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 727 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 31 to 45 of 727:
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|Title||History of the horrid and unnatural murders, lately committed by John Smith in the parish of Roseneath, and shire of Dumbarton|
|Date of Publication||1727|
|Notes||This is an 8-page pamphlet bearing the stamp of the Birmingham Law Society. No bibliographic record for it can be found in ESTC or in other bibliographic databases. It details the pathetic life of John Smith who was hung in 1727 at the age of 29 for the murder of both his sister and his wife. He was born in Greenock and had an early prosperous career running clandestine goods to Ireland. He later left this for the more honest life of a tenant farmer on land adjacent to that owned by his step-father John Campbell. Campbell was an honest and prosperous gentleman who had married Smith's mother upon the death of her husband, John's father.
In order to secure a more prosperous and secure future, Smith proposed to marry John Campbell's daughter Margaret. He anticipated inheriting a portion of Campbell's estate, as Campbell had no children by his mother. The marriage took place even though Smith had been secretly courting a young woman called Janet Wilson. Smith and Janet Wilson kept up a clandestine correspondence during Smith's marriage and Smith also made promises to Janet Wilson that if his wife were dead he would surely marry her. He had also promised Janet Smith the sum of 1000 merks if she would refuse to marry a particular suitor.
Smith's financial situation became such that he could not give the 1000 merks to Janet Wilson as promised and so he murdered his sister Katherine in order that the bulk of Campbell's estate would revert to himself. About a year later Smith murdered his wife Margaret so that he could then keep his promise of marriage to Janet Wilson. Smith later confessed to the murders as suspicions mounted against him and he was hung in Dumbarton on the 20th of January 1727.|
|Reference Sources||Not in ESTC|
|Title||Information for Ross of Auchlossin, against the possessors of the Temple-lands.|
|Date of Publication||1706?|
|Notes||This is a most curious document discussing the order of the Knights Templar in Scottish history, of which no other copies can be traced. The text is known from its appearance in 'Templaria', 1828 (shelfmark H.30.c.26): this edition seems to have used the copy we have just acquired, as the 1828 editor notes that the last page seems to be missing a few words of text. In 1828 it was stated that no other copies were known.
A dispute between Robert Ross of Auchlossin and his tenants on lands formerly held by the Templars led to the production of this document. It traces the fortunes of the order, in order to make the case that the Templars were not a religious order, and that therefore their lands were not directly annexed to the crown after the Reformation in 1587. The Lords of Session agreed that Auchlossin's case was correct.
This is a striking example of early Scottish interest in the medieval religious order, often associated with Freemasonry.
The conjectural date of 1706 is taken from a manuscript annotation on the first page.|
|Reference Sources||Fountainhall, 'Decisions', v. 2, 1761, shelfmark Nha.L74, pp. 94-5|
|Title||Holy Bible [with Psalms, 1726]|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: b. John Baskett|
|Date of Publication||1726|
|Notes||This is a binding of black goatskin, gilt tooled all over in the distinctive eighteenth-century Scottish style, with border rolls, a central panel, and various 'herring-bone' designs radiating like spokes from the centre. The spine is tooled to a saltire design, the turn-ins and board edges are also tooled, and there are gilt endpapers signed 'Apolonia Maiestderin', possibly the name of the German workshop where they were manufactured. Inside the front board is a leather label indicating that the book was a wedding present on the marriage of Sarah Thomson to Robert Cross in Glasgow in 1738. Manuscript notes record the fortunes of Sarah's family.
Eighteenth-century Scotland made a unique contribution to the art of book-binding through the development of the 'wheel' and 'herring-bone' bindings. This large, elegant and balanced binding in excellent condition contains design elements from both styles. In terms of the overall aesthetic quality, nothing equivalent is to be found in our existing binding collections. There are also individual tools which we have not been able to trace elsewhere, such as that used to make the 'filling' of the half-pear shapes. The sheer variety of tools used is extraordinary: stars, flowers, roundels, leaves and spear-heads. This acquisition will be central to our binding collections as an example of Scottish work at its very best.
We have a copy of this edition at Bdg.m.46, which is also heavily tooled, although there are no notable tools in common. A variant of this edition recorded in Maggs 1212, no. 92, shows some of the same spine tools and the overall design is comparable.
Tools found on bindings we already have:
The floral tool used to make the 'bones' of the central and radiating herring-bone patterns, and the tool which makes the 'spear-point' at the head of the herring-bone pattern, are also found in Ry.II.d.31 (Historical and Genealogical Essay, Glasgow, 1723). The 'spear-point' tool and some of the spine tools are also found on Bdg.s.584 (Bible, Oxford, 1729). The roll forming the border of the central panel is found on NG.1534.c.16 (Phaedrus, London, 1745). The outer roll of the border at the edge of the covers, as well as some spine tools, is found on Bdg.s.759 (Bible, London, 1735).
