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 727 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 16 to 30 of 727:

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AuthorChurch of England
TitleBook of common prayer
ImprintEdinburgh: Adrian Watkins
Date of Publication1756
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis volume contains an incomplete 1756 printing of the Book of Common Prayer, as well as a 1764 printing of the "Communion-Office for the use of the Church of Scotland" printed for the Episcopal Church, and a 1757 Edinburgh printing of the Psalms of David. It is has been acquired for its binding done by James Scott of Edinburgh, one of the best bookbinders in 18th century Britain. Six other James Scott bindings of the 1756 Book of Common Prayer are recorded in J.H. Loudon's bibliography "James Scott and William Scott bookbinders", dating from the years 1774-1780. This rather worn and faded binding, in crimson morocco, resembles the earlier bindings from 1774/75 (JS 9, 11, 11.5) and so can probably be dated to c. 1774. A MS genealogy on the verso of the final leaf in the volume and rear pastedown shows that it belonged to Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, Argyllshire (1707/8-1795), and his family. Stewart was one of the sons of the laird of Invernahyle and during the 1745/46 Jacobite uprising he served in the Jacobite army along with the Stewarts of Appin. He fought at Prestonpans and Culloden; in the former battle he saved the life of a Hanoverian officer, Colonel Whitefoord of Ballochmyle. In his later years he was regular visitor to the house of Sir Walter Scott's father. Scott, as a boy, was thrilled to hear Stewart's tales of the '45 and he visited Stewart in Argyllshire in 1786 or 1787. Scott later claimed that listening to Stewart's tales gave him the inspiration for his most famous historical novel "Waverley", with Stewart acting as a model for the novel's protagonist, Edward Waverley.
ShelfmarkBdg.m.175(1)
Reference SourcesJ.H. Loudon "James Scott and William Scott bookbinders" London, 1980; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on19/07/13
AuthorBurns, Robert
TitlePoems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect. 2nd edition.
ImprintEdinburgh & London: Creech and Cadell
Date of Publication1793
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a copy of the 2-volume second edition of Burns's "Poems chiefly in the Scottish dialect" with a noteworthy provenance. It is a presentation copy from Burns's good friend William Nicol (1744-1797) to a Mrs Bain. Nicol has inscribed the front free endpaper of vol. 1, presenting the book as "a sincere friend and admirer of her virtuous, learned and highly ingenious husband". The inscription is dated "Edinr. 27 September 1793". The identity of Mrs Bain and her husband is not known; there is no recorded correspondence between Burns and anyone of that name, so the Bains may have been only friends of Nicol. A William Bain, who was teacher in Anderston, Glasgow, was the author of a work titled "The family instructor: being, an attempt to illustrate the principles of Christianity" (Glasgow, 1788). Nicol was at this time employed as a schoolmaster at Edinburgh High School, a post he occupied until 1795, so it may be that he knew Bain as a fellow-teacher. Nicol, himself, was an irascible character who tended to polarise opinions amongst those he met and worked with. He became a friend of Burns at some point in the 1780s. In a letter written on 1st June 1787, Burns, on his Border tour, addressed his only surviving letter in Scots to 'Kind honest hearted Willie'. Nicol would provide moral support (and a useless old bay mare when Burns was farming at Ellisland) to Burns for the rest of the poet's life. Burns, in return, would name one of his sons after his friend.
ShelfmarkAB.2.213.59-60
Reference SourcesBurns Encyclopedia (http://www.robertburns.org/)
Acquired on05/07/13
AuthorGlasgow Ayrshire Society
TitleArticles of the Glasgow Ayrshire Society.
Imprint[Glasgow?: s.n.]
Date of Publication[1791]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis unrecorded pamphlet is a early publication relating to the Glasgow Ayrshire Society. The Society was instituted on 20 October 1761 in order to provide support to impoverished and distressed people from Ayrshire in Glasgow and also "to connect together Ayrshire people by the most social and friendly ties". To qualify for membership you had to have been been born in or have landed property in Ayrshire or have lived there for seven years. You could also qualify if one of your parents or your wife or in-laws had links with Ayrshire. However, none were to be admitted who "either from old age or disease are likely to become an immediate burden on the society". These new set of articles of the society were ordered to be printed at a meeting of the Society in Glasgow on 2 December 1791. The new articles were intended to clarify the existing regulations, which had "on different occasions, been found in some respects defective and inexplicit". The nine articles cover such matters as admission of members, subscription costs, the organisation and management of the society, discipline expected of members and the procedures by which members and their families might apply for financial assistance from the organisation. The Society still exists today and provides financial support for Ayrshire students to assist with further education.
