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 751 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Important Acquisitions 286 to 300 of 751:
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|Title||Genuine 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|
|Date of Publication||1747|
|Notes||This 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.|
|Imprint||6 vols., Edinburgh: for William Coke|
|Date of Publication||1777|
|Notes||This is a fine set of an interesting edition of William Whiston's translation of the works of Josephus. Whiston's famous translation of the Jewish historian's writings had its first Scottish publication in Scotland in 1777. There seem to have been two issues; the Library already has a copy of the issue printed for Alexander Donaldson. (VV.1/2). ESTC N64882 records only one copy of the issue printed for the Leith bookseller William Coke, which is at the University of Texas. According to SBTI, William Coke had fomerly been Alexander Donaldson's clerk, and was a witness in the case of Donaldson v John Reid in 1767. All six volumes are bound in contemporary polished calf; each spine has raised bands between gilt rules and a red morocco label, gilt lettered. Each volume has the attractive armorial bookplate of Thomas Lowndes.|
|Author||Wurtisen, Christian (editor)|
|Title||Germaniae historicorum illustrium|
|Imprint||Frankfurt: apud heredes Andreae Wecheli|
|Date of Publication||1585|
|Notes||This intricate and elaborate early 17th century Scottish binding (c.1620-1630) has an interesting history. It is part of a well-known set of early blind-stamped Scottish bindings produced for Sir Thomas Henryson, (or Henrison) Lord Chesters, who was knighted and appointed as an Ordinary Lord of Session, in 1622. The armorial stamp, with the initials 'MTH' on the covers is an early state - the later stamps had an 'S' added, presumably to indicate 'Sir'.
About a century and a half (circa 1778) after the book was first bound, the doyen of Scottish binders, James Scott was commissioned by William John Kerr, 5th Marquess of Lothian, to relabel and embellish with gilt tooling the spines of about 400 volumes in the family library at Newbattle Abbey. It is probable because of the volume of books involved that Scott worked in situ at Newbattle. The book remained in the Lothian family until 1951 and subsequently was sold by Christies and Maggs (twice) and for a few years it was in the collection of J.R. Abbey.|
|Title||Glimpses of China: a series of Vandyck photogravures illustrating Chinese life and surroundings.|
|Imprint||Shanghai: A.S. Watson & Co.,|
|Date of Publication||[c. 1920]|
|Notes||This is a welcome addition to the Library's holdings of photographically illustrated books on the Far East. Not much is known about the early years of Donald Mennie (d. 1941), the photographer who produced this book. He appears to have been of Scottish origin, later becoming an American citizen. He arrived in China in 1899 and worked initially for the firm Mactavish & Lehman & Co., one of the first producers of picture post-cards of Shanghai, before moving to the Shanghai-based company of A.S. Watson & Co. Watson's had been founded by a Scot in 1828, as a chemists and druggists, and had branched out into wine and spirits and photographic services (the firm still exists to this day as the largest health and beauty retailer in the world). Mennie became a managing director of the firm and a leading entrepreneur in China in 1920s and 30s, but he also had a passion for photography. He was able to use his position in Watson's to get his photographs published, being best known for his books "The pageant of Peking" (1920) and "The grandeur of the Gorges" (1926). Both of them were expensively produced, with handsome bindings, and with hand-coloured photogravures in the pictorialist style. Mennie specialised in depicting the faded grandeur of imperial China and the eye-catching landscapes of China's gardens, rivers and mountains. "Glimpses of China", while still using the same photogravure process, is a more modest affair. Produced in oblong quarto format, with plain cloth covers, it is possibly an early work by Mennie or a spin-off from "The pageant of Peking". Of particular interest are the street scenes of ordinary Chinese people which are reminiscent of the street-photography of the early Scottish photographic pioneer in the Far East, John Thomson.|
|Reference Sources||Worswick & Spence, "Imperial China: photographs 1850-1912" (London: Scolar Press, 1979)|
|Author||Coultershoggle, Mungo (pseud.)|
|Imprint||New York: Collins & Hannay et al|
|Date of Publication||1825|
|Notes||This is an extraordinary acquisition, a two-volume novel published in America which has most of the dialogue in Scots. The work is extremely rare and the British Library only has a microfilm. This presumably explains why it seems to have escaped critical and literary recognition.