Tools not found elsewhere:
The 'filling' of the half-pear shapes.
The six floral / herring-bone patterns with curved lines.
The two horizontal herring-bone patterns, at either side of the central panel.
No other examples of this design or these tools have been found in Davis, Sommerlad, Nixon, or in the digital library, or in our bindings files.
A generous contribution of £500.00 towards the cost was received from the Friends of the National Libraries.|
|Reference Sources||Maggs catalogue 1075 / 1212
Henry Davis Gift
Sommerlad, Scottish 'wheel' and 'herring-bone' bindings in the Bodleian Library
Nixon, Five centuries of English bookbinding|
|Title||Edinburgh Calotype Club Album, Volume 1|
|Date of Publication||c. 1848|
|Notes||By an extraordinary sequence of events, the Library, in partnership with Edinburgh City Council, purchased the 'lost' Edinburgh Calotype Album at auction on 12 December 2001. The sister album (volume 2) was acquired by Edinburgh Central Library in 1952. Having the output of the club, acknowledged as the first photographic society in the world, reunited in Edinburgh is a remarkable coup. The Edinburgh Calotype Club was formed in the early 1840s after a group of Edinburgh gentlemen, mostly advocates, doctors and academics, were introduced to the process by Sir David Brewster (1781-1868). The photographs in the album are a mixture of portraits, landscapes, buildings and sculptures, most of them showing locations in Scotland such as Edinburgh, Newhaven, St Andrews, Fairlie and Inverness. These invaluable images enable the researcher to discover a wealth of information about Scotland and its people in the mid-19th Century. As part of the project, both albums have been digitised and mounted on a specially designed website www.nls.uk/pencilsoflight to enable the widest possible access to this resource.
The project received financial support from:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
The National Art Collections Fund
The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust
Edinburgh City Council
|Title||Newcastle Courant, giving an account of the most material occurrences, both foreign and domestick.|
|Imprint||Newcastle upon Tyne: printed and sold by John White|
|Date of Publication||1716|
|Notes||This bound volume contains of 20 of the tri-weekly issues of the Newcastle Courant for 1716. It brings together news of British affairs from places such as Gibraltar, Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris, Venice, Malta, Petersburg, Warsaw, London and Edinburgh. For instance, one news item reports the drowning at sea in a storm of the chief of Clanranald and 20 of his followers on 1 March.
The Newcastle Courant is particularly interesting for its coverage of events relating to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 and its aftermath. It has numerous reports of executions, such as the "decollation" of the Jacobite rebels the Earl of Derwentwater and the Lord Viscount Kenmure on 25 February 1716. The escape via Caithness and Kirkwall to Sweden of 120 rebels, among them Lord Duffus, Sir George Stirling of Sinclair and Keith Seaton of Touch, appeared on 3 March. A journal of the proceedings of captured rebels from Edinburgh to London, written by a Scots prisoner in the Marshal Sea, was published in instalments.
ESTC records 9 holdings of the Newcastle Courant in Britain, but none in Scotland.|
|Title||Weekly miscellany [of instruction and entertainment]|
|Imprint||Glasgow: William Bell|
|Date of Publication||1791|
|Notes||The Weekly Miscellany was published from 1789-1792, but few copies of its later years seem to survive. The NLS already has No. 1 (25th June 1789)-no. 26 (16th Dec. 1789) (NG.1588.b.5); this is a rare copy of the issues for 1791: No. 85 (2nd Feb) to No. 131 (21st Dec). The journal contains articles covering a wide range of subjects - contemporary politics, the anti-slavery debate, and historical articles are mixed with essays, poetry and fiction. While the subjects are world-ranging, there is a special interest in Scottish affairs, such as recollections of the Jacobite rebellion (including an 'Imitation of Psalm CXXVII. by a Scots Gentleman upon his arrival in France, summer 1746' (p. 142). More notably, this particular volume contains what is probably the first appearance in print of Robert Burns' poem 'Written in Friars Carse Hermitage' (p. 382, 31 Nov 1791). (Certainly it is the first surviving appearance, though Egerer conjectures that this poem may have been printed in 1789). It also contains Burns' Address to the Shade of Thomson (p.319, 2 Nov 1791), which had already appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser.
