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 721 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 436 to 450 of 721:
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|Title||Letter from Col. Alexander Beatson - containing remarks upon a paper lately printed; entitled "Observations relative to the island of St. Helena".|
|Imprint||St. Helena: Printed for Solomon and Company, by Coupland and Hill|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||A very rare imprint from the first commercial press to be established on the island of St. Helena, which was shortly to become famous as the last home of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Alexander Beatson (1759-1830) was a Dundonian who had served as an army officer in the East India Company, writing a famous account of the war against Tippoo Sultaun which was published in 1800. After returning to live in England, Beatson was appointed to the governorship of St. Helena, a post he held from 1808-13. The island, which belonged to the East India Company, was in a very poor state. The population had nearly been wiped out by a measles epidemic and the c. 3000 survivors, a mixture of English settlers, Africans and Chinese coolies, were living in wretched conditions. Beatson set about improving the island, publishing this pamphlet to correct the many errors he found in a tract by his predecessor Colonel Robert Patton. In it he gives a history of the island, of its mismanagement, his justification for his improvements, and alludes to recent difficulties, namely a garrison mutiny in 1811 which was largely brought about by the British authorities suppressing the islanders trade in arrack, a potent spirit made from palm trees.
Amongst the improvements carried out by Beatson was the introduction of a printing press, which, as can be seen of this pamphlet was rudimentary, but which enabled him to publish 4 tracts during his time as governor and to contribute to a local periodical, the "St. Helena Monthly Register". In recognition of his achievements on the island, Beatson was promoted to the post major-general in 1813, he returned back to England a few months later.|
|Author||Jong, Dirk de.|
|Title||Nieuwe Beschryving der Walvischvanst en haringvisschery.|
|Imprint||Amsterdam: Gert Jan Bestebreurtje|
|Date of Publication||1791|
|Notes||This is the second edition (first published 1784-86) of a classic work on Dutch whaling together with an article on a herring fishery. It contains accounts of whaling expeditions in Arctic Regions as well as descriptions of types of whales and other animals. Included are engraved plates depicting whaling and herring fishery scenes as well as a number of engraved maps and plates.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Alexander Alison|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This is an interesting piece of printed ephemera from mid-18th century Edinburgh. In Britain printed funeral invitations - called burial letters - are known from at least the late seventeenth century. Many, like this, exhort the reader to 'Memento mori' - remember that you must die. Usually printers would produce ready-printed non-specific invitations on which the name of the deceased and the time and place of the funeral would be entered by hand. Mr. Simson must have reasonably well-off to have been able to afford to have his invitations fully printed . These invitations were usually hand-delivered by servants or people specially employed for the task. In large burghs delivering such letters became a recognized occupation.
Woodcut invitations such as this tended to use stock narrative or allegorical compositions. The images - the grim reaper, the skull and crossbones, the cortege - relate not only to the death of the person in question but also as reminder of one's own mortality.
Little is known of David Simson apart from the fact that he was employed in the legal profession.
The Library holds another example of such woodcut imagery (without letterpress but in manuscript) at APS.el.150.|
|Reference Sources||Llewellyn, Nigel, The art of death. (London, V&A, 1991)
Hatches, matches and despatches: catalogue of exhibition held at General Register House 1996-97.
Gordon, Anne. Death is for the living. (Edinburgh, 1984)
|Title||Oeuvres de Platon|
|Date of Publication||1823-1846|
|Notes||This mixed edition of the standard French translation of Plato by Victor Cousin (1792-1867) belonged to Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), statesman and one-time Prime Minister (1902-1905). It adds to the Library's holdings of books with prime ministerial provenance.
Balfour was the eldest son of James Maitland Balfour of Whittingehame, East Lothian and of Lady Blanche Gascoyne Cecil. This set has 'A.J. Balfour Whittinghame 1871' tooled in gilt on the front cover along the joint. They have no other marks of ownership and there is no indication whether he read these volumes. However had he not been a politician it is likely he would have been an academic of some description - he had a glittering career in Eton and Cambridge and wrote a number of books on philosophy: "Defense of philosophical doubt" published in 1879 at age 31, "Foundations of belief" (1895) and "Theism and humanism" (1914).