ShelfmarkAP.2.213.23
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on05/07/13
AuthorCodman, John
TitleA letter addressed to the Hon. John Lynch, chairman of the special congressional committee of the United States Senate, on the navigation interest
ImprintBoston: A. Williams
Date of Publication1869
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis pamphlet relates to USA's efforts to rebuild its merchant navy, which had been left in a parlous state after the Civil War. Efforts to restore the American merchant fleet to its former glory were hampered by an American law which prevented any ship flying the American flag which had not been built in the USA and had been launched in American waters. Supporters of free trade in the USA were anxious to improve the situation by buying the latest metal-built steamers from British shipyards thus taking advantage of advances in British shipbuilding technology. A Boston-based captain in the merchant marine, John Codman (1814-1900), was sent to Scotland by the New York Board of Underwriters to observe shipbuilding on the River Clyde. His observations are printed in this pamphlet, which reproduces a letter written by him from Dumbarton on November 15 1869. The letter was addressed to Republican congressman John Lynch, who was in the US House of Representatives and was at the time serving as chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy. Codman, who had spent his early career sailing on clipper ships, argues passionately that the days of wooden ships for trade are over, and the current ban on purchasing the latest iron ships built in Europe is "neither more nor less than national suicide". He rails at the restrictive practices of "antiquated shipbuilders on the eastern shore" and contrasts the lack of American ambition with the situation on the Clyde, "the natural ship-producing district of the world". Codman observes that the Clyde shipbuilders are exploiting the area's "well organized system of labor, the cheapness of iron and coal", as well as the workforce's satisfaction with "moderate wages", to dominate the world shipbuilding market. Codman's pamphlet was one of series of seven produced in 1869-70 where issued together with the collective title page 'Free ships for foreign commerce'.
ShelfmarkAP.3.213.22
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on28/06/13
AuthorJames Maxwell
TitlePaisley Dispensary. A poem.
ImprintPaisley: printed and sold for the author
Date of Publication1786
LanguageEnglish
NotesJames Maxwell (1720-1800), the self-styled 'Poet in Paisley' worked as a packman, weaver, clerk, school usher, and stone-breaker; in 1787 he was awarded a charitable allowance by the town council of Paisley, which he continued to enjoy until his death. One of the most prolific versifiers of his day, Maxwell wrote nearly 60 separate poetical pieces which had little in the way of literary merit. "Paisley dispensary" is a poem in praise of the recently-established dispensary in his home town, created through the good offices of the local rich, who were profiting from Paisley's expansion as a weaving and textile centre. John Wilson's "General View of the Agriculture of Renfrewshire" (1812) notes that the dispensary's establishment in 1786 "has been attended with very happy effects among the lower classes of industrious inhabitants of the town and suburbs. It has been uniformly supported by yearly subscriptions; and ... much distress had been alleviated, by the distribution of medicines, and the gratuitous advice of the medical practitioners in Paisley" (p. 322). A House of Recovery was added in 1805.