This particular copy is not perfect, lacking some numbers and with some torn pages, but these imperfections are greatly outweighed by the rarity of the volume.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC P2351
J.W. Egerer: A bibliography of Robert Burns. London, 1964. Item 1260, p.344. (Friars Carse)
Item 24, p. 37 (Thomson)|
|Title||[Pamphlets relating to Nova Scotia, 1830s]|
|Date of Publication||[1830s]|
|Notes||A most interesting collection of pamphlets, manuscript letters, maps and newspaper cuttings relating to the claims of one Alexander Humphrys that he was the legitimate Earl of Stirling, with extensive rights in Nova Scotia and Canada. These rights had first been granted to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie in 1621, who died without recognised male heirs. Alexander Humphrys attempted to claim the title in the 1830s, offering to create people baronets of Nova Scotia (for a fee). His lawyer, Thomas Banks, helped to prepare extensive documentation for the court cases which followed, and may well have prepared this very volume. The DNB gives an amusing account of Banks's attempts to further all kinds of spurious peerage claims. The Humphrys claim was ignominiously dismissed in 1839. Most of these items, particularly the ephemera, are not held by NLS, and as a collection this is a most valuable resource for anyone investigating the case. The maps, showing the extent of Humphrys' claims to vast tracts of North America, give a good indication of the ambition and imagination behind this audacious scheme.|
|Title||Edinburgh the twenty day of May|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: by John Moncur|
|Date of Publication||1726|
|Notes||This broadside announces the annual Edinburgh archery competition, founded in 1709, for which the prize was a silver arrow. The contest was to take place at Leith Links, in July 1726. Only members of the Royal Company of Archers, a patriotic society with strong Jacobite leanings, were eligible to take part. The winner was to keep the silver arrow for a year, and have his badge fixed to it with the badges of previous winners. When he returned the arrow at the end of that year, he was to receive five pounds. It seems that John Earl of Wigtown was the winner in 1726.
The woodcut headpiece shows the arms and motto of the City of Edinburgh, with the doe and maiden supporters (but not the coronet and anchor). Together with the large historiated initial, this adds to the attraction of a most interesting single-sheet item. Only one other copy of this broadside has been traced.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC T32423
Old Leith at leisure, James Scott Marshall (1976) HP1.77.865
Sports and pastimes of Cotland, Fittis (1975). H2.88.473|
|Title||New history of the city of Edinburgh, from the earliest times to the present time|
|Date of Publication||1800|
|Notes||There are two different printings of this work in 1800: ESTC N20175 &T110293). The Library has two copies of T110293 but does not have a copy of N20175. Apparently Brown published an edition in 1790 and another in 1797, but these are not recorded in ESTC. The book presents an interesting history of the city starting with a general part tracing its origins back to the Picts and then moves onto to discuss the main features of building and topography: Parliament House, New Town, Register Office, The South Bridge, Palace of Holyrood House etc. Towards the end, the book contains a section of 'Lists and Regulations' which have in part been annotated by a contemporary hand. The 'Regulations for keeping the streets clean' for example are 'violated every day' with such as 'water, ashes 'thrown from the windows... [and] carpets shaked from the windows'.
Although not called for in ESTC, the present copy contains the fold-out map.
Further interesting ink notes on the front pastedown.|
|Title||New South Wales calendar and General Post Office Directory, 1836|
|Date of Publication||1835|
|Notes||This copy of the short-lived New South Wales calendar, published from 1832 to 1837 has an notweworthy Scottish provenance. The upper flyleaf has the signature of one Alexander Imlay (1801-1847), surgeon, landowner and speculator. He was one of a trio of Aberdeenshire brothers, all surgeons, who arrived in Sydney in the early 1830s, a time when the colonies were expanding beyond the south-east corner of the continent. In 1832 Alexander toured the southern coast with Governor Bourke and six years later made a pioneering journey in South Australia across the Mount Lofty Ranges to the Murray river. At the peak of their land speculation the Imlays owned some 1500 sq. miles of southern territory. They remained in the area and in 1839 Alexander, described by 'The South Australian' as an 'eminent and enterprising colonist' arrived in Adelaide with a cargo of cattle and sheep.
The volume contains some useful information about the development of the burgeoning colony in the 1830s. Included are 'regulations for the assignment of male convict servants' and a 'Report on the epidemic catarrh, or influenza, prevailing among the sheep in this colony' which resulted in the loss of 2,500 animals. There are also lists of ministers of the Church of Scotland, (p.325) and arrivals (some from Leith) and departures of ships in Sydney harbour (p. 378-p.397) The Post Office Directory at the back of the volume reveals many Scottish surnames, as well as a number of finely engraved advertisements.
