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 834 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 226 to 240 of 834:

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Author[Morris, William and Wyatt, A.J. translators]
TitleTale of Beowulf sometime king of the folk of the Weder Geats
ImprintHammersmith: Kelmscott Press
Date of Publication1895
LanguageEnglish
NotesWith the purchase of this item along with "Atalanta in Calydon" the NLS has completed its collection of books which were available for public sale at the Kelmscott Press (there are 2 remaining items in the A section of Peterson's bibliography but it is unlikely that copies will be available for purchase). Beowulf seems to have been a favourite and long-cherished project of Morris. He described the Anglo-Saxon epic poem as "the first and best poem of the English race, [with] no author but the people", which would have appealed to his socialist principles. In 1893 he began his own translation of the poem using a papraphrase by the scholar Alfred John Wyatt. He completed the translation the following year then worked with Wyatt to revise his text. The book was issued in February 1895, 300 copies were printed on paper and 8 on vellum, and, costing over £485 to produce, was one of the more of the more expensive productions of the KP. Problems with the initial printing led to several sheets having to be reprinted. Morris was later to claim that he had lost money on the book; but the final publication ranks as one of the triumphs of the press, living up to Morris's dictum that his book were "beautiful by force of mere typography" . Morris and Wyatt's translation was reprinted by Longmans in 1898.
ShelfmarkKP.21
Reference SourcesPeterson "Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press" A32
Acquired on30/07/04
Author[Muriel Digby]
Title[Victorian 'Newspaper Cuttings' album containing numerous theatre programmes, playbills, clippings and other items]
ImprintS.l.: s.n.
Date of Publication[1881-1883]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis album records part of the acting life of Muriel Digby, who performed in many showings of a popular play "The colonel". The play by Francis Cowley Burnand (1836-1917), an English comic writer and playwright, satirised the popular aesthetic craze taking place in Britain in the second half of the 19th century. In October 1881 the Prince of Wales finally persuaded his mother, Queen Victoria, to attend a command performance of "The colonel" in Abergeldie Castle, near Braemar, Aberdeenshire, by Edgar Bruce's touring company, who were playing in Edinburgh at the time. The performance was much enjoyed by the Royal family, in particular by the Queen who had previously loved theatre performances and was viewing her first play in twenty years following the death of her husband Albert in 1861. It was however another five years after "The colonel" before she would watch another one. Two copies of the programme specially produced for the Abergeldie performance are attached to the first leaf of the album. Each one depicts both sides of the programme, with emblems on the front which are absolutely of the aesthetic movement style. The outer 'aesthetic' side was engraved and copyrighted by JA Lowell & Co. Boston, 1878. The inner printed side, incorporating the Royal coats of arms, was printed by James Turner & Co., Lithographers, Edinburgh. Many of the newspaper clippings and other items refer to the Abergeldie performance, one reporting "one of the most interesting events that has happened in the theatrical world for many years." Muriel Digby is not listed among the cast of the performers at Abergeldie but she did subsequently play female roles in "The colonel" in various performances around the UK. A Glasgow Gaiety Theatre playbill, for September 1882, depicts the bust of Queen Victoria - with printed reference to the Abergeldie performance. Some of the newspaper clippings relating to performances of the play lack the name of the newspaper, but most have the name written above the clipping. No record can be located of any other copy of the Abergeldie programme.
ShelfmarkAB.9.216.01
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on20/11/15
Author[Nicholas Breton]
TitleCrossing of proverbs, or A book divided into two parts.
ImprintEdinburgh: Re-printed by A.S.
