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 818 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 271 to 285 of 818:

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TitleBiographical sketch of Mr. Morison, the hygeist.
Imprint[London]: G. Taylor
Date of Publication[1837?]
NotesThis 8-page pamphlet is about James Morison (1770-1840), pill manufacturer, originally Bognie, Aberdeenshire. Morison claimed to have suffered incessant poor health until his fifties, which doctors were unable to cure and which eventually led him to develop his "Universal Vegetable Pill" in the 1820s. He sold his pills through a network of agents and local retailers throughout Europe and the USA. After a series of sudden deaths attributed to his pills, Morison having advocated taking his pills in large doses, he moved to Paris in 1834. Despite this setback affecting sales of his pills he continued to market his product aggressively, this being one of a series of pamphlets he produced, which includes a portrait of the man himself.
Acquired on29/01/16
TitleThe business man's note-book for the year 1856.
ImprintEdinburgh: James Hogg
Date of Publication1855
NotesA proof copy of an elaborate forerunner of the 'Filofax', printed for the publisher James Hogg (1806-1888), the son of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. It contains folding coloured maps and metal volvelle on the inside board which is a perpetual calendar. The proof copy was probably produced to attract orders and as a form of advertising. Hogg jnr. in his preface states that "the aim of this work is to produce in one volume at once a kalender [sic], diary, and commercial directory, specially adapted to the wants of business men." Only one copy of the final version for 1856 is recorded, in the 1874 Advocates Library catalogue, but that is now recorded as missing. This particular copy is described as 'incomplete' at the head of the title page, as it has blank space left for advertisements and two fewer maps than listed in the contents. Moreover, the concluding paragraph mentions that an additional 60 pages were planned as a continuation of the statistical notices of the governments of the world; as a fellow of the Statistical Society of London, this was no doubt a subject close to Hogg's heart. A notebook for 1857 was published but in 1858 Hogg closed his Edinburgh firm down and re-located to London and the "Business man's note-book" was not revived by him there.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on25/09/15
TitleThe wandering piper.
ImprintNewcastle: Douglas and Kent
Date of Publication1833
NotesThis is an unrecorded, illustrated broadside, printed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1833, which gives details of the 'Wandering Piper', who roamed throughout Britain and Ireland in the 1820 and 1830s. There are several contemporary accounts of the piper in provincial newspapers, one of which, from the Bury & Norwich Post, for November 21, 1832, describes him as follows: "He is a tall figure, and his air and carriage evidently indicate a rank superior to his occupation, in spite of the disguise of a carroty wig, a pair of green spectacles, and a shabby Highland costume. He has now piped in every market-town in the three kingdoms, except a few in Suffolk, Lincoln, York, Durham and Northumberland, all of which he must visit before next February. During his ramble he has given upwards of 700 l. [] to different charities." Some newspaper accounts speak of him as a former Scottish army officer who served in the Napoleonic Wars, who in 1825 accepted a bet with a Frenchman with whom he had been to school with in Scotland, to see how much money he could raise through busking in every town in Britain and Ireland. Other newspapers dismiss the story of the wager as bogus. Whatever his motivation, there seems to have been no attempt by the piper to profit personally from his playing. As the Newcastle broadside states, "when playing in the streets he endeavours to observe the strictest disguise; he never stands nor solicits money, but receives any sum that is given him." All the money he received was distributed to local charities once he covered his own board and lodgings. The piper's travels only began in earnest in 1828, with the intention being that he would travel for three years and total up how much money he had raised. However, a stage coach accident in Ireland left him incapacitated for over 15 months, which meant that by early 1833 he still had not finished his epic journey. The broadside reports his arrival in Newcastle on January 21, 1833 and notes that he only has six more towns to play in, with Glasgow being his final destination. Along with the broadside this copy also contains a handwritten note from the piper himself, dated January 3, 1833. Addressed to the mayor of Durham, the piper requests permission to play his pipes through the streets of Durham, and stresses that he does not solicit money and that any money he receives goes to charity. The note