During the period in which this calendar was published, the number of 'unassisted' immigrants from Scotland, mainly from the Lowlands, increased noticeably. Of the 110,000 assisted immigrants who arrived in Australia between 1832 and 1850, about 16,000 (14.5%) were Scots. Although Scots settled throughout the colonies, they tended to favour New South Wales (which then included Queensland and Victoria) as opposed to South Australia, Van Diemen's Land or Western Australia.|
|Title||Inaugural ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley ... Published under the patronage and by authority of the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council.|
|Imprint||Paisley: J & J. Cook|
|Date of Publication||1868|
|Notes||Folio, , 92
This limited, imperial edition of 40 copies was 'published by request of a few gentlemen who wished to have a special edition de luxe'. There was also an edition for the general public and a 'drawing room' edition for subscribers. The book is dedicated to Thomas Coats, a local cotton manufacturer, who purchased the grounds for £20,000 and donated them to the town of Paisley. The gardens were designed by the Glasgow landscape architect James Niven, former assistant to Joseph Paxton at Chatsworth, and the fountains were erected by George Smith & Co. of the Sun Foundry, Glasgow. The Coates Family is indelibly bound up in the industrial history of Paisley, through their domination of cotton manufacturing output with four large mills at each corner of the town. Following the Victorian spirit of charitable works, laced with a strong Baptist belief, they endowed many buildings and gardens in Paisley during their period of Economic hegemony including the construction of the largest Baptist church in Europe (Coates Memorial Church) and the Fountain Gardens.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid.|
|Date of Publication||1772|
|Notes||This is a handsome copy of an Edinburgh bible in a contemporary binding of straight-grained red leather, with elaborate gilt tooling which suggests the influence of James Scott. The central panel includes architectural motifs such as columns and urns, as well as birds and various items of foliage. This panel is enclosed by different border rolls; the board edges are tooled as well. The spine has a black leather title label and more tooling, including a laurel-crowned head, and a greek-key design which seems to be Scott's (see Loudon - Ro.19).
The binding is in good condition, the colours bright and clear.|
|Reference Sources||J. H. Loudon, 'James Scott and William Scott', 1980|
|Title||[Volume containing 25 items, mainly chapbooks, relating to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce]|
|Date of Publication||c.1800-1865|
|Notes||This volume, which formerly belonged to the poet Sydney Goodsir Smith, includes 21 chapbooks telling the tales of the exploits of Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce in prose, verse and song. These items date from 1801 to 1861 and include imprints from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Montrose, Dumfries, Kelso, Newcastle, London and Belfast. The publication and distribution of chapbooks in Scotland reached its height between 1775 and 1825. Subsequently the market for this kind of material was absorbed by commercial publishers, examples of whose output is contained in this volume.
With their simple wood-engravings and straightforward narratives, they would have been avidly read by children, at whom they were primarily aimed. It is interesting to note the similarities, and in some instances the exact copying of the text of the stories from one publisher to another.|
|Title||Third Part of the Bible ... Containing Five Excellent Books, Edinburgh: by Robert Young, 1637|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: by Robert Young, 1637|
|Date of Publication||1637|
|Notes||Bound with: The New Testament, London: Robert Barker & Assigns of John Bill, 1638; and: The whole booke of Psalmes, London: I. L[egat]. F. the Company of Stationers, 1640.
The first work in this volume is not found in STC, apparently an Edinburgh edition of STC 2334.5. Details: 24o, [288 pp.], sig. A-M12, slightly stained. Sig. H4 missigned G2. The two following works are STC 2954.3 and STC 2698. The main interest of this volume is, however, the elaborate embroidered binding. The design on front and rear boards is a silver wirework crown above a lily executed in green, pink and gold silks, enclosed within an oval surrounded by foliage. The spine is heavily decorated with formal designs of foliage within six panels. The binding has been restored by a V&A conservator and remounted; the new pink silk ties are dyed to match the originals. The page edges are gilt; the endpapers are Old Dutch marbled. See Cyril Davenport, English Embroidered Bookbindings, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & co., 1899, p. 2. for the claim that embroidered binding is a particularly English art. Davenport provides several useful photographs of seventeenth-century embroidered Bibles and Psalms in chapter IV, 'Books bound in Satin', pp. -110. This acquisition complements the library's existing holdings of embroidered Bibles printed in Scotland, such as the 1626 Aberdeen Psalms at PDP.10/18, the 1638 Edinburgh Bible at Cwn.483 and the fine 1646 Edinburgh Bible at Bdg.m.73.|
|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.|