Date of Publication1710
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is an unrecorded first Scottish printing of a book first published in London in 1616. The author Nicholas Breton or Britton (1554/5-c. 1626) from Essex, was a prolific writer in both prose and verse but little is known of his later life. Although he seems to have had enjoyed the patronage of a number of aristocrats, the sheer volume of works he produced indicate that he was a hack author in constant need of funds. In the first two decades of the 17th century he became best known for his verse satires and devotional poems. Breton also wrote three anthologies of proverbial wisdom: "Crossing of Proverbs" (two parts, both 1616) and "Soothing of Proverbs" (1626). "Crossing of proverbs" was printed at least three more times in the 17th-century and ESTC records two further printings from 1720 and 1731, both possibly done in Aberdeen. This 1710 printing by "A.S." who might be the Edinburgh printer Andrew Symson (d. 1712), is unknown. This particular copy, which is bound in a 19th-century blue morocco binding, has had a number of famous owners, as can be seen by the various bookplates and inscriptions. The front pastedown has the armorial bookplate of Sir John Stirling Maxwell (1866-1956) and there is an armorial bookplate on the back pastedown "Keir" with the motto "Proverbs" i.e. Keir House, near Stirling in Scotland. Keir House was inherited by John Stirling-Maxwell's father William (1818-1878) in the 1840s. William Stirling-Maxwell, writer, historian and politician, collected books of proverbs, many of which had "Keir, Proverbs" bookplates affixed to the rear pastedowns. Also on the front pastedown is a manuscript signature in pencil "D. Laing", i.e. David Laing (1793-1878) antiquary and librarian of the Signet Library. There are also manuscript notes on the first two flyleaves followed by the bookplate of "Lt. Colonel V. S. M. de Guinzbourg". Colonel Victor De Guinzbourg assembled a large collection of proverbs and published books on the subject. De Guinzbourg worked in counterintelligence prior to WWII and, according to his family, was known by more than one name during the time. Little is known about him until after the war when he began work for the UN.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2921
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on18/03/16
Author[Peter Williamson]
TitleList of all the streets, wynds, squares and closes, of the city of Edinburgh and Canongate.
ImprintEdinburgh: Peter Williamson
Date of Publication1779
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is an unrecorded broadside printed by Peter Williamson, one of Scotland?s most colourful characters of the 18th century. 'Indian Peter' (1730-1799), was abducted from Aberdeenshire as a ten-year-old, and indentured/enslaved for seven years in colonial Virginia. He was later captured by Cherokees, but escaped to narrate his adventures in travelling performances and in print. Returning to Britain he trained to be a printer, becoming a celebrated bookseller and coffee-house keeper in Edinburgh. Williamson published the first Edinburgh street directory in 1773. The present example is a large broadside printing of Williamson's directory, with a more straightforward layout, that gives the names of over 400 places in the city. It was presumably intended to be pasted-up on the walls of offices, workshops and other public areas. In addition to the list of places, Williamson also includes a number of advertisements for his own services, these include his famous "Portable Printing Presses" which he explains, is so constructed, "that it will throw off one Folio Page, or four Quarto Pages, at a time, with great ease and exactness". The broadside also advertises Williamson's edition of the Psalms of David "printed upon a new type, and superfine paper, so calculated that it may be carried in a watch-pocket or in a snuff-box". In the imprint Williamson announces that he runs a penny postal service in Edinburgh; the first postal service in Edinburgh recorded in print.
ShelfmarkAP.7.216.09
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on22/07/16
Author[Salmon, William]
TitleAristotle's Master-Piece
ImprintGlasgow: [n.n.]
Date of Publication1782
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe 'Joy of Sex' of its day, this is a revised version of the work that first appeared with this title in 1694, and was continually republished thereafter. A compendium of popular medical knowledge, folklore and myth, it promises a guide to marriage, copulation and procreation, plus 'the picture of several monstrous births'. There are various unpleasant woodcuts, some derived from the first edition, of deformed babies. All kinds of remedies are proposed for infertility, difficult childbirth or 'green sickness' in virgins. There are detailed descriptions of the genitals and practical sections for midwives. Works like this have an enduring popularity. This Glasgow edition of 1782 is otherwise unrecorded. This edition has an amusing section at the end, 'Observations on the human body', which discusses how appearances reveal more about the person. ('When the nostrils are close and thin, they denote a man to have but little testicles'.) A curious feature of this copy is that the endpapers are printed leaves from an Edinburgh sermon. The bookseller suggests that the binder had a sense of humour.