The unknown pseudonymous writer also wrote 'Leslie Linkfield' (1826). It seems overwhelmingly likely that he was a Scottish emigrant; the descriptions of the Scottish countryside, and the dialogue, could hardly have been written by someone who had not spent many years in Scotland. The plot is rather reminiscent of Scott's 'Redgauntlet': a naïve youth comes to discover that he is the heir of a powerful aristocratic family, which had fought for the Jacobites. The preposterously-named Goslington Shadow emerges as a hero and lover of noble blood.
In terms of literary constuction, this novel is most curious. The narrator adopts a high prose style in flowery English, full of sentimental reflections on landscape, rather like Gothic writers like Mrs. Radcliffe. The tone is frequently knowing and ironic, which can make it an irritating text to read. When the characters speak, however, the language used is serious Scots, and hard to read for a non-native speaker. The plot develops in the most meandering way, introducing numerous picaresque figures whose relevance is rarely immediately clear. I would conjecture that this novel was received in New York in 1825 with utter bafflement.
This novel would repay serious study. It seems to me that this is a major attempt at literary innovation, of real significance in the development of Scottish literature. The result is certainly not an unqualified success. Some passages are wonderful and horrible stylistic failures, so bad as to be rather good. Yet the overall wit and intelligence of the writer shine through (see, for example, the debate over the reading of 'Paradise Lost' towards the end of vol. 1). Certainly, compared to some of the examples of 'Scottish literature' currently in print, 'Goslington Shadow' has much to recommend it.|
|Title||Gospel of wealth.|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||'The gospel of wealth' was first published as a pair of articles - 'Wealth' and 'The best fields for philanthropy' in the 'North American Review' in 1889. W.T. Stead, better known subsequently as editor of 'The books for the bairns' re-titled the first article 'The gospel of wealth' when it was reprinted in the 'Pall Mall Gazette' in 1890. Ten years later, Carnegie had published his most famous work, a collection of magazine articles, under the title 'The gospel of wealth'.
In the first article, Carnegie, the Dunfermline-born philanthropist, addresses the question of the administration and disposal of wealth, concluding with the then novel idea that the rich man should give away his fortune while he is still alive and asserting that 'the man who dies ...rich, dies disgraced'. W.E. Gladstone was one of a number of prominent individuals, who praised this article and urged its wide circulation in Britain. The erstwhile Prime Minister did have some reservations about 'The best fields for philanthropy', in which Carnegie listed the best ways in which millionaires should dispose of their largesse --establishing universities, libraries, hospitals and financing public parks, swimming baths, concert halls and churches.
This is a presentation copy from the author to Cardinal Henry Manning, which forms part of a diverse collection of sixteen pamphlets on socialism and 'labour' in general published worldwide between 1873 and 1891. Manning was well known as a champion of the poor and in 1889 had played a major role in mediating between the opposing factions in the London Dock Strike. In dealing with the problem of the abuse of money and power, in an article entitled 'Irresponsible wealth' published in the 'Nineteenth century' in December 1890, Manning was indirectly criticising Carnegie's Darwinian approach to economics.|
|Title||Gray's annual directory and Edinburgh almanac|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: [printed by Andrew Shortrede for] John Gray|
|Date of Publication||1836|
|Notes||Directories are a very important resource for anyone wanting to track down a particular person known to have lived in a town at a certain time. This volume consists of an almanac, with information for the year ahead such as tide times, followed by a street directory and a list of Edinburgh inhabitants in alphabetical order, with addresses. The map is unfortunately missing, but it is still easy to use this directory to find out where someone lived in 1836. Various curious advertisements follow the main text, including one for 'Improvements in hats' ('It must be obvious to every one that a hard heavy hat is not only disagreeable to the head, but that it also prevents the free egress of the heated air arising therefrom, thus keeping the head in a perpetual stew, and causing headache, loss or injury to the hair, &c.') The directory was clearly aimed at professionals and tradespeople.
