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 750 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 rarebooks@nls.uk

      

Important Acquisitions 271 to 285 of 750:

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AuthorWestminster Assembly
TitleFoirceadul aith-ghearr cheasnuighe [The shorter catechism]
ImprintGlas-gho: Anna Orr
Date of Publication1776
LanguageScottish Gaelic
NotesBooks in Scottish Gaelic are a key part of the National Library's collections, and we acquire such items wherever possible. This is a good copy of an eighteenth-century catechism, which also includes the alphabet, the Ten Commandments, various prayers, and a guide to numbers in arabic and roman. It was clearly designed for educational purposes. The book is particularly interesting as it was printed for a woman publisher, Anna Orr.
ShelfmarkABS.1.205.031
Reference SourcesSBTI Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue 2769
Acquired on13/09/05
AuthorBriscoe, John
TitleFollowing proposals for, and accounts of, a National Land-Bank having been printed at London.
ImprintEdinburgh: John Mosman
Date of Publication1695
LanguageEnglish
NotesOne of the core missions of the Rare Books Division is to collect the printed output of Scotland. Of particular value are books produced in the period of Harry Aldis's bibliography of books printed in Scotland up to 1700. Although this is an Edinburgh reprint of a London title it takes one step closer to having a copy of the complete printed output of Scotland before 1700. This is a proposal for the establishment by subscription of a National Land Bank, whose assets would include the land of its subscribers. John Briscoe, the proposer of the Bank, claims that he could double the value of Freeholders estates if they subscribe to his Land Bank. To do this, he would 'turn their estates into a living stock'. Briscoe's proposals were also aimed at addressing the high interest rates that were crippling commerce in this period.
ShelfmarkRB.m.516
Reference SourcesRichard Saville, Bank of Scotland: a history (1997) (in GRR) Anon, Royal Bank of Scotland: a history (1997) (in GRR)
Acquired on02/07/01
AuthorTheatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
TitleFor the benefit of Madame Frederick, on Friday evening, December 26, 1800, will be performed the favorite comedy of The wonder! ... to which will be added a grand historical romance ... taken from Ossian's poems) called Oscar & Malvina or The Hall of Fingal.
Imprint[Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Theatre Royal]
Date of Publication1800
LanguageEnglish
NotesTheatre poster advertising performances at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December 1800. Among the pieces being performed was the popular ballet-pantomime 'Oscar and Malvina', based on the poems of Ossian. The work was first performed in Covent Garden 1791. The house composer William Shield had resigned that year leaving the score for pantomime unfinished. William Reeve (1757-1815)completed the piece, and its success secured his place as the composer of many of the Covent Garden operas and pantomimes. The performances in Newcastle were for the benefit of Madame Frederick, a popular dancer on the Edinburgh stage, best known for her performances of the Scottish Strathspey at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh.
ShelfmarkIN PROCESS
Reference SourcesF. Burwick, 'Romantic drama: acting and reacting' (Cambridge, 2009)
Acquired on16/05/14
AuthorWilson, Alexander
TitleForesters: a poetic account of a walking journey to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1804.
ImprintNewtown, P.A.: Bird & Bull Press
Date of Publication2000
LanguageEnglish
NotesAlexander Wilson (1766-1813) was born in Paisley in 1766 and emigrated to the American colonies in 1794 after being imprisoned for publishing a severe personal satire against a local dignatory. He had many occupations, including weaver, packman, printer, school teacher, but his obsession was with ornithology. Wilson is best known for his magnum opus American Ornithology the first major attempt to describe and illustrate the birds of America which ran to nine volumes and was illustrated with Wilson's own drawings. Before he undertook that work, Wilson embarked on a walking tour to Niagara in 1804 that inspired the long poem giving an account of the journey, The Foresters. It first appeared in serial form in Philadelphia's leading literary magazine The Port Folio and came out in book form in 1818. The present edition is produced by the Bird & Bull Press of Newtown Pennsylvannia, the same town where The Foresters first appeared in book form. It is illustrated throughout with wood engravings in the classic British style by the Canadian artist, Wesley W. Bates. The book is composed in Dante type, printed on Arches mouldmade paper, quarter bound in morocco and enclosed in a cloth-covered slipcase.