ShelfmarkABS.1.204.024
Reference SourcesWing, EEBO, ESTC
Acquired on17/09/03
Author[Samuel Smiles]
TitleHappy homes and the hearts that make them.
ImprintChicago: US Publishing House
Date of Publication1882
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe Scottish author Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) became famous throughout the world for his didactic biographies and his Self-help book. Happy homes was a selection of excerpts from Smiles's existing published works, with some of the other biographical sketches changed to American historical figures to suit the tastes of an American readership. This copy is an 1882 salesman's sample book for a 644-page edition published in Chicago by the U.S. Publishing House. The sample book contains approximately 56 sample pages including the frontispiece and six other engravings. At the back of this sample book there are printed testimonials from satisfied customers and examples of the marbled end papers and of the four kinds of bindings a customer could get his/her copy bound in, once the subscription was completed. Of particular interest are the 20 blank pages to record subscriptions, of which 11 pages have been filled in by hand with the subscribers' names and the kind of binding they wished to order. The salesman has also pasted a printed slip on the first page of subscribers? names with the blurb, "its inspiring pages, rich steel engravings, and substantial binding all combine to make this beautiful volume a gift that will speak long after the lips of the giver are sealed and the voice hushed", which might have influenced his sales pitch on the doorstep.
ShelfmarkAB.3.216.09
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on26/08/16
Author[Smith, Adam]
TitleFragment sur les colonies en general. Et sur celles des anglois en particulier. Traduit de l'anglois.
ImprintLausanne, Société Typographique
Date of Publication1778
LanguageFrench
Notes[SMITH, Adam. REVERDIL, Élie Salomon François, translator]. Fragment sur les colonies en general. Et sur celles des anglois en particulier. Traduit de l'anglois. Lausanne, Société Typographique, 1778. [bound with:] [CLERC, Nicolas-Gabriel]. La Boussole morale et politique des hommes et des empires. Dédiée aux nations. Boston, [n.p.], 1780. [and:] [FRANKLIN, Benjamin; SAUNDERS, Richard; PENN, Richard, HANCOCK, John and PENNSYLVANIA]. La Science du bonhomme Richard. Philadelphia and Lausanne, François Grasset & Co., 1778. An important addition to our holdings of Scottish Enlightenment authors in translation, this is possibly the first appearance of any part of Adam Smith's 'The Wealth of Nations' in French. This extract is a translation of Book IV, chapter vii, 'Of Colonies', of the 1776 first edition of Smith's work. In this section, Smith refutes the idea that wealth consists in amassing precious metals. The 'Fragment' appeared in two issues whose priority cannot be determined (the other issue has a Basle imprint). The translator was Élie Salomon François Reverdil (1732-1808), who in 1760 became tutor to the future Christian VII of Denmark, and, following his pupil's accession to the throne in 1766, one of the king's closest advisors. His politics were reformist. In 1772, he returned to his native Geneva and wrote books, including a French translation of Adam Ferguson, 'Institutions de philosophie morale' (Geneva: 1775), of which NLS has a copy at [Ven].8. Because 'The Wealth of Nations' is a large work whose publication in translation would have been regarded as a risky venture, this fragment may have been published to test demand. The 'Avertissement du traducteur' states that he hopes this extract will encourage someone to translate the entire work. (Carpenter, 'The Dissemination of The Wealth of Nations in French and in France 1776-1843', p. 16+). The first full translation into French also appeared in 1778 as 'Recherches sur la nature et les causes de la richesse des nations': NLS already has a copy at RB.s.1251. (Tribe, 'Critical Bibliography of Adam Smith'), pp. 76, 229). The Fragment, however, is rare, and the only other UK copy seems to be the one in the University of Wales, Bangor. The other works are both relevant to Enlightenment thought. With a Boston and Philadelphia imprint, they are both recorded in the English Short-Title Catalogue (ESTC). Clerc's work considers natural law and the rights of man, with chapters on trade and commerce, arguing for freedom of the seas and of trade, largely critical of English policy. The third item is the first edition of this collection of French translations of American authors, bringing together a number of works on trade and political freedom. All three are good copies, bound in a single volume with contemporary Swiss calf-backed sprinkled boards.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2627(1)
Reference SourcesKeith Tribe, 'Critical Bibliography of Adam Smith' (London, 2002) Kenneth Carpenter, 'The Dissemination of The Wealth of Nations in French and in France 1776-1843' (New York, 2002)
Acquired on31/08/06
Author[Smollett, Tobias, ed.]