This particular copy is signed on the title-page by 'John Murray Jun.' and dated 1847. This is presumably John Murray III, the famous publisher.|
|Title||[Greenock Library catalogues].|
|Date of Publication||[1808-1820]|
|Notes||This bound volume containing 8 catalogues and supplements to the catalogues of the subscription library at Greenock (known today as the Watt Library) is an important addition to the Library's holdings of material relating to library history in Scotland. The catalogue comes from the family library of James Watt (1736-1819) the engineer and includes a note in Watt's hand preceding the supplement for 1815.
The library was established in 1783 when a number of gentlemen organized a library 'to save themselves the expence of purchasing many books, and to avert the fatal effects which are sometimes occasioned by circulating libraries'. What these 'fatal effects' were is a moot point, but the subscription libraries, were, in contrast to the circulating libraries, organized on a not-for-profit basis.
Watt, born in Greenock and educated at the Grammar School there, lived in the town until he was 18, when he left to go to Glasgow (and later London) to to become an apprentice to a mathematical instrument maker. In spite of the fact that he lived and worked in Birmingham from 1773, Watt retained his links with the west of Scotland throughout his life, with frequent holidays in Glasgow and Greenock as well as overseeing a new harbour in his home town.
After he retired from his firm Boulton & Watt in 1800, he continued to demonstrate his interest in Greenock, mainly as a subscriber to the library. In 1816 he gave the library the princely sume of £100 'to fom the beginning of a scientific library, for the instruction of the youth of Greenock' . By 1818, when Watt was on the 'Committee of the Greenock Library of Arts and Sciences' there were three parts to the library - arts and sciences, foreign books (from 1807 - mainly French) and the general library. In the 1812 supplementary catalogue, there is even a list of books in the juvenile library. In addition to the subscribers, scholars in the Mathematical school and 'any other respectable inhabitant' of Greenock could have access to the books relating to the 'arts and sciences'.
Catalogues also on microfilm at Mf.51(7)|
|Reference Sources||Kaufman, P. 'The rise of community libraries in Scotland', p.254 in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America vol.59, 1965.
Kelso, William. The James Watt story. Greenock, 1997.
|Title||Greenock news-clout, no.31|
|Imprint||Greenock: John Lennox|
|Date of Publication||28 September 1850|
|Notes||This is the only known copy of this issue of a short-lived but remarkable Greenock newspaper, which was printed on calico - a coarse and light-weight form of cotton. The Watt Library in Greenock holds 5 other issues - all printed on the same material - dating from 1849-1850. According to the masthead this title was a successor to the 'Young Greenock',' Aurora' and 'Quilp's Budget'. These titles have not been traced. The masthead goes on to state that these titles were declared in January 1849 by the Solicitor of Stamps to be illegal. The printer/publisher John Lennox was summoned before the Court of the Exchequer, fined £100 and forced to pay the expenses of the case. Lennox had for a long time been a campaigner against this 'tax on knowledge' and it appears that he was not prosecuted for printing on calico. The printer and 'News-clout' were even mentioned in Parliament during a debate on the newspaper tax in March 1850.
In order to circumvent the tax on newspapers (which saw the newspapers carry a red stamp showing the amount of tax levied), the publisher John Lennox decided to print this newspaper on calico. The contents of the paper itself are unremarkable reports of municipal election and court cases, letters on the Episcopal Church, advertisements and articles on female franchise and second sight.