ShelfmarkFB.s.758
Acquired on14/11/00
AuthorElton, Lady (Mary Stewart)
TitleFour panoramic views of the city of Edinburgh, taken from the Calton Hill, by Lady Elton
ImprintEdinburgh
Date of Publication1823
NotesThis fine and uncommon set of four lithographs provide a sweeping 360° panoramic view of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas from Calton Hill. Edinburgh was the birthplace of the panorama – indeed the first panorama ever produced was taken also from Calton Hill, by Robert Barker in 1787, thus setting in train a fashion for this type of topographical painting. In 1822, the artist, Mary Stewart, had produced a set of four views of the city from Blackford Hill. She was the daughter of Sir William Stewart, of Castle Stewart, Wigtownshire, and she married Sir Abraham Elton of Clevedon, Somerset in 1822. The views were drawn on stone by William Westall the skilled topographical illustrator and printed in London by Charles Hullmandel, one of the foremost lithographic printers. Lithography was very much in its infancy in Scotland, the first examples using this method not being printed until 1821. In two of the views can be seen tented encampments of troops, assembled to honour the royal visit of King George IV to the city in August 1822. The panoramas also provide detailed evidence of the development of the city in the early 19th century.
ShelfmarkRB.el.6
Acquired on16/01/01
AuthorGeorge Combe
TitleFour views of the skull of Robert Burns : taken from a cast moulded at Dumfries, the 31st day of March 1834.
ImprintEdinburgh : W. & A.K. Johnston
Date of Publication1834
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis rare pamphlet, only one other copy is recorded, bears witness to the extraordinary hold that the pseudo-science of phrenology had on popular and medical opinion in the first half of the 19th-century. On 26 March 1834 Robert Burns's widow, Jean Armour died, her funeral on 1 April attracting, according to the Dumfries Courier, an "immense crowd of spectators". Her body was interred in the family mausoleum in St Michael's churchyard, Dumfries, which had been built in 1815 after a public subscription had produced sufficient funds for its construction. The opening of the family mausoleum to accommodate her coffin also finally enabled phrenologists and the merely curious to gain access to the prize specimen of the poet's skull. Their hopes of doing so in September 1815, when Burns's body had been exhumed from its modest resting place and moved to the impressive Grecian-style construction at the other end of the cemetery, had been thwarted. The moving of the body had been done privately, before sunrise, to attract as little attention as possible from the public, so only those carrying out the move had had the privilege of seeing Burns's corpse. In 1834, however, the phrenologists were not to be denied. Having obtained consent from surviving members of the Burns family, the night before Mrs Burns's funeral a party of men, including John McDiarmid, editor of The Dumfries Courier, the surgeon, Archibald Blacklock, and James Bogie, who had assisted in the move of the poet's coffin in 1815, entered the mausoleum. The skull was located, cleaned and a plaster cast taken. It was deemed to be of an extraordinary size as none of the hats of those present fitted over it. The skull was then placed in a lead casket and replaced where it had been found. With a suitably melodramatic flourish The Caledonian Mercury's account of the exhumation of the skull, abridged from the Dumfries Courier, records that at the end of their work, just as the men were about to go their separate ways, the clock struck one. The existence of a plaster cast of Burns's skull gave the phrenologists, who had previously had to make do with an imaginary cast based on a portrait of the poet, all the material they needed to formulate theories on Burns's character. This particular pamphlet contains remarks by the leading British phrenologist of the time, Edinburgh lawyer George Combe (1788-1858), whose manuscripts and collection of phrenology books are now held in NLS. Combe's observations on Burns's character and cerebral development also appeared in The Phrenological Journal in September 1834, but this appears to have been a separately published pamphlet, illustrated with engravings taken from drawings of four views of the skull done by the Scottish artist George Harvey (1806-1876). Combe argues that Burns's skull "indicates the combination of strong animal passions, with equally powerful moral emotions" and that "Burns must have walked the earth with a consciousness of great superiority over his associates in the station in which he was placed". Combe's conclusions are tinged with class superiority and presumably influenced by the popular view of the poet as a man with a weakness for alcohol. He regrets that circumstances conspired to prevent Burns, the farmer, flax-dresser and excise man, entering the "higher ranks of life", and that his lowly birth denied him a liberal education and the chance to be employed in pursuits "corresponding to his powers" so that "the inferior portion of his nature would have lost part of its energy".
ShelfmarkAP.3.213.08
Acquired on01/06/12
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
AuthorHay, John.
TitleFragstuck des christlichen Glaubens an die neuwe sectische Predigkanden.