is signed 'The Wandering Piper/Address Captain Stuart'. The identity of 'Captain Stuart' and why he went to the lengths of wearing a forerunner of a wig and tinted spectacles to disguise himself, remain a mystery to this day. He may have worn Highland costume but in the portrait of the piper on the broadside he appears to be playing Lowland, bellows-blown, pipes rather than the Highland pipes traditionally played by pipe bands in Scotland and throughout the world today. Although the broadside states that the piper was "heartily tired of his frolic", no sooner had he finished his British and Irish travels than he was off to the USA and Canada, where he continued to travel and raise money. He returned to Britain in 1837 and continued to play. A Dublin newspaper records a 'Graham Stuart' dying in Dublin on February 17, 1839, worn out by his travels.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on20/11/15
TitleThe song of Solomon
ImprintLondon: Guild of Women Binders
Date of Publication1897
NotesThis book is bound in a modelled goatskin medieval-style binding popularised by Scottish women binders of the late 19th century. The technique was developed by Annie MacDonald (d. 1924) who along with a few other women in Edinburgh had begun binding books in the 1890s. Walter Biggar Blaikie (whose collection of Jacobite-related books and manuscripts is now in NLS) of the publishers A. & J. Constable let them use his workshops after hours. From 1895 two of Constable's workmen, a finisher and a forwarder, taught the group of women in premises owned by Edinburgh Social Union. MacDonald tried various types of leather for modelled bindings but found that natural goatskin, before any curing processes, could be moulded as she wanted. The modelling was done after the book itself was covered in the goatskin. It involved neither cutting nor raising the leather to relief. The design was traced onto the dampened leather and worked with one small tool called a 'Dresden', which was used to carefully press the background and mould the relief design. Using glue rather than paste to cover the books, the leather was a pale ivory when completed which developed into a richer brown once aged. The work of MacDonald and the other Edinburgh-based women inspired London bookseller Frank Karslake to found of the Guild of Women Binders in 1898 as an outlet for the sale of work by women binders who lived outside London, including the Edinburgh women. Karslake advertised a series of books specially printed for the Guild on Japanese vellum and bound by Guild members, including 'The Song of Solomon', which was one of 100 numbered copies (this particular copy being number 31). A pencil note on the front free endpaper, "worker Mrs MacDonald", would seem to indicate that it was done by Annie MacDonald herself. However, the 1900 Sotheby's catalogue of bindings done by the Guild of Women binders reveals that there were at least two separate "embossed mediaeval morocco" bindings of the Japanese vellum printing of the 'Song of Solomon'. One was done by Annie MacDonald, "the design adapted from the cover-design", and one by a "Miss Pagan", "the designs adapted from the illustrations". An Annie MacDonald binding for the 'Song of the Solomon' which is now held in Duke University Library, is reproduced in Marianne Tidcombe's "Women bookbinders 1880-1920" p. 98. The Duke University binding is a likely match for the one described in the Sotheby's catalogue as having done by Annie MacDonald, given that it resembles the cover of the regular 1897 edition of the 'Song of Solomon' published by Chapman and Hall. It is possible that she did more than one binding of this particular edition; but the design for this particular binding is adapted from the illustrations within the book, not the cover of the regular edition, and would seem to correspond to Miss Pagan's binding. The design on the front board is based on the art-nouveau style illustrations in the book by Herbert Granville Fell (1872-1951), along with a quote from the Song of Solomon as a decorative border : "Many waters cannot quench love neither can the floods drown it. Love is strong as death". The back board contains the ownership initials "H.F.C. 1898". "Miss Pagan" may be Jean Pagin, who was one of the women binders associated with Edinburgh Social Union, the main amateur arts and crafts organisation in the city (Tidcombe also mentions in an appendix to her book the existence of a binder called Jeannie E. Pagan but this may be same person as Jean Pagin). The turn-in on the front board simply records in gilt lettering that this binding is by the Guild of Women Binders. What is notable is that this copy has normal paper endpapers, where in other modelled bindings silk endpapers were used because the goatskin tended to stain both paper and vellum - as has happened in this copy. Inserted in this copy is a printed advertisement slip for the Guild of Women Binders describing this style of binding as a "revival of the mediaeval monastic binding".