Lennox had been a newsagent in Dumbarton around 1822. He printed the 'Dumbarton Argus' from 1832 until 1834 and printed a number of monthly periodicals in Greenock additional to those mentioned above (The Second Precursor, Sam Slick, and The Ventilator) in the 1840s. He died in 1853 aged 59. Monthly papers were not subject to the tax, so publishers like Lennox published papers weekly, though using a different title every week to evade the tax. The tax on newspaper which had been enacted in 1712 was abolished in 1855.|
|Reference Sources||William Stewart. John Lennox and the 'Greenock Newsclout' a fight against the taxes on knowledge. Glasgow, 1918
|Title||Guide to Edinburgh Air Raid Shelters.
|Imprint||Published by C.J. Cousland & Sons Limited. Creative Modern Printers, 30 Queen Street., Edinburgh. |
|Date of Publication||194-?|
|Notes||The front wrapper features a photograph of people emerging from a shelter on the edge of Princes Street Gardens. Other photographs feature firemen in wartime helmets, and nurses at a first aid post. There are also seven pages of maps depicting the locations of the shelters in central Edinburgh.
The book begins with a foreword by John Falconis, the Chief Air Raid Warden, in which he gives advice on what to do in the event of an air raid. He presents useful information on how to deal with mustard gas liquid on the skin, and the nature of incendiary bombs. He also imparts psychological advice: 'Wars are won by successfully exploiting fear.'; 'Air raids are not planned to cause civilian casualties; they create mental apprehension, suspense and distress; they lower morale; they disorganise national work ...'
The advertisements are excellent, and include: a builder offering to bring peoples air raid precautions to completion; Redpath Brown & Co. Ltd. of Edinburgh, have an illustration of people in one of their shelters; 'Saved again! Duncan's nut milk chocolate ... always keep some handy for real inward protection, proof against hunger and nerves'. Other adverts include children's games from Jenners, gas masks, and air raid protection equipment.
|Title||Hai tou Aischulou Choephoroi. Aeschyli Choephoroe. [Aeschylus: Choephori]|
|Imprint||Glasguae: Excudebat Andreas Foulis, M.DCC.LXXVII.|
|Date of Publication||1777 [?]|
|Language||Greek and Latin|
|Notes||One of three additions to the Library's Foulis Press holdings.
Andrew Foulis published two editions of Aeschylus' Choephorae in 1777, each with parallel texts of a Greek and Latin translation. The LIbrary already has a copy of the quarto setting of one edition (Gaskell 608, shelfmark NE.732.f.3). This is a copy of the far less common edition (Gaskell 608a, 2nd ed.), apparently unrecorded by ESTC and previously known only from a copy in private hands [which may or may not be this one].
There seems to be a bibliographical mystery about the date of this edition, according to a note by Robert Donaldson dated 1982 in the Library's marked-up copy of the 1st edition of Gaskell. He dates the paper of this edition to 1794, and says it has the same setting as the text of Choephori in the editions of Aeschylus: Tragoediae published by Foulis in 1796 and 1802 (Gaskell 702), and is therefore printed from the same standing type or stereo plates. There seems no explanation for why this text might have been issued separately with a false 1777 date, and copies of all the relevant editions would need to be collated before any conclusions could be reached.
