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 735 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 406 to 420 of 735:
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|Title||A narrative of an unfortunate voyage to the coast of Africa.|
|Date of Publication||1813|
|Notes||This remarkable book was written by Thomas Smith, a sailor from Arbroath. It tells of his adventures on board a number of slave ships in the 1760s. At first he got a place on board the Ann Galley in London, not realizing the nature of the journey. When the ship arrived off the West African (Guinea) coast, the captain purchased 140 slaves. However, the ship was taken over by the captives and Smith made his way on another slave ship to the West Indies. Destitute and ill he eventually returned across the Atlantic to Amsterdam and later back home to Arbroath.
No other copy of this work has been traced, but it appears to be a genuine account of life on board slave ships in the mid-18th century. The Board of Trade and Lloyds of London recorded the loss of the Ann Galley as a result of a slave insurrection in November 1762. No other account of this adventure has been published and until now naval and slavery historians have been unaware of it. It may be that it was published as a form of anti-slavery propaganda. The author ends his narrative with some 'Remarks on the slave trade' and mentions how he was asked by supporters of the anti-slavery crusader, William Wilberforce, to provide them with information on the buying and selling of slaves.
At the beginning of the work the editor apologises for the 'rude and rustic state of the copy'. It seems that the author was in poor health and couldn't assist the editor - 'a poor scholar' - to produce a better work. The book also carries an inscription (dated April 1904) on the front pastedown from Caroline Frazer of Dublin, granddaughter of John Findlay, Arbroath's first printer and publisher'.
|Title||The last speech, confession and dying declaration of Robert Watt, wine merchant in Edinburgh ...; A full true and particular account of the most dreadful apparition. Of Robert Watt wine-merchant in Edinr, who appeared to James Macdonald plaisterer in Lieth-walk [sic] ...|
|Date of Publication||1794|
|Notes||These broadsides relate to Robert Watt who was executed in Edinburgh in October 1794 for high treason. Watt was a local wine merchant who, along with his associate David Downie (later reprieved), was tried for being a member of a seditious organisation - The Friends of the People - and for forming 'a distinct and deliberate plan to overturn the existing government of the country'. This organisation, inspired in part by recent events in France, had been formed in London in 1792 to campaign for parliamentary reform.
Watt, Downie and their fellow conspirators had put together quite detailed plans to take over public offices, storm Edinburgh Castle and seize the judiciary. The plotters also planned to send an address to King George III, commanding him to put an end to the war with France. Over 40 pikes had been made, though none were distributed.
These alarming projects were discussed by seven obscure individuals in Edinburgh of whom Watt, acting as a spy, was the leader, and David Downie, a mechanic, the treasurer. Two of the seven soon got 'cold feet' and four became witnesses for the crown.
One broadside contains Watt's last speech. Like many such works, it is unlikely to have been written by the criminal himself. It follows the usual pattern of pious expressions of repentance and appeals for forgiveness. Watt describes himself as 'uncommonly wicked as a boy', stating that he continued on the road to perdition when he went to London to attend plays and 'other places of virtuous amusement'.
At the end of the work the publisher A. Robertson advertises that he will be publishing an account of the trial of Watt for three pence.
The second work, of which no other copy has been traced, is somewhat more intriguing. James MacDonald, a plasterer, was coming back from Leith to Edinburgh when he encountered a ghostly figure with his head under his arm and accompanied by a black dog. This apparently was Watt. The incident took place just a few weeks after his execution. Watt is also supposed to have appeared to his co-conspirator David Downie.