Reference SourcesM. Tidcombe, 'Women bookbinders 1880-1920', London, 1996.
Acquired on28/03/14
TitleA Scottish penny wedding
ImprintBelfast: Simms and M'Intyre
Date of Publication1840?
NotesThis Belfast-printed broadside contains a large wood engraving printed from nine individual blocks. It shows a lively wedding scene in a barn with bride and groom dancing to fiddle music and guests eating and drinking. There were three sorts of wedding in Scotland in the early half of the 19th-century: the free wedding, where only a few select friends were invited and the guests were not to be the cause of any expense; the dinner wedding, where a dinner was provided by the marriage party; and the penny wedding (also known as the penny bridal), where each guest contributed financially or by way of food towards the dinner and then paid for their own drink, and which by the end of the festivities (which could go on for several days) could bring in a tidy profit for the newly-weds. This latter type of wedding was particularly common across rural Scotland, despite the disapproval of the Kirk. The three-column poem printed beneath the illustration is 'Twas on the morn of sweet May-day' also known as 'Jockey to the fair', a wedding-themed song often appearing in 18th- and 19th-century chapbooks.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on28/02/14
TitleEpistle to the deil by Holy Willie of Prussia. Second edition.
ImprintGlasgow: J. Biggar & Co.
Date of Publication[1871]
NotesAnonymous satirical poem in Scots supposedly by "Holy Willie of Prussia" (German Emperor Wilhelm I)addressed to the devil "dear Nickie-ben". It refers to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, which led to the defeat of France and the proclamation of King Wilhelm of Prussia as the first German emperor. The poem is written in the style of Robert Burns, and is followed by a full-page appendix "concerning Were-wolves", and a five-page glossary of Scotticisms. The author is clearly anti-Prussian as one verse runs: "Now just confess: through France I've trod O'er men, wives, weans, knee-deep, in blood; On right and justice trampl'd rough-shod, Until they're dead; And when I've blamed a' this on God, Are you no paid?" The author also gets a dig in at Thomas Carlyle, "the psalmist dour of Prussia's course", who was an admirer of German culture and who had written a history of Frederick the Great of Prussia. A contemporary manuscript note at end of poem (p.26) records one reader's dislike of the poem: "one of those thousand jingling dilettante whose jingle dies with the moment of its birth - ". No copy of this edition is recorded on COPAC, and the only other copies traced are published in London.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on16/05/14
TitleNoticia e Circunstancias da Felicissima hora, em que a Senhora Rainha da Grao Bretanha deu a luz o suspirado Principe de Gales, herdeiro dos Reynos de Inglaterra, Escocia, & Irlada.
ImprintLisbon: Na Officina de Miguel Manescal
Date of Publication1688
NotesThis is rare Portuguese newsletter, dated 16 August 1688, which reports the birth of James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales (the Old Pretender, 1688-1766), son of the James VII/II and his second wife Mary of Modena. The pamphlet describes events relating to the birth of the Prince, the baptism, diplomatic responses and the celebrations. 4 months after the publication of this newsletter James fled London on the approach of an army led by William of Orange, never to return to his capital.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on19/12/14
TitleThe history and love adventures of Roswal and Lillian
ImprintGlasgow: J. & M. Robertson
Date of Publication1788
NotesThis is an unrecorded Glasgow printing of a Scottish verse romance "Roswal and Lillian". The tale appears to be medieval in origin, and concerns Roswal(l) a prince of Naples who is forced into exile by his father, but who eventually finds love in his new home and marries the king's daughter Lillian. Sir Walter Scott records hearing the song sung in his youth in Edinburgh sung by an old person wandering through the streets. The first recorded printing of the work was in Edinburgh in 1663, there are then four recorded editions in the second half of the 18th century, printed in Newcastle and Edinburgh. The printers of this Glasgow edition, James and Matthew Robertson, were two of the principal printers of chapbooks in Scotland from 1782 onwards. From at least 1777 they were publishing children's books, most of which are reprints of titles published by John Newbery of London. They also imported them from England.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes, Scottish Book Trade Index
Acquired on06/03/15
TitleNotes sur la lettre de Monsieur de Voltaire a Monsieur Hume + Reflexions posthumes sur le grand procees de Jean-Jacques, avec David.