Balfour began his career as an MP in 1874 when he was elected to the Hertford constituency. He spent the rest of his active life in the House of Commons. He established a reputation for himself as Chief Secretary for Ireland in the 1880s quelling the Land War with his coercion policy. He served as Foreign Secretary under Lloyd George during World War I and also served under Stanley Baldwin in 1925.|
|Title||The palis of honour|
|Imprint||London: William Copland|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This is a rare copy of the earliest known edition of one of Gavin Douglas's (1474-1522) best known works. The first Edinburgh edition was published in 1579. Other Scottish editions may have been printed prior to 1543, when Florence Wilson imitated the 'Palice of Honour' in his 'De Tranquillitate Animi', but they cannot now be traced. An article in the Transactions of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, vol.III, part I, 1948-9, describes fragments of an Edinburgh edition printed prior to 1540 by Thomas Davidson (Aldis 20) which is held in Edinburgh University Library.
This copy lacks the final two gatherings and contains contemporary scribbles, though not annotations.
'The palis (or palice) of honour' which was written in 1501 was dedicated by the poet, Gavin Douglas to James IV. It is his earliest known work and presents a mirror for princes, spelling out princely duties and ideals. This poem is very much in the European tradition of courtly allegory and reflects Douglas's knowledge of Latin and Italian poetry and his preoccupations with the themes of love, poetry and honour. It also shows influences of Chaucer and Langland.
Around this time Douglas became Provost of the Collegiate Church of St. Giles in Edinburgh. It is not improbable that Douglas's address to James IV at the end of this poem induced the latter to appoint him to St. Giles. He held this position until 1515 when he became Bishop of Dunkeld.
Douglas is best known for his translation of the Aeneid, also into Scots, which is still praised as an excellent work which shows the potential of the Scots language as a literary medium.|
|Reference Sources||Mainstream companion to Scottish literature;
|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.|
|Author||[Morris, William and Wyatt, A.J. translators]|
|Title||Tale of Beowulf sometime king of the folk of the Weder Geats|
|Imprint||Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press|
|Date of Publication||1895|
|Notes||With the purchase of this item along with "Atalanta in Calydon" the NLS has completed its collection of books which were available for public sale at the Kelmscott Press (there are 2 remaining items in the A section of Peterson's bibliography but it is unlikely that copies will be available for purchase).
Beowulf seems to have been a favourite and long-cherished project of Morris. He described the Anglo-Saxon epic poem as "the first and best poem of the English race, [with] no author but the people", which would have appealed to his socialist principles. In 1893 he began his own translation of the poem using a papraphrase by the scholar Alfred John Wyatt. He completed the translation the following year then worked with Wyatt to revise his text.
The book was issued in February 1895, 300 copies were printed on paper and 8 on vellum, and, costing over £485 to produce, was one of the more of the more expensive productions of the KP. Problems with the initial printing led to several sheets having to be reprinted. Morris was later to claim that he had lost money on the book; but the final publication ranks as one of the triumphs of the press, living up to Morris's dictum that his book were "beautiful by force of mere typography" .
Morris and Wyatt's translation was reprinted by Longmans in 1898.|
|Reference Sources||Peterson "Bibliography of the Kelmscott Press" A32|
|Author||Heddle, Matthew Forster|
|Title||The county geognosy and mineralogy of Scotland.|
|Imprint||Truro: Lake & Lake|
|Date of Publication||1878-1880|
|Notes||MF Heddle was born in Orkney in 1828 and educated at Edinburgh, becoming a student of the University and later practising medicine in the city. His real love, however, was geology and in particular mineralogy; even when he was later appointed professor of chemistry at St Andrews - a post he held for over 20 years - his main passion remained collecting rock samples in the north of Scotland and the Hebrides and publishing papers on his discoveries for various scientific societies.
Heddle was a powerfully built man, who in the course of collecting minerals probably climbed most of the Scottish mountains, and was a Member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. His physical toughness and stamina were necessary for his fieldwork in inhospitable places, carrying 28 lb hammers, dynamite and wedges to obtain his rock samples.