This copy is bound with the edition of Longinus: On the Sublime (Greek and Latin text) published by Foulis in 1790, in what looks like the original binding (which might confirm the later date of publication). The stamp of the Royal School Edinburgh is on the back cover. Along with this item, the Library acquired a copy of John Gay: Poems on Several Occasions (Gaskell 506). The Library has a copy of the variant described on p. 438 of Gaskell, 2nd ed (shelfmark Hall.195.b); this new acquisition accords with the description of the edition on p. 295.|
|Reference Sources||Gaskell: Foulis Press bibliography (both editions)|
|Author||Scott, Sir Walter|
|Title||Halidon Hill. En dramatisk Skildring ven Sir Walter Scott, Baronet. Oversat af K. L. Rahbek|
|Imprint||Copenhagen: Forlagt af C.A. Reitzel|
|Date of Publication||1822|
|Notes||This is the first Danish translation of Scott's 'dramatic sketch' Halidon Hill, by the celebrated Danish man of letters Knud Lyne Rahbek (1760-1830). It is a rare item: no other copies are listed in COPAC or OCLC. Rahbek had published the first Danish translations from Scott in 1817, three years after the war between Britain and Denmark was concluded; this translation appeared in the same year that Halidon Hill was first published in Britain. Rahbek presented a copy of this work to Scott, which is listed in the Abbotsford Library Catalogue. Earlier the same year, he had presented a copy of a collection of Danish ballads to Scott, who replied (probably out of politeness) that he really should learn such an interesting language. In his periodical Tilsueren, Rahbek writes of this correspondence and says that he will send this translation of Halidon Hill to Scott 'as a primer of Danish'. One doubts whether Scott did indeed take advantage of this gift to improve his Danish. This copy is in the original publisher's wrapper, with an inscription in Danish on the front cover. Surviving correspondence between Rahbek and Scott can be viewed in NLS MS.3894, ff. 197-98 (Rahbek's letter to Scott) and NLS MS.85 (photostat of Scott's reply, presented by the Royal Library of Denmark which holds the original). |
|Reference Sources||Bookseller's catalogue; Millgate Union Catalogue of Walter Scott Correspondence; The Reception of Sir Walter Scott in Europe, ed. Murray Pittock (London, 2006); Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. H. Grierson, vol. 7.|
|Author||Sartorious von Waltershausen, Georg Friedrich Christoph|
|Title||Handbok for Statshallningen efter Adam Smiths Grundsattser|
|Date of Publication||1800|
|Notes||The first Swedish translation of Georg Sartorius's abridgement of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations for use in Universities. NLS has the German edition which was published in Berlin in 1796. Sartorius (1766-1828) was one of the first German academics to realise the significance of Smith's system, and this abridgement was clearly for use 'in academic lectures'. Prior to this publication, Smith's work had only been available in Swedish in excerpts. The text was translated from German into Swedish by Johan Holmbergsson (1764-1840). It was this translation that led to a complete assessment of Smith's work.
The copy is uncut in original plain wrappers.
See also Christian Garve's (1742-1798) German translation of the Wealth of Nations: we bought the second edition recently.|
|Title||Handbuch der Staatswirthschaft: zum Gebrauche bey akademischen Vorlesungen, nach Adam Smith's Grundsatzen.|
|Imprint||Berlin: Bey Johann Friedrich Unger.|
|Date of Publication||1796|
|Notes||Early synopsis of Smith's 'Wealth of nations' for use at universities. Sartorius, a professor at Gottingen University, was the first to introduce the teaching of Adam Smith at a German university. Here he presents his outline of Smith's work, with the addition of his own critical and practical remarks.|
|Title||Health and Strength|
|Imprint||[London:: Charles Atlas Ltd.]|
|Date of Publication||[c. 1948]|
|Notes||Charles Atlas (originally named Angelo Siciliano) arrived in the USA as an immigrant from Italy in the early 1900s. He became a devoted body-builder in his youth devising a system of exercises, later referred to as dynamic tension, to build the perfect body. He developed his own muscle-building business in the 1920s, which had an extremely effective advertising campaign directed at 7-stone weaklings who had sand kicked in their faces at the beach. By the late 1930s his mail order course "Health and Strength", which covered dynamic tension and a healthy lifestyle, had become a global success. Subscribers signed to up to get a series of booklets which covered 12 lessons and a supplement on 'perpetual daily exercise'. His firm, Charles Atlas Ltd., had offices around the world, including London. This is a very well-preserved example of Atlas's mail order course which was produced, specifically for British users, in the late 1940s. |