TitleA compendium of authentic and entertaining voyages digested in a chronological series.
ImprintLondon: R. and J. Dodsley,
Date of Publication1756.
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis seven-volume anthology of travel writing was partially edited by the Scottish author Tobias Smollett. In 1753 he was contracted, for the considerable sum of £150, to complete the work by the following year. Smollett was at the time working on a wide range of literary projects in his roles of translator, editor and critic; he was also living an expensive and hectic social life in London. It is perhaps little wonder that he later admitted that his overall contribution to the work was actually very limited. The seven volumes consist of edited accounts of the trade and military expeditions of major European explorers and adventurers such as Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Francis Drake and Cortes. They contain several plates, including portraits and illustrations of exotic places and peoples, such as cannibals in the Caribbean, as well as 20 maps. A second edition appeared in 1766. This particular set of volumes belonged to the library of the Phelip[p]s family of Montacute House near Yeovil in Somerset.
ShelfmarkAB.1.210.014-020
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on07/05/10
Author[Walter Scott]
TitleBirthday chimes from Scott: selections from the poems and tales of Sir Walter Scott.
ImprintEdinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell
Date of Publication1891
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a birthday book, compiled by William T. Dobson, which provides a Scott quote for each day of the year with space to enter the birthdays of friends and family. The photographic illustration mounted on the binding is a trimmed reproduction of James Valentine's photograph of the Valley of Tay from Kinnoul, taken in 1882. Kinnoul Hill's Tower, visible in the left margin of the photograph, is a folly built on the cliff's summit in 1829 by Lord Gray of Kinfauns, whose home, Kinfauns Castle, is visible from the hill. Grey also built nearby Binn Tower and used both as observatories. The selection of this image for the cover could be related to the Gray family, as five of the six names entered in ink in this copy share the Gray surname. W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell produced a total of 22 "Birthday chimes" on various themes, as shown on the publisher's advertisement, including Bible words, Shakespeare and Keats. Purchasers of the series were able to customise bindings (cloth or leather) and finishing details, such as the gilt edges. Presumably this photographic addition was ordered alongside the cloth binding.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.963
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on06/11/15
Author[William Agnew]
TitleThe book of signs
ImprintGlasgow : William Agnew
Date of Publication1880?
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is unrecorded pamphlet depicts signs to be used for communication with deaf people. The author/artist and publisher, William Agnew (1846-1914) was himself deaf and left school to become a bookbinder, and after nine years went to work for the 'semi-mute' printer Mr A.F. Strathern. He is best known for painting a series of pictures showing Queen Victoria using finger spelling to communicate with a deaf woman on the Isle of Wight. In the pamphlet text Agnew refers to the incident with Queen Victoria that the painting related to, he also mentions the use of sign language by native Americans. Agnew was a keen supporter of using sign-language for educating the deaf, as opposed to using systems based on using articulation and speech, the latter approach being favoured by leading educators of the time. In the pamphlet he argues that oral education of the deaf is ineffective and expensive compared with finger and sign methods. He subsequently became involved in the fundraising for the building of a new Institute for Deaf and Dumb Adults in Glasgow and West Scotland, that would rely on instruction through sign language. Queen Victoria contributed money, and funds from an 1891 grand bazaar raised enough to purchase a site for the new building, with Agnew being made a Director of the Institution.