|Reference Sources||Young, Alex F. The encyclopaedia of Scottish executions 1750 to 1963. (1998)|
|Author||Ebel, Johann Gottfried|
|Title||Anleitung auf die nützlichste und genussvollste Art in der Schweitz zu reisen.|
|Imprint||Zürich. Bey Orell, Gessner, Füssli und Compagnie.|
|Date of Publication||1793|
|Notes||This guide by Johann Ebel (1764-1830) is a rare first edition of one of the earliest and most famous handbooks for travellers in Switzerland.|
|Author||Gmelin, Johann Georg, (1709-1755)|
|Title||Voyage en Sibérie, contenant la description des moeurs & usages des peuples de ce pays, le cours des rivieres considérables, la situation des chaînes de montagnes, des grandes forêts, des mines, avec tous les faits d'histoire naturelle qui sont particuliers à cette contrée.|
|Imprint||A Paris, Desaint, Libraire, rue du foin Saint Jacques.|
|Date of Publication||1767|
|Notes||This is a French translation of a German edition of one of the earliest accounts of Bering's second voyage. It contains some of the earliest material on the discovery and exploration of the Bering Strait and Alaska.|
|Author||Ramsay, Andrew Michael|
|Title||Des Ritters Ramsay reisender Cyrus|
|Imprint||Hamburg: heirs of Thomas von Wiering|
|Date of Publication||1728|
|Notes||This is the first German edition of this important novel by a Scottish-born writer. Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743) was a philosopher and mystic who converted to Catholicism but continued to argue for the underlying unity of all religions. Spending much of his adult life in Paris, he served the exiled Jacobite court and befriended David Hume; he also gave hospitality to the Glasgow printers Andrew and Robert Foulis. In 1727 he published 'Les voyages de Cyrus', and an English translation entitled 'The travels of Cyrus'appeared the same year. Based on the life of the first Persian emperor known as Cyrus the Great, this work anticipates the development of the novel during the later 18th century. The hero travels around the Mediterranean, learning about religion and morality in preparation for becoming ruler over many nations.|
|Reference Sources||G. D. Henderson, 'Chevalier Ramsay', 1952|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black|
|Date of Publication||1882|
|Notes||This is a fine Scottish publisher's binding in red cloth, with the arms of Sir Walter Scott stamped in gilt on the front board. The black and gold decoration is striking and in good condition. Scott's initials are at the upper right of the front board, and at the foot of the board are various flowers and moths. The overall impression is striking. The Library has a copy of the text at SP.94, in a plain binding of polished calf.|
|Author||Macvicar, Symers Macdonald |
|Title||The distribution of hepaticae in Scotland|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This is an annotated proof copy of Macvicar's (1857-1932) work on Scottish non-vascular plants known as liverworts. The text is complete although there are no preliminaries. The inkstamp "Neill & Co. Edinburgh First Proof" appears on a number of pages and there are numerous manuscript corrections and annotations by Macvicar throughout the text. An inscription on the front pastedown indicates that the book was bound during Christmas 1945 and presented to Mr. A. D. Banwell by the bryologist P. W. Richards (b. 1908).|
|Author||Byron, George Gordon Byron|
|Imprint||Santpoort [Netherlands]: Mercator |
|Date of Publication||1985|
|Language||Dutch and English|
|Notes||The Chanson was originally written by Lord Byron (1788-1824) in Venice and sent to Thomas Moore in a letter dated 24 December 1816. It was first published posthumously in 1830.
The present edition was produced on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Netherlands Byron Genootschap. The poem is accompanied by a Dutch translation by Joop van Helmond and was hand-set in Garamond and printed on Zerkall-Bütten in October 1985. This is number 79 of a limited edition of 100 copies.
|Title||The essential principles of the wealth of nations.|
|Imprint||London: T. Cadell|
|Date of Publication||1797|
|Notes||This is one of the earliest critiques of Adam Smith's seminal economic text 'An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations' (1776). Gray criticises Smith's work on a number of counts: he accuses Smith of misinterpreting the French economists' viewpoint on labour and productivity. Gray maintained that the French had in fact recognised that not all the so-called unproductive classes were barren to the same degree. Gray also argued that Smith was wrong to state that the manufacturing industry alone was responsible for contributing to Britain's real national wealth, saying that agriculture was the only true source of wealth. There is some Scottish content in the form of the appendix, which consists of a general plan of a lease by Henry Home, Lord Kaimes, "with remarks upon it by Dr. Anderson in his agricultural report for the county of Aberdeen". Coincidentally, Kaimes was Smith's literary patron. Very little is known about John Gray to whom this work, published anonymously in 1797, is attributed. He may have lived from 1724-1811 - obituary notices in contemporary periodicals merely state that he died in May 1811 in his 88th year and that he had been one of the Commissioners of the Lottery. John Gray may have been assistant private secretary to the Duke of Northumberland in Ireland in 1763 and 1764 and 'An essay concerning the establishment of a national bank in Ireland' (1774) may have been written by him. The Library of Congress catalogue attributes to Gray 'The right of the British legislature to tax the American colonies' (1775). However, Palgrave's 'Dictionary of economics' attributes 'The essential principles' to Simon Gray (fl.1795-1840).|
|Reference Sources||The New Palgrave: a dictionary of economics, vol.II, 1987.
Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol.46, 1952, p.275-6.|
|Imprint||Glasgow: James Knox|
|Date of Publication||1764|
|Notes||This edition of Aesop's fables appears to be completely unrecorded. This is surprising as it is a rather attractive publication with numerous woodcuts. It is designed as an educational book: the words of the fables are broken up by hyphens, so that the beginner could read them a piece at a time. This does make the text look rather odd (for example, 'A Wea-sel run-ning in-to a bra-si-ers shop...'). Aesop's fables play an important part in Scottish culture. The fifteenth-century poet Robert Henryson did an excellent translation into Scots, and there are many other editions. This edition is particularly notable for the naive illustrations, which are more akin to those normally found in a chapbook.|
|Title||The Kings Maiesties speech|
|Imprint||London: Robert Barker|
|Date of Publication||1604|
|Notes||This is the speech which James I delivered to the House of Lords on 19 March 1604, the first day of the Parliament at Westminster, and indeed the first Parliament of his reign as King of Scotland and England.