ImprintFreyburg in Uchtlandt: Abraham Gemperlin,
Date of Publication1585
LanguageGerman
NotesThis is the first German translation of the treatise "Certaine demandes concerning the Christian religion" by the Scottish Jesuit John Hay (1547-1607). Hay moved from Scotland to Rome in 1566 and spent most of the rest of his life on the Continent, returning to Scotland in 1579, where, in the light of fears about the Jesuits and their teaching, his presence attracted much controversy. He based himself in Aberdeenshire, where the Counter-Reformation movement was already well established, before returning to France. "Certaine demandes" was first published in Paris in 1580 and consisted of 166 questions on points of religious controversy; it was highly influential on the Continent and a key text for supporters of the Counter-Reformation. The lack of a response to the work in Hay's homeland helped to strengthen Catholicism in North-Eastern Scotland. A French translation appeared in 1583, followed by this German translation two years later by the Swiss Catholic theologian Sebastian Werro (1555-1614). This particular copy has the added significance of being a presentation copy from Werro to the Swiss nobleman Ludwig von Afry. The contemporary binding contains a stamped inscription in Latin on the front board recording the presentation of the book by Werro. The text of Werro's dedication of the book to Afry is also repeated in MS on the front pastedown, in Werro's hand. There are also a number of MS corrections to the text which are possibly done by Werro.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2774
Reference SourcesShaaber H110; VD16 H843; Allison & Rogers, Counter Reformation, I, 648.
Acquired on24/11/09
TitleFrancis Garden Lord Gardenstone
Imprint[Edinburgh? : s.n.]
Date of Publication[18--]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis broadside commemorates the eccentricities of Francis Garden, Lord Gardenstone (1721-1793). It is printed on French laid paper with the watermarks Papier a la main and Auvergne with a flower and sprouting heart. However, the quality of printing suggests that the broadside is in fact a product of the mid- to late nineteenth century. It is possible that it was printed as a deluxe version for the centenary of the erection of St. Bernard's Well at Stockbridge in 1789, which had been financed by Lord Gardenstone. Born and educated in Edinburgh, Francis Garden was admitted an advocate in 1743 and appointed a lord of session in 1764. Notwithstanding his convivial propensities during his early practice at the bar, he was characterised by A.F. Tytler as an "acute and able lawyer". As a philanthropist he is remembered fondly for buying the estate of Johnston in Kincardineshire in 1762 in order to build a new village; he also founded a library and museum there for the use of the villagers, not to mention an inn. However, Lord Gardenstone is probably best remembered for his particular taste for social hilarity and his many peculiarities, one of which was an extreme fondness of pigs. Some anecdotes are retold in the broadside; another one recalls the occasion of Garden's involvement in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion: serving under Sir John Cope, he and a companion preferred wine and oysters to watching and warding, tarried too long in a bar at Musselburgh and were captured by an enemy patrol. About to be hanged, they were released when they were seen to be completely drunk and incapable. Lord Gardenstone died in Morningside aged 72 and is buried in Greyfriars churchyard in an unmarked grave.
ShelfmarkRB.l.227
Reference SourcesOxford DNB, www.electricscotland.com
Acquired on14/06/05
AuthorSurenne, Gabriel
TitleFrench grammatology: or a course of French.
ImprintEdinburgh: Oliver & Boyd
Date of Publication1828
LanguageEnglish and French
NotesGabriel Surenne was French master at the Scottish Military and Naval Academy, according to the title-page of this volume, an Edinburgh institution 'for training young men chiefly for the service of the royal and East India Company's services, and to all the ordinary branches of education were added fortification, military drawing, gun-drill, and military exercises' (James Grant, Old and New Edinburgh, vol. 3, p. 138). It was closed in the late 19th century, when at around the same time a new system of army entrance examinations was introduced, and the site was required for the Caledonian Railway Station (now the Caledonian Hilton). His French textbooks were reprinted throughout the nineteenth century, but this copy used in a class taught by Surenne himself, as the inscription on all volumes testifies: 'Alexander Graham at Mr Surenne's Class, Military Academy, May 18th 1831'.
ShelfmarkAB.1.208.003
Reference SourcesJames Grant, Old and New Edinburgh (Cassell) vol. 3; Bookseller's catalogue.
Acquired on04/12/07
TitleFull, true, and particular account of the trial and condemnation of Wilson Potts, late Captain of the Dreadnought Privateer, belonging to Newcastle, who was sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark, near Leith, on Wednesday the 13th of February next
ImprintEdinburgh
Date of Publications.n., 1712 or 1723?
NotesA broadside, printed recto only in two columns with a woodcut of a ship at head of title. It concerns Potts' trial for rape, theft, robbery and piracy. The first three charges were not proven but he was found guilty of the latter and sentenced to be hanged at the Stood Mark "a rock about two miles in the sea". No year is given but it appears to be early 18th century with February 13th falling on a Wednesday in 1712 and 1723.