ShelfmarkAP.1.213.63
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on21/06/13
AuthorWilliam Gilpin (& John Heaviside Clark)
TitleA practical illustration of Gilpin's day: representing the various effects on landscape scenery from morning till night
ImprintLondon: Edward Orme
Date of Publication1811
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a rare first edition of a book illustrating the effects of light and the weather on the landscape. It reproduces landscape sketches by William Gilpin (1724-1804), an English writer on art, school teacher and clergyman, who is now best known for being one of the first people to put forward the idea of the picturesque in art. In his 1768 "Essay on Prints" he outlined 'the principles of picturesque beauty, the different kinds of prints, and the characters of the most noted masters'. For Gilpin 'picturesque' was 'a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture'; moreover, beauty could have an improving moral influence which meant that viewing a landscape was a religious as well as an aesthetic experience. Gilpin travelled the length and breadth of Britain, with his notebook and sketching materials, searching out picturesque locations in order to demonstrate his theories. From 1782 a series of works by Gilpin were published with the title "Observations on & relative chiefly to picturesque beauty". In these books, which covered specific areas of Britain, Gilpin's pen and wash sketches of landscapes were reproduced in aquatint plates. His picturesque books proved to be very popular, however his didactic and pedantic tone grated with some authors, and with professional artists such as John Landseer, who dismissed his 'aquatinted smearings & tarnished with false principles of art'. Gilpin was also mercilessly satirised in William Combe's Doctor Syntax books, first published in the 1810s. Despite his critics, there was still a devoted readership for Gilpin's works among amateur artists and they continued to be published after his death in 1804. In 1810, the London print seller and publisher Edward Orme published a work entitled "The last work published of W. Gilpin ... representing the effect of a morning, a noon tide, and an evening sun" (better known as "Gilpin's day"), which reproduced 30 of Gilpin's landscape drawings as monochromatic aquatints, ordered according to the times of day. The success of the work prompted Orme to republish it a year later as "A practical illustration of Gilpin's day", rearranging the order of the plates and with an introduction and descriptive text for each plate by the Scottish artist John Heaviside Clark. In addition, Clark hand-coloured the plates, adding spectacular dashes of colour and dramatic effects, such as rainbows and flashes of lightning, to the rather muted aquatints of the earlier edition. Clark's jazzing up of Gilpin's soft colours reflected a change in popular taste; people no longer favoured standardised depictions of landscapes with universal appeal but rather wanted to see particular landscapes and individual features highlighted. The Clark edition was reprinted in 1824, indicating that it too was a commercial success. This particular copy is in a half-morocco binding by the renowned London bookbinding company, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, which has retained the original upper printed wrapper.
ShelfmarkAB.10.213.02
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Bermingham, "Learning to draw: studies in the cultural history of polite and useful art" (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000)
Acquired on21/06/13
AuthorAdam Ferguson
TitleSaggio sopra la storia delle societa civile [Essay on the history of civil society]
ImprintVicenza: nella stamperia Turra
Date of Publication1791-92
LanguageItalian
NotesThis is the rare (no copies recorded outside Italy) first Italian translation of Adam Ferguson's "Essay on the History of Civil Society", one of the main works of the Scottish Enlightenment, and regarded as the first work of empirical sociology in English. The work was first published in English in 1767 and made Ferguson famous as a philosopher and historian throughout Europe. The present translation, by the Vicenza-based lawyer Tomasso Cerato, is taken from the French translation of 1783. A further Italian translation was published in Venice in 1807.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2862
Acquired on21/06/13
AuthorKemp, Edward
TitleReport and plan for laying-out and planning the Meadows
Imprint[Edinburgh? s.n.]
Date of Publication1873
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis pamphlet puts forward plans to develop a large and much-loved public park in Edinburgh. The Meadows can be found just south of the Old Town in Edinburgh; it consists of open grassland divided up by tree-lined paths and is much used for sport and recreational pursuits by those living in the city. The park was created when a loch on the site was completely drained in the 18th century, at the behest of the agricultural improver Sir Thomas Hope, turning the marshy land into an open space. Middle Meadow Walk, opened in 1743, was laid out by Hope as a thirty foot wide walkway, enclosed on each side by a hedge and lime trees. In 1827 an Act of Parliament protected the Meadows from being built upon. When Melville Drive was opened in 1859 as part of the development of Edinburgh's South Side, the Meadows became increasing popular as a public space. From the 1860s onwards the Town Council considered ways of improving the park by creating boundary walls, removing some fencing, and raising the level of the ground by using earth excavated from the foundations of recently-constructed houses in the area. As part of the improvement process, the most famous English landscape gardener of the day, Edward Kemp (1817-1891), was presumably asked to produce this report. Kemp had made his name by overseeing the creation of Birkenhead Park in the 1840s in his role as head gardener there. He also wrote on the subject of gardens and public parks at a time when Victorian Britain was exercised with the problems of creating of green and pleasant open spaces in its congested and dirty cities. Kemp's brief report is careful to state at the outset that he would not want to see any "violent alterations or any very elaborate style of treatment" being attempted in the Meadows. He proposes replaces the "ugly" straight footpaths in the eastern part of the park with "pleasing curves" and planting evergreen shrubs to get rid of the "present bareness of the place". He argues against the introduction of any water features and proposes the creation of "shelter houses" to allow people to take cover from sudden showers and storms. On the issue of closing the central area of the park at night, which had been considered by the Council, he is in favour of doing so, pointing out that it is impossible to light the interior of the park and that the closure could be done by putting fencing along Middle Meadow Walk. 140 years on the Meadows is not greatly altered from Kemp's time, but he may be disappointed to see that there is little in the way of shrubs, fencing or pleasingly curved footpaths.
