 29 for the murder of both his sister and his wife. He was born in Greenock and had an early prosperous career running clandestine goods to Ireland. He later left this for the more honest life of a tenant farmer on land adjacent to that owned by his step-father John Campbell. Campbell was an honest and prosperous gentleman who had married Smith's mother upon the death of her husband, John's father.
In order to secure a more prosperous and secure future, Smith proposed to marry John Campbell's daughter Margaret. He anticipated inheriting a portion of Campbell's estate, as Campbell had no children by his mother. The marriage took place even though Smith had been secretly courting a young woman called Janet Wilson. Smith and Janet Wilson kept up a clandestine correspondence during Smith's marriage and Smith also made promises to Janet Wilson that if his wife were dead he would surely marry her. He had also promised Janet Smith the sum of 1000 merks if she would refuse to marry a particular suitor.
Smith's financial situation became such that he could not give the 1000 merks to Janet Wilson as promised and so he murdered his sister Katherine in order that the bulk of Campbell's estate would revert to himself. About a year later Smith murdered his wife Margaret so that he could then keep his promise of marriage to Janet Wilson. Smith later confessed to the murders as suspicions mounted against him and he was hung in Dumbarton on the 20th of January 1727.|
|Reference Sources||Not in ESTC|
|Title||CL. Psalmes of David in Meeter. With an exact Kalendar, also morning & evening prayers.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh, Printed by James Bryson, and are to bee sold at his shop, a little above the Kirk-stile at the signe of the golden angel.|
|Date of Publication||1640|
|Notes||This is a beautiful and important book: both the text and the binding are new to our collections. It is an edition of the metrical Psalms printed in Edinburgh in 1640 and contained in a silver binding, decorated with a design of birds and flowers. The leaf edges are gilt and decorated with a stamped design of dots and crosses. The first blank pastedown has the pencil note 'Hamilton Bruce' (probably the collector some of whose books the Library already has). The recto of the following blank has a pasted-on slip with the ink inscription 'This Edition of the Psalms was sold at £4..4 plain binding / Lowndes' (William Thomas Lowndes the bibliographer?)
The text appears to be an unrecorded Aldis item, apparently in 32o. Aldis 975 (Cwn.651) is quarto; Aldis 976 (Cwn.483(2)) is duodecimo; Aldis 977 (Cwn.49) is printed by R. Bryson; Aldis 978 (Hall.191.k) has a variant title and is 16o. This edition is not mentioned in W. Cowan, 'Bibliography of the Book of Common Order', EBS X (1911-13). No examples have been traced in STC or ESTC.
It seems that the binding is contemporary. The thin-gauge silver, which is not hallmarked, is overlapped by the old endpapers. One would expect a Victorian binding to have new endpapers, and, indeed, to be more artistically confident. The blackening of the silver where it has not been touched, and the loss of the clasps, also suggest an earlier binding. The Sotheby's sale of silver and enamel bindings of 10 May 1985 does not provide any definitive answers, nor does J. F. Hayward's Silver Bindings from the J. R. Abbey Collection. No. 38 in the Sotheby's catalogue shows a seventeenth-century English silver binding with a bird and flowers: evidently British craftsmen were doing work of this quality in the seventeenth century. Various silver experts were consulted about this work, and there are different opinions. Some suggest the binding is Dutch or German (perhaps a luxury binding for a member of the Scottish reformed communities in the Low Countries?), some suggest that the style is more likely to be British.|
|Reference Sources||W. Cowan, 'Bibliography of the Book of Common Order', EBS X (1911-13).
Sotheby's sale of silver and enamel bindings, 10 May 1985. J. F. Hayward, Silver Bindings from the J. R. Abbey Collection.|
|Title||[Album of photographs and newspaper cuttings belonging to John Winning]|
|Date of Publication||c.1930-1944|
|Notes||This is an album of photographs and newpaper cuttings relating to the activities of Dr. John Winning during the 1930s and early 1940s. Included are group photographs of visits undertaken by members of the Scottish Socialist Party to Germany in 1930, Austria in 1931 and Denmark in 1936. Winning was a member of Glasgow Town Council between 1926 and 1932 and he led a number of visits to the continent. A cutting from 1936 notes that 'the number of countries which Socialists can visit with enthusiasm seems to be diminishing -- Germany is no longer on the visiting list'.
Winning from Larkhall in Lanarkshire began his working life as an apprentice plumber. He became involved in local politics in the 1920s and unsuccessfully stood for election for Westminster. In 1932 he resigned his Council seat to take up medicine and he worked as a GP for a number of years before his appointment as Assistant Medical Officer of Health for Glasgow in 1940.
Other cuttings and ephemera document Dr. Winning's involvement in the Scottish Vegetarian Society . There are also four copies of The two worlds: the weekly journal of spiritualism, religion and reform dating from 1938 to 1942. It appears that John Winning was also an active member of the Spiritualist Church.|