This copy has the text printed in italic type. We also hold the issue in roman type at shelfmark 1.174(1). Curiously, both issues were published by Robert Barker in the same year. It could be surmised that there was such a high demand for copies of the speech that Barker had to print on two presses at the same time and decided to print different versions for the sake of variety. There are slight spelling differences between the two editions too.
The speech was certainly very popular and was published in Edinburgh as well as London.|
|Author||Byron, George Gordon|
|Title||Bruden Fran Abdyos. En Osterlandsk Berattelse i Tvanne Sanger, af Lord Byron|
|Imprint||Stockholm: Zacharias Haeggstrom|
|Date of Publication||1830|
|Notes||This is the first Swedish edition of Byron's dramatic poem The Bride of Abydos, one of his Turkish Tales. The poem first appeared in 1813, a tragic love-story which perhaps is founded on Byron's own love for his half-sister Augusta: in this tale, the lovers Zuleika and Selim are cousins, but were half-brother and sister in the original draft. This Swedish edition testifies to the popularity of even Byron's lesser-known poetry across continental Europe, and unusually survives in its original paper wrappers, complete with details of the price. No copy is recorded in COPAC.|
|Reference Sources||COPAC; Oxford Companion to English Literature|
|Author||Byron, George Gordon |
|Title||Correspondance de Lord Byron avec un ami.|
|Imprint||Paris: A. et W. Galignani|
|Date of Publication||1825|
|Notes||As the publishers of this work say, 'Everything concerning this great poet & cannot fail to excite the most lively interest'. R.C. Dallas' 'The Correspondence of Lord Byron' has a curious history. An author himself, Robert Dallas (1754-1824) was connected to Byron by marriage (his sister married Byron's uncle). The two corresponded in the early years of Byron's career, and Dallas had an editorial role in Byron's early poetry. In return Byron gave him the copyright to the first two cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and The Corsair, although later he seems to have dropped the personal and literary friendship. In possession of Byron's letters to his mother during his eastern travels, as well as of their own correspondence, Dallas prepared an edition of all these letters which he planned to publish after Byron's death in 1824. However Hobhouse and Hanson, Byron's executors and self-appointed keepers of his memory, took legal action to prevent its publication. Dallas died soon after, and his son published 'The Correspondence' in Paris in 1825: as the French publishers point out, the attempt to suppress the book only served to whet the public's appetite for it.
While the English edition of this book is well known, copies of this French translation are scarce (none are recorded in COPAC). The publishers state that they had originally obtained the French rights to the book and had intended to publish it at the same time as the English edition; their translation was delayed by the legal action, and now they are publishing the two at the same time. These two volumes therefore provide eloquent testimony both to Byron's continental popularity, and to the controversy he was still capable of arousing after his death.
|Author||Byron, George Gordon |
|Title||Lord Byron's saemmtliche lyrische Gedichte. Uebersetzt von Ernst Ortlepp.|
|Imprint||Stuttgart: Hoffman'sche Verlags-Buchhandlung.|
|Date of Publication||1839|
|Notes||This edition of the German poet Ernst Ortlepp's translations of Byron's lyric poems seems to be unrecorded in Byron bibliographies. Ortlepp produced the first complete translation of Byron's works into German, also published by Hoffman in 1839-40; this volume may have been incorporated into that edition. The copy is still in its original paper wrapper.|
|Title||A most delectable and true discourse of an admired and painefnll [sic] peregrination from Scotland, to the most famous kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica. |
|Imprint|| London. Printed by Nicholas Okes, dwelling in Foster-Lane.|
|Date of Publication||1623|
|Notes||This is the second edition of William Lithgow's account of his travels, covering much of the known world of his time. Lithgow (c.1582-1645) was born at Lanark, and had an unusual motivation for undertaking his travels: the brothers of a woman with whom he was involved attacked him and mutilated him. Legend has it that they cut off his ears, leading to the nickname 'Lugless Will', and he chose 'rather to seclude my selfe from my soyle ... then to have a quotidian occular inspection'. Lithgow's narratives are action-packed, including accounts of narrow escapes from torture and death. In spite of his wide travels, he retained a dislike of the Catholic and Muslim religions practiced in countries where he travelled, although he relished sights such as the Sphinx in Egypt and the architectural splendours of North Africa. Lithgow's first journey ended in 1612, and his first book was published two years later (with a reprint in 1616). This second edition adds the accounts of the two journeys he undertook afterwards. According to ESTC, this copy is the only one in Scotland.
Like its author, this book has travelled. It contains the bookplate of Howard Pease of Otterburn Tower, Northumberland, with an auction catalogue record and note to say that it was bought from the library of the collector S.R. Christie Miller at Britwell Court, sold in 1925. As acquired by the National Library, it came in a slipcase with the binder's stamp of W. Desmont & J. Macdonald Co. Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.A. - indicating a transatlantic voyage Lithgow himself never made.|
|Reference Sources||Bookseller's Catalogue, ESTC, New DNB|