ShelfmarkAP.1.216.08
Reference SourcesH Dominic, W Stiles, "Deaf artist William Agnew" https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/library-rnid/2011/12/20/deaf-artist-william-agnew/
Acquired on20/11/15
Author[William Douglas]
TitleThe cornutor of seventy-five. Being the genuine narrative of the lives, adventures and amours of Don Ricardo Honeywater. The second edition.
ImprintLondon: J. Cobham
Date of Publication[1748]
LanguageEnglish
NotesA very rare satirical pamphlet by William Douglas (b. 1710/11?), a Scottish doctor who had a prominent medical career in London; at one time he was employed as physician to Frederick, Prince of Wales. Douglas's main claim to fame, or rather notoriety, was not his skill as a physician but the vindictive attacks he made in print on some of the leading physicians of his day. Having already attacked his fellow Scots William Smellie and Thomas Thompson, he turned his attention to the wealthiest, most famous and respected physician in England, Richard Mead (1673-1754). Although already in his seventies, Mead had acquired a reputation for womanising, or rather nocturnal 'impotent fumblings' with young girls of much lower social status. His extra-marital activities and alleged inflated status in the medical world were targeted by Douglas in the first edition of this pamphlet, where Mead punningly became 'Don Ricardo Honeywater'. In 1748 Douglas also produced this expanded second edition, with mock-learned footnotes and enlarged preface and an attack on Mead's translator, Dr Thomas Stack, 'Dr Chimney'. Douglas's pamphlet attracted a powerful response in defence of Mead: "Don Ricardo Honeywater Vindicated", a work attributed to another Scottish doctor and man of letters, Tobias Smollett. It seems to have put an end to Douglas's career as satirist; he later gave up his medical career in London and by 1758 he had returned to Scotland and, according to William Smellie, had gone mad.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2638(1)
Reference SourcesESTC; DNB; R.A. Day, The cornutor of seventy-five and Don Ricardo Honeywater vindicated, The Augustan Reprint Society publication no. 224-225, Los Angeles, 1987
Acquired on24/11/06
Author[William Henry Dick-Cunyngham]
Title[Album of 94 albumen prints]
ImprintS.n, s.d.
Date of Publication[c. 1875 - c.1882]
LanguageEnglish
NotesAn album of 94 albumen prints probably compiled by William Henry Dick-Cunyngham (1851-1900). Dick-Cunyngham served with the Gordon Highlanders in India then Afghanistan, winning a Victoria Cross in the Second Afghan War of 1878-80. The album contains photographs relating to his time in India, as well as views of the family home at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, all of which are captioned. The first half of the album comprises commercially produced views in India and towards the end are a few commercial Scottish views by Valentine and Wilson. In between are photographs that relate specifically to army regiments, including an interesting series of military group portraits identified as: pipers, 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, Windsor 1882; group of Sutherland Highlanders (93rd?); officers of the Sutherland Highlanders including Colonel MacPherson and Colonel Nightingale; Captain Dick-Cunyngham VC, Gordon Highlanders and the men of his company, taken at Edinburgh Castle. The photographs showing Dick-Cunyngham and companions posing with hunting trophies may have been taken by John Burke (1843-1900), a leading commercial photographer based in North-West India who is best known for his photographs taken during the Second Afghan War (two of the photographs in this album show men and officers of the 92nd Highlanders in Kabul in 1880). Dick-Cunyngham went on to serve in the Boer War in South Africa where he died of wounds incurred in action at Wagon Hill in Natal.
ShelfmarkPhot.la.69
Reference SourcesJ. Falconer " India: Pioneering Photographers 1850-1900" London, 2001. Auction catalogue.