ShelfmarkAP.2.213.22
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary National Biography
Acquired on07/06/13
AuthorSir Walter Scott
TitleLe miroir de la tante Marguerite et la chambre tapissee, contes.
ImprintParis: Charles Gosselin
Date of Publication1829
LanguageFrench
NotesThis volume contains the first edition in French of Scott's essay 'On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition; and particularly on the works of Ernest Theodore William Hoffmann'. The essay was first published, unsigned, in "The Foreign Quarterly Review" (vol. I, no. 1 (1827)); in it Scott criticised the late German author (1776-1822), better known by his pen name E.T.A. Hoffmann, for his unbridled use of supernatural effects and his inability to separate fantasy from reality in fiction. The essay was hugely influential as a critique of the use of the supernatural in literature and a source used by Edgar Allen Poe in "Fall of the house of Usher". The volume also includes translations of three gothic short stories by Scott, translations of: My Aunt Margaret's Mirror and The Tapestried Chamber (both from the literary annual "The Keepsake" for 1828) and Clorinda: or the Necklace of Pearl (from "The Keepsake" for 1829, by 'Lord Normanby' but pseudonymous). The translator was Rosine Mame Gosselin (Lady Lattimore Clarke), wife of the editor and publisher of Scott's works in French, Charles Gosselin. The book is from the library of a French noblewoman Diane-Adelaide Damas d' Antigny, madame de Simiane (1761-1835), former mistress of the marquis de Lafayette, which was housed in the Chateau de Cirey in Champagne.
ShelfmarkAB.1.213.169
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on31/05/13
AuthorJohn Gibson Lockhart
TitleLe Ministre Ecossais, ou le Veuvage d' Adam Blair
ImprintParis: Charles Gosselin
Date of Publication1822
LanguageFrench
NotesThis is an unrecorded French translation of Lockhart's controversial work "Some Passages in the Life of Mr. Adam Blair, Minister of the Gospel at Cross-Meikle". The first English edition was published in Edinburgh in the same year. The identity of the translator is unknown; he/she is referred to on the title page as the translator of "Edouard en Ecosse". This work is presumably the translation of David Carey's "Lochiel; or, the Field of Culloden" by 'baron Vel', which also appeared in 1822. "Le Ministre ecossais", published by Gosselin who also published translations of Walter Scott, was clearly aimed at enthusiastic French readers of Scott and all things Scottish. "Some Passages in the Life ..." was Lockhart's second novel and is generally regarded as his best. It was based on a true story that Lockhart heard from his father about a widowed minister who had an affair with a married woman. Lockhart was criticised for his immorality in recounting the tale; some of the disapproval may also have stemmed from the lack of a happy ending in the novel - the real 'Adam Blair' minister was deposed in 1746, but went on to marry his mistress and was eventually accepted back into the church. This three-volume set is from the library of a French noblewoman Diane-Adelaide Damas d' Antigny, madame de Simiane (1761-1835), former mistress of the marquis de Lafayette, which was housed in the Chateau de Cirey in Champagne.