ShelfmarkAPS.4.202.38
Acquired on22/05/01
TitleFull Report of the Proceedings at the Meetings of Messrs. Thompson and Borthwick, at Dalkeith
ImprintGlasgow: George Gallie & W. R. M'Phun
Date of Publication1833
LanguageEnglish
NotesGeorge Thompson and Peter Borthwick both gave lectures in Dalkeith on 22 March 1833, on the subject of the future of slavery. The anti-slavery movement was close to victory at this point, with the Emancipation Act which abolished slavery throughout the British colonies to be passed in August 1833. This small pamphlet recounts with unconcealed glee the hostile reception given to Borthwick's defence of the system and the applause for Thompson's appeal for emancipation. Borthwick's talk was given shortly after noon, and hissed by about 300 people. Thompson spoke at 7pm before about 1500 people, who seem to have cheered every other word. These antagonists seem to have confronted each other several times in the 1830s, and other publications containing their speeches and related discussions can be found. Thompson's speeches in 1833 led to the formation of the Edinburgh Society for the Abolition of Slavery; in 1834 he travelled to American to campaign against slavery, thereby placing his life in some danger. (DNB)
ShelfmarkAPS.1.201.027
Acquired on26/06/01
AuthorLaw, John
TitleGedancken vom Waaren und Geld-Handel [translation of Money and Trade]
ImprintLeipzig: Jacob Schustern
Date of Publication1720
LanguageGerman
NotesThe Library has a strong collection relating to John Law (1671-1729), particularly in the Lauriston Castle collection, and has purchased actively Law-related materials in recent years. As a Scottish-born financier (his family lived at Lauriston Castle) who had a huge impact on the French economy in the short-term, and on the development of the paper-money system in the longer term, Law is a key figure to collect. We have several copies of the 1705 English edition of Money and Trade, a copy of the second English edition of 1720 (L.C.2539), and two copies of the 1720 French edition. There are no copies in Scotland of the first German edition which we have now acquired. As well as two copies in North America, there is a copy in the University of London Library, which matches the description here. Our new copy is very good and in contemporary boards. Antoin Murphy, John Law: Economic Theorist and Policy-Maker (1997) discusses the French translation as being a work of some importance, but does not mention a German edition. It is quite possible that this translation may shed new light on how Law was seen in 1720, the year that the Mississippi Bubble burst and his schemes collapsed. As Law's main written work, it is important for the Library to have comprehensive holdings in this area, and thus this is a most desirable acquisition.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2312
Reference SourcesAntoin Murphy, John Law, 1997
Acquired on21/10/03
AuthorRamsay, Allan
TitleGentle Shepherd
ImprintGlasgow: by A. Foulis
Date of Publication1788
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a most unusual binding, with elements that suggest the influence of the style of James Scott of Edinburgh. The chequerboard design has alternating panels of tree and sprinkled calf, and the central panel has a gilt-bordered oval containing a stencilled star-burst within which is a gilt design of musical instruments and player's mask. The binding is probably Scottish, but we do not have anything comparable. The sense of structured design, and the use of the musical instruments within the oval, do suggest James Scott's work. The book contains aquatint plates by the Scottish artist and engraver David Allan, and also has two additonal plates (after p.14 and before p.93).
ShelfmarkBdg.m.156
Reference SourcesGaskell 688
Acquired on10/06/04
TitleGenuine copy of a letter from a merchant in Stockholm to his correspondent in London. Containing an impartial account of Doctor Alexander Blackwell, his plot, trial, character, and behaviour, both under examination, and at the place of execution
ImprintLondon
Date of Publication1747
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis rare and probably spurious pamphlet, describes the involvement of 'Doctor' Blackwell in the machinations of Swedish politics in the 1740s. It also contains a scaffold speech, which seems also to be a fabrication. Sweden was divided between a dominant French and a smaller English faction. The pamphlet, written ostensibly by a supporter of Blackwell's, describes the sequence of events leading to his execution. Blackwell 'a petty doctor of physick' was accused of plotting to poison the heir in an effort to alter the succession to the Swedish crown. If the alleged plot had succeeded the Duke of Cumberland would have ascended the throne. The unfortunate doctor 'endured for several days the torture of the pill with great resolution and constancy of mind, but upon the rack he confessed some intercourse with foreign courts'. He managed to put his head on the wrong side of the executioner's block, remarking that 'it was the first experiment he had made in that way'. Blackwell was born in Aberdeen, and studied medicine at the University of Leyden, though it is doubtful if he ever completed his degree. He spent some time in the Hague and Sweden before working as a printer in Aberdeen and London. On becoming bankrupt in 1730 he spent two years in a debtors prison. Blackwell also worked for the Duke of Chandos as director of his agricultural improvements at Canons, Middlesex and published a pamphlet on 'A new method of improving cold, wet and barren lands' in 1741. He collaborated with his wife Elizabeth in producing 'A curious herbal' in two volumes in 1737. Clearly, a man of many parts, Blackwell was employed as a physician by the Swedish king and involved himself in further agricultural projects in Sweden prior to his demise.
ShelfmarkAB.2.201.01
Acquired on05/10/00
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