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 763 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 email@example.com
Important Acquisitions 16 to 30 of 763:
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|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|
|Imprint||London: b. T. Maiden f. Ann Lemoine|
|Date of Publication||[1806-9]|
|Notes||Here are two finely-bound volumes of novellas and poems, most with a strong Gothic flavour. The titles give the game away ('The Tomb of Aurora', 'The Midnight Hour', 'The Mysterious Spaniard'). 'Gothic' literature in English includes some of the most important early novels, such as Matthew Lewis' 'The Monk' and Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. Gothic writing is characterised by a fascination with the medieval period from which it takes its name, an obsessive interest in the supernatural, an exploration of the emotions tending towards the sensual, and an appreciation of wild and romantic landscapes. There were many who had concerns about the influence of Gothic writing, such as Jane Austen who parodied the conventional Gothic narrative in 'Northanger Abbey'. 'Wild Roses' feels the need to open with a declaration that the editors have sought 'to prune from them every Luxuriance which might justly offend the Breast of Morality.' The blood-soaked pages which follow explain why such a disclaimer was felt necessary.
Although many of the main 'Gothic writers' were English, the genre had a major impact on Scotland (part of 'Frankenstein' is actually set in Scotland), and on Scottish writers such as Burns, Hogg and Scott. Many of Walter Scott's 'historical' novels show traces of Gothic influence, and one of the most important features of 'Wild Roses' is the fact that it includes a poem by Scott. 'The Maid of Toro', which appears at the end of 'The Captive Prince' in vol. 2, presents the despair of a medieval maiden hiding in a wood, who learns of the slaughter of her champion in battle, despite her prayers to the Virgin. It is a highly appropriate inclusion. Intriguingly, this printing of the poem was not recorded by Todd and Bowden in their Scott bibliography, which notes the first printing of the poem in 1806 (Todd 21Aa).
The works collected in these volumes seem to have been printed in 1806-1809, judging by the dates on the numerous engraved plates. The title-pages are undated. The items seem to have been printed as chapbooks in blue wrappers, a fragment of which adheres to the verso of the plate illustrating 'Livonia of Venice' in vol. 2. However, they were clearly intended to be bound up as a collection, as the signatures are continuous, and the final page in each volume gives the correct number of pages in each. The whole set is in excellent condition, bound in half red roan and red grained paper, with gilt-tooled spines bearing green leather labels. Both volumes have the bookplate of the Bibliotek Tido.|
|Reference Sources||Todd & Bowden. Todd 21Aa
|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||De' costumi e della morte di Maria Clementina Regina d'Inghilterra, di Francia, e d'Irlanda|
|Imprint||In Roma ed in Bologna|
|Date of Publication||1737|
|Notes||This is a biography of Princess Clementina, the wife of the Old Pretender. She was the granddaughter of John Sobieski, the warrior king of Poland. Her marriage took place in 1719, under the protection of Pope Clement XI, who proclaimed the pair King and Queen of England. The alliance had been vehemently opposed by the Holy Roman Emperor, who had imprisoned the young woman. She was later dramatically rescued by a band of Jacobite adventurers led by Charles Wogan. The marriage proved turbulent, and unhappy with the princess leaving her husband for a time. A reconciliation was eventually arranged, although she did not long survive it as she died in 1731. This is a very good copy of a rare edition complete with portrait, and a final leaf containing an engraved coat of arms.|
|Reference Sources||Booksellers catalogue|
|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||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||History of King Pippin|
|Imprint||Glasgow: A. Paterson|
|Notes||This is a delightful chapbook in very good condition. It was published by Archibald Paterson, an engraver and copperplate printer in Glasgow. Between 1820 and 1825 he published a number of small children's books with high quality engravings. "The history of King Pippin" contains 10 wood-engraved illustrations and is in its original printed wrappers with wood engravings to both covers.|
|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||History of Master Jackey and Miss Harriot|
|Imprint||Glasgow: A. Paterson|
|Notes||This is a lovely chapbook in very good condition. It was published by Archibald Paterson, an engraver and copperplate printer in Glasgow. Between 1820 and 1825 he published a number of small children's books with high quality engravings. "The history of Master Jackey and Miss Harriot" contains 9 wood-engraved illustrations and is in its original printed wrappers with wood engravings to both covers.|
|Title||My Bible. Embellished with engravings|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: John Elder|
|Notes||This is a rare edition of a chapbook where the leaves are printed on one side only, although the pagination is continuous. It contains four-line verses, all ending with the line "My Bible" and paraphrasing different passages from the Bible. It was published between 1837 and 1844 by John Elder, who is also known for printing a slip ballad called "Alice Grey".
The chapbook contains 8 wood-engraved illustrations which are hand-coloured in green and yellow. It is in its original printed wrappers with wood engravings to both covers.|
|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||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||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||Volume of Edinburgh newspapers, 1759-1770|
|Date of Publication||1759-1770|
|Notes||This volume of newspapers comes from the library of the Writers to the Signet, and also displays the bookplate of Steuart of Allanton. The papers are in generally good condition, with tax-stamps and occasional manuscript notes; there are a few tears and worm-holes. The run of the Edinburgh Weekly Journal is darkened and damaged at the edges, probably because it is notably larger than the other newspapers. It is this run which gives the volume its particular interest, as these editions (from 7 August 1765 to 11 October 1769, with many gaps), do not seem to be represented elsewhere in the National Library, or indeed in any other collections. Published on Wednesdays, the Edinburgh Weekly Journal was sold at the printing-house of William Auld & Co., later Auld, Smellie & Co., in the Lawnmarket at 2½d. Later editions give details of the price of subscription (10s10d a year for collection from the shop, 11s10d a year for delivery within Edinburgh, 14s a year for post to any town in Scotland). Typically for a journal of this period, it contains extensive foreign news, news from London, Edinburgh and America, and miscellaneous advertisements: for miracle cures, the sale of land and buildings, and for dramatic performances and new books. Storms, explosions, murders and 'remarkable occurrences' are described with gusto. There are also a number of poems and letters. See W.J.Couper, Edinburgh Periodical Press (1908), II. 93-6; M.E.Craig, Scottish Periodical Press (1931), 26.|