ImprintParis?: s.n.
Date of Publication1766
NotesTwo anonymous, rare pieces on the Hume Rousseau dispute that gripped Enlightenment Europe. In the first pamphlet comes the assertion that Voltaire did not write the "La letter au Docteur Pansophe", which helped inflame the dispute. In 1766 David Hume helped the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who no longer felt safe in his place of exile, his native Switzerland, to find refuge in England. Once there Rousseau soon fell out with Hume. Rousseau began to question Hume's motives in offering him shelter in England. When anonymous poems poking fun at Rousseau were published, he immediately and wrongly assumed they had been written by Hume. Rousseau retaliated by writing letters to his French associates denouncing Hume for his treacherous behaviour. When Hume eventually learnt of Rousseau's accusations he was shocked, and then angered that the fine reputation he had acquired when living in Paris was now being dragged through the mud. The two men became estranged from each other and Rousseau returned to France in 1767. In less than a year, the relationship between Hume and Rousseau had gone from love to mockery by way of fear and loathing, and much of the dispute was played out in letters and in print to the scandal and delight of literary salons in England and France.
Acquired on01/07/16
TitleAddress by the principal native gentlemen and other inhabitants of Bombay to Sir Charles Forbes, Baronet, on the occasion of erecting a statue of him at Bombay.
ImprintLondon: James Madden
Date of Publication1840?
NotesSir Charles Forbes (1773-1849) was a Scottish politician who had worked in his youth in India in the family firm of Forbes & Co. in Bombay, ending up as head of the firm. On returning Britain he continued to take an interest in India as a member of Parliament. He sponsored charitable work in India, especially improving the Bengal water supply. A statue of him was placed in the town hall of Bombay in 1839, paid for by public subscription. This work commemorates his services to the commercial development of the country and the improvement in the living standards of the local people. Bound with the work is an unrecorded Gaelic pamphlet by Donald Macpherson, "Marb-Rann air Sir Tearlach Foirbeis Jar-Bharan" London, [1849] [An elegy on the death of Sir Charles Forbes, Baronet, paraphrased from the Gaelic, by the author].
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on26/06/15
TitleThe speeches of the six condemn'd Lords at their tryals in Westminster-Hall.
Imprint[London: s.n.]
Date of Publication1716
NotesAfter the failure of the Jacobite rising in 1715/16, the British government was quick to dispense justice to those who took a prominent role in the rising, most notably to members of the aristocracy who might pose a future risk to the recently established Hanoverian monarchy. This rare broadside gives the text of speeches by six Jacobite lords in the House of Lords on 18-19 January 1716 after they had been impeached for treason. Four of these six lords, who all pleaded guilty, were Scots: William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, Robert Dalzell, 5th Earl of Carnwath, William Gordon, 6th Viscount Kenmure, and William Nairne, 2nd Lord Nairne. The other two were English, Baron Widdrington, and the Earl of Derwentwater, leader of the uprising in the north of England. All six of them were sentenced to death but four of them received reprieves, and only Kenmure and Derwentwater, who both had military commands in the rising, were actually beheaded on Tower Hill on 24 February 1716. The broadside also gives Derwentwater's last speech before his execution, in which he regretted having pleaded guilty and reasserted his loyalty to the Jacobite cause. Kenmure made no formal speech before his death. He is recorded as expressing regret that he had not had time to order a black suit to die in and for having accepted George I's authority by pleading guilty. In a letter apparently written to a fellow peer the night before his execution, he explained that a formal scaffold speech on his allegiances might damage Carnwath's chances of obtaining a pardon and he stressed that he was a protestant, acting purely from loyal duty to James, the exiled son of King James II/VII. The broadside has three crude woodcut illustrations, which bear little relation to the events described in the text below. Only one other, imperfect, copy of this broadside is recorded by ESTC, in the Bodleian library. This particularly copy was part of the collection of the 17th earl of Perth, sold at auction in 2012.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on31/08/12
TitleThe bird-fancier's companion; or, a true and easy way of hatching and bringing forth canary birds. 2nd ed.