ShelfmarkAB.1.213.153-154
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on31/05/13
Author[Anon]
TitleTherese philosophe
ImprintGlascow [Glasgow]
Date of Publication1773
LanguageFrench
NotesThis is a very rare 1773 printing of the French erotic novel Therese Philosophe (Therese the philosopher), not recorded in ESTC, WorldCat or COPAC. It has a false 'Glascow' (Glasgow) imprint, but was probably printed on the Continent, in Paris or the Netherlands. The work first appeared in 1748 and was reprinted several times in the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming a bestseller - in modern parlance an "underground classic". It has been attributed to the marquis d'Argens (originally by the marquis de Sade, in his "Histoire de Juliette") and to Arles de Montigny, among others. The plot concerns the sexual adventures of a young bourgeois woman, Therese, who becomes a student of a Jesuit priest Father Dirrag, who is also counselling another female student, Mlle. Eradice. Father Dirrag and Mlle. Eradice were anagrams of Catherine Cadiere and Jean-Baptiste Girard, who in 1730 were involved in a highly-publicised trial in France for an illicit relationship between priest and student. After various adventures Therese ends up as the mistress of a wealthy Count, to whom she recounts her life story. The novel combines pornography with discussion of philosophical issues, including materialism, hedonism and atheism. It also depicts the sexual repression of women at the time of the Enlightenment, and abuse of power by representatives of the Church. This particular copy, which is in its original wrappers, is illustrated with 16 very graphic engravings. Jules Gay, in his "Bibliographie des Ouvrages Relatifs a l'Amour, aux Femmes, au Mariage [etc]", records 20 plates (including frontispiece) in this edition, as in the London [i.e. Paris?] 1771 edition, but there are no indication of any missing plates in NLS copy and the plates in this edition are different to the London 1771 edition.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2859
Acquired on31/05/13
AuthorAnon
TitleThe coppy of a letter sent from the Earle of Traquere in Ireland the third of October 1641
ImprintLondon: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1641
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a rare pamphlet (5 other copies recorded in ESTC), printed in late 1641 as political and civil unrest were increasing in England and the rest of the British Isles as a prelude to the Civil War that broke out the following year. It is an attack on two prominent Scots of the period, John Stewart, first earl of Traquair (b. 1599-1659) and "Old Father Philips", Robert Philip(s), a Scottish Catholic priest based in King Charles's court in London. The pamphlet reproduces a letter, dated 3 October, 1641, supposedly written by Traquair from Dublin to Philip, which had been intercepted and the contents subsequently disclosed. By the beginning of October 1641, plans were well underway for armed uprising led by the Irish Catholic gentry against the English administration in Ireland. Armed revolt broke out later that month in various places in Ireland, resulting in the killing and expulsion of Protestant settlers in the north. In the letter Traquair reports on the plans for the uprising to Philip, the latter being described as "a loyall and constant friend to Rome". There is no evidence that Traquair was in Ireland at that time or had any role in the uprising. The printing of the pamphlet appears to be connected to the unpopularity of Traquair and Philip in Scotland and England. The former, as King Charles's man in Scotland, had found himself in the impossible role of trying to reconcile covenanters to their monarch's autocratic rule while trying to implement his episcopalian policies. In 1641 the Scottish parliament forced the king to remove him as lord high treasurer of Scotland, subsequently denouncing him as one of five principal 'incendiaries' in the country. Traquair, although a Protestant, was also thought to have Catholic sympathies, which would later, in 1644, lead the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to declare him an 'enemy to religion'. Robert Philip (c.15801647) was a prominent member of King Charles's royal household, acting as chaplain and confessor to the queen and as informal head of a group of Scottish Catholic nobles at the court. In 1640 he was accused by the English parliament of leading a popish conspiracy at court and influencing young Prince Charles towards popery. The House of Lords also wanted him to answer charges of inciting rebellion in Ireland. He was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year which left him easy prey for attacks such as this pamphlet. As with Traquair, there is no evidence that Philip was involved in fomenting discord in Ireland.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2861
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on24/05/13
AuthorSir Edmund du Cane
TitleAn account of the manner in which sentences of penal servitude are carried out in England
ImprintLondon: H.M.P. Millbank
Date of Publication1882
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a presentation copy of a work on the penal system in England. It was given by the author, Sir Edmund Du Cane (18301903), to the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who was then, as a member of Gladstone's Liberal government, under-secretary at the Home Office, with particular responsibility for Scottish matters. The book also includes a brief letter, dated 7 March 1883, from Du Cane to Rosebery. Du Cane was one of the most important prison administrators of Victorian Britain. After serving in the army, where he organised convict labour in Australia, he became in 1863 a director of convict prisons and an inspector of military prisons. A few years later he took on the posts of chairman of the convict prison directors, surveyor-general of prisons, and inspector-general of military prisons. Du Cane "exercised a profound influence on the direction of penal policy between 1870 and 1895" (ODNB). This work printed at the press at Millbank prison, London, is an update of a paper originally prepared for the First International Prison Congress which met in London in 1872. It outlines the increasingly centralised prison system in operation in England, a system which conformed to Du Cane's belief that adult criminals required short, severe prison sentences. The term 'penal servitude' was coined in 1853 with the first Penal Servitude Act, which substituted sentences of imprisonment in lieu of transportation. Under Du Cane's regime prisoners could expect solitary confinement, severe conditions such as a plank bed, a very coarse diet, no visits, no library books or writing materials, and gruelling hard labour, often including oakum picking or the treadmill. The final stage was conditional release under police supervision. It was this Du Cane-influenced system that Oscar Wilde experienced as prisoner C.3.3. in Reading gaol in 1895 to 1897, and which he bitterly criticised in "The ballad of Reading gaol". Since 1877 Scotland's prisons had also been brought under Home Office control and a Prisons Commission for Scotland had been created. Du Cane was no doubt anxious that Scotland moved to a centralised system in line with England, and in the letter accompanying this book he notes that he is "highly flattered" by Rosebery's request for this additional copy of his work, which is in a "prettier" red, half-morocco binding. Du Cane eventually retired in 1895, amid growing disapproval by liberal politicians and civil servants of his methods and imperious manner. Penal servitude, however, was not abolished in England until 1948, Scotland followed suit two years later.