Acquired on21/04/08
Author[William Hugh Logan & Robert Henry Wyndham]
TitleLittle Bo-Peep; or, Harlequin and The Little Girl that Lost her Sheep. A Pastoral Pantomime + St. George & ye Dragon; or, Harlequin and Ye Seven Champions of Christendom. A Grand Comic Christmas Pantomime, 1857-58
Imprint[Edinburgh]: Theatre Royal
Date of Publication1857-58
LanguageEnglish
NotesThese are two unrecorded printed scripts of Christmas pantomimes, each produced for one of Wyndham's two Edinburgh theatres and written by Logan. Both works contain early lithographed illustrations by Keeley Haswelle (1832-1891), an English artist and book illustrator whose work for the Illustrated Shakespeare of Robert Chambers took him to Edinburgh. Henry Irving (1838-1905), later to become the most famous actor in Victorian Britain, appeared in both plays. He was then a 19-year-old and only a year into his long, 15-year theatrical apprenticeship, having first appeared on the Edinburgh stage earlier that year. ,Although not given credit in the dramatis personae, Irving played "Captain Scruncher, of the Wolves" in the production of Little Bo-Peep. What role he played in St. George & ye Dragon is unclear. He remained with the Wyndhams as "juvenile lead" until September 1859.
ShelfmarkAB.3.216.04(1-2)
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on22/07/16
Author[William Sotheby]
TitleTo His Majesty's ship Barham, appointed by the King to convey Sir Walter Scott to Naples.
Imprint[London : s.n.]
Date of Publication1831
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis single sheet poem of 42 lines is by 'W.S.', William Sotheby (1757-1833), a poet and translator. The poem is dated 18 November 1831 at the end, with the address of Fair Mead Lodge, Epping Forest, which had been Sotheby's home since the early 1790s. Sotheby had been in the army in his youth and had been stationed in Edinburgh in the 1770s, where he came to know Walter Scott, then only a boy. The two remained friends; Scott may not have greatly esteemed Sotheby's talents as a poet but he had a sincere respect for the elder man. By the summer of 1831 Scott had suffered three strokes and reluctantly agreed to go on a tour of the Mediterranean to improve his declining health. In the poem Sotheby addresses the man-of-war HMS Barham, which had been provided at the command of William IV to take Scott to Malta and Naples rather than have him undergo an arduous overland journey. The ship had set sail in October, and Sotheby anticipates its return with its precious cargo, hoping, in vain, that the famous author will return restored to full fitness. In fact, Scott had a fourth stroke on the return journey, which was overland, and by the time he reached London in June 1832 he was dying, surviving long enough to return to Scotland and to die in his beloved Abbotsford. Only one other copy of this printing is recorded, in the British Library.
ShelfmarkAP.1.215.03
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on16/10/15
Author[Winter, W. Jefferson]
TitleIn Memory of Frank Worthing Actor
ImprintNew York: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1912
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a memorial volume containing glowing tributes to the late actor Frank Worthing (1866-1910), who was born as Francis George Pentland in Edinburgh. Worthing became a student at Edinburgh University with a view to a career in medicine but by 1884 abandoned his studies in favour of the stage. By the late 1880s he had made it to London and was securing leading roles there, acting alongside the likes of Lily Langtry, before moving on to the USA in 1894. He worked in America for the rest of his career, in latter years playing the leading man in productions with the actress Grace George. Worthing collapsed when stepping on stage in Detroit for the opening act of the comedy "Sauce for the Goose", and died shortly afterwards. He had been suffering from tuberculosis for a number of years but had insisted on carrying on acting, despite collapsing on stage on two previous occasions. One of his notable roles was as Lieutenant Pinkerton in the original 1900 production of "Madame Butterfly", the play which would later be adapted by Puccini for his famous opera. Among the contributors to the volume is the actor Tyrone Power, Sr. (father of the well-known Hollywood actor of the same name). The printing of the volume was organised by W. Jefferson Winter (1878-1929), an American actor and friend of Worthing. Winter's father, the drama critic William Winter (1836-1917), supplied a brief biography and elegy for the deceased. This copy contains the bookplate of the author Eric Salmon, and of the American printer William Frederick de Dopff Morey (b. 1858).
ShelfmarkPB4.209.34/6
Reference SourcesNY Times Digital archive
Acquired on09/02/09
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