ImprintEdinburgh: A. Donaldson & J. Reid for William Coke,
Date of Publication1763
NotesOnly two other copies of this book on canaries are recorded in ESTC and no first edition is recorded anywhere. The text is taken from a work first printed in London "A new way of breeding canary birds" (1742), which was also reissued as the second part of "The bird fancier's necessary companion and sure guide" (London, 1760-62). The work opens with chapters on the different breeds of canary and about how to make the best choice from the birds imported into "England" by German traders. The import of caged birds into Scotland is likely to have been though Leith, at that time the main entry point in Scotland for foreign goods, which would explain why the book was printed for a Leith-based bookseller, William Coke. The book goes on to cover breeding of canaries, health tips and how to make them sing. It closes with a section on native wild birds which were often kept as caged birds: skylarks, goldfinches and linnets. The book is illustrated with a frontispiece and a plate showing how to set up a bird trap, as well as three plates depicting the three aforementioned native song birds. The plates were engraved by Edinburgh-based Thomas Phinn (1728-c.1770).
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on31/08/12
TitleThe coppy of a letter sent from the Earle of Traquere in Ireland the third of October 1641
ImprintLondon: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1641
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.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on24/05/13
TitleA full and true account of the cruel and inhuman behaviour of a certain late M[ember]r of P[arliament] to his lady
Imprint[London? : s.n.]
Date of Publication1785?
NotesThis unrecorded broadside from 1785 or 1786 reports on events preceding the abduction of Mary Bowes, countess of Strathmore(1749-1800) by her second husband. Mary's first husband, the ninth earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, had died in 1776. The following year she married Andrew Robinson Stoney Bowes (1747-1810), against better advice, but was canny enough to sign an antenuptial trust preventing him from having any control over her fortune. Stoney, having taken her family name of Bowes, quickly found about the document and forced her to revoke it. He proved to be a violent and abusive husband and eventually, after eight years together, Mary escaped from him in February 1785, going into hiding in London under a false name. She then filed for divorce on the grounds of his ill-treatment of her. This broadside outlines her reasons for doing so, giving examples of Bowes's cruelty, and repeats her request for a restraining order against her husband "for the preservation of this exhibitant's life and person from bodily harm". Mary's worst fears were to be realised in November 1786, when Bowes had her abducted and taken to the north of England where she was cruelly treated and received death threats. She escaped, and Bowes was arrested and he and his accomplices were arrested and put on trial for the kidnapping. The trial thrilled and scandalised contemporary Georgian society, who to begin with firmly sympathised with the countess. Bowes was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. In the course of this trial and at subsequent trials, which dealt with the control of the Strathmore estate and Mary's divorce proceedings, details of the countess's own excesses and licentious behaviour began to leak out, which changed the public mood against her.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on26/07/13
TitleObservations on illicit distillation and smuggling: with some remarks on the reports of Woodbine Parish Esq. chairman of the excise board, on that subject.
ImprintEdinburgh: David Willison
Date of Publication1816
NotesThis is a rare pamphlet, with only two other copies located in major libaries in the UK and USA. The anonymous author is almost certainly a Scot, who takes issue here with Woodbine Parish (1768-1848), a London merchant who served as chairman of the board of excise for Scotland (1815-1823). The author criticises Parish's report on distillation and smuggling, in particular the remarks on the Scots' propensity for drunkenness and the belief that the increase in illegal distilling had nothing to with the increase in alcohol duty. The author in this pamphlet provides a good snapshot of Scottish drinking practices and smuggling activities of the period. For the author, the poorly-framed laws made in Westminster, which ignore the social and economic realities of life of Scotland, are the main reasons for the increase in illegal distillation and smuggling.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on22/06/12
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