ShelfmarkAB.2.213.57
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of national Biography
Acquired on03/05/13
AuthorFriedrich von Coelln
TitlePraktisches handbuch fuer staats- und regierungsbeamte besonders in den preussischen staaten: nach anleitung Adam Smiths untersuchung ueber die Natur des Nationalreichthums.
ImprintBerlin : G. Hann,
Date of Publication1816
LanguageGerman
NotesC÷lln's substantial commentary on Adam Smith is one of a handful of early nineteenth century works that helped stimulate his study and appreciation in Germany. This scholarship into Smith was one of the prime factors that led to a general increase in German literature on pure and applied economics in these formative years. The same publisher issued the first edition in 1812 under the title Die neue Staatsweisheit; both editions are rare.
ShelfmarkRB.m.739
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on09/04/13
AuthorAlexander Duncan, 1747-1816
TitleA navy sermon delivered on board His Majesty's Ship Venerable of seventy-four guns.
ImprintLondon : J. Marshall
Date of Publication1798?
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis rare pamphlet (only one other copy of this printing is recorded, in the British Library, but none in ESTC) reproduces the text of a prayer of thanksgiving and a sermon given after the naval battle of Camperdown which took place off the Dutch coast near the village of Kamperduin. The author of "A navy sermon" was the Rev. Dr Alexander Duncan (1747-1816), who served as chaplain on the "Venerable", the ship commanded by his cousin and fellow-Scot Admiral Adam Duncan (1731-1804). Admiral Duncan was then commander-in-chief of the British fleet in the North Sea. On 11 October 1797 he attacked the Dutch fleet (the Dutch were allies of France in the French Revolutionary Wars), and after a long and bloody engagement decisively defeated it. Camperdown proved to be the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the 1790s, giving the British complete control of the North Sea. It was also regarded as the greatest ever victory for a British fleet over an equal enemy force to that date, although it was later overshadowed by Nelson's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. Admiral Duncan was a deeply religious man and in the aftermath of the battle, with the "Venerable" itself severely damaged, he assembled all of those men fit to attend for a church service to "return thanks to Almighty God for all His mercies showered on them and him." Leading the service was his cousin Alexander, a minister in the Episcopal Church, who in 1795 had become rector of Bolam parish in Northumberland, but who also served in the Royal Navy. In a surviving miniature portrait of Dr Duncan there is a quote attributed to King George III inscribed on the back, "Would to God that all my subjects were as loyal as Dr Duncan." Dr Duncan uttered suitably stirring and patriotic words for the occasion, and was prompted to publish the words of his service by a letter from members of the "Venerable"'s company (the text of the letter is reproduced here as well as a letter from Dr Duncan to his cousin). This 1798(?) printing would appear to have been a private printing solely for distribution to various members of the ship's company (a copy of a later 1799 London printing, by a different printer, is recorded in the library of the US Navy Dept.) This particular copy was a presentation copy for Admiral Duncan, who by this time had been created Viscount Duncan of Camperdown and Baron Duncan of Lundie. It is bound in contemporary tree calf with gold tooling and has a leather label on the front board "Lord Viscount Duncan", reflecting his change in status. It has also has a later gilt stamp on it "Camperdown Library" which indicates that it was at one time held in the family mansion of Camperdown House in Dundee, built in 1828 to replace the old family home of Lundie House, which was demolished that year. Dr Alexander Duncan seems to have retired to the quiet life of a minister, publishing one further work in 1799 "Miscellaneous essays, naval, moral, political, and divine". Four of his nine sons are known to have served in the Royal Navy.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2852
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Orr, The Duncans of Dundee and Camperdown: followed in the line of the Reverend Doctor Alexander Duncan DD, [Montrose, 2000]
Acquired on08/03/13
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