Heddle's most famous work, "The Mineralogy of Scotland ", was published posthumously in 1901, four years after his death. "The County Geognosy" appears to be a forerunner of Heddle's magnum opus, which was at the time regarded as the most comprehensive mineralogical survey of a single country. Consisting of reprints from his contributions to "The Mineralogical magazine", and printed in the unlikely location of Truro in Cornwall, this was probably printed for private distribution to Heddle's acquaintances and academic colleagues. The main text ends at p. 520 and includes a number of geological maps and attractive coloured plates which endeavour to recreate the microscopic structure of rocks. Included in this copy and also in the one held by GUL are a number of 'extras', offprints of articles which pre- and postdate the main text and which were probably added by the owners of the book. Included in this copy is an "Addendum" a humorous poem presumably about Heddle written by A.G. - his fellow scientist Sir Archibald Geikie, a photograph of Heddle, appropriately holding a rock sample, taken during his time at St Andrews, and a copy of a newspaper obituary tipped in to the back of the book.
The provenance of the book is also worthy of note. The MS inscription on the front flyleaf is "Edwin Traill". This is very likely Heddle's nephew, i.e. a son of Heddle's sister Henrietta, who was born in Orkney in 1854.|
|Author||Swinburne, Algernon Charles|
|Title||Atalanta in Calydon|
|Imprint||Kelmscott: Kelmscot Press-|
|Date of Publication||1894|
|Notes||The Library has an almost complete set of publications of the Kelmscott Press, the acquisition of this fine copy leaves only 2 more to acquire (1 of which was privately printed and not available for public sale).
The publication of "Atalanta in Calydon" in 1865 brought the budding poet Swinburne both fame and notoriety in equal measure. The work is based on the ancient Greek myth of the huntress Atalanta, who takes part in the hunt of the ferocious Calydonian boar and becomes inadvertently embroiled in a family conflict which leads to the death of the hero Meleager, caused by his own mother. Swinburne wrote a verse drama, using the structure of an Classical Greek tragedy, complete with Chorus and semi-Chorus, and formal dialogue. Although Classical Greek in content and form Swinburne uses the drama to challenge not just the religious acquiescence to the will of the gods portrayed in the Classical Greek tragedies but also by implication Victorian attitudes to God and Christianity.
As a keen admirer of the Kelmscott Press, Swinburne wrote to Morris after the publication of "Atalanta" in July 1894 that it was "certainly one of the loveliest examples of even your incomparable press". Morris too was pleased with the book, of which 250 copies were produced on paper and 6 on vellum, and which sold out within a few weeks. The publication is also unusual as it is the only KP book in which Morris used a type not designed by himself. To reproduce the Greek text which appears at the start of work, Morris used electrotypes of a Greek type designed by the artist and designer Selwyn Image.
This particular copy, as well as being in fine, almost mint, condition, is bound in early twentieth century blue morocco with gilt ornamentation by the famous bookdbing firm of Birdsall & Sons of Northampton.|
|Reference Sources||Peterson A25|
|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
|Date of Publication||[1743-1749?]|
|Notes||The exploits of the Foulis Press are always intriguing, and this latest discovery is no exception. Here is a single, uncut sheet consisting of two identical folio leaves. The text is the half-title and first page of a work by Archimedes, the ancient Greek scientist and mathematician, 'On the sphere and the cylinder'. Clearly the sheet was to be cut in half and then each leaf placed in a volume of Archimedes. But why was this extra leaf printed, and what has this got to do with Glasgow's Foulis Press?
At shelfmark K.33.b, the Library has a copy of the first edition of Archimedes, printed at Basle in 1544. This edition was based on a defective manuscript, so the text at the start of 'On the sphere' was not included. At some point in the eighteenth century, an attempt was made to supply this lacuna, possibly by the mathematician and book-collector William Jones (1675-1749). This extra leaf was specially printed, probably by Glasgow's Foulis Press, using the Greek 'Great Primer' font cut for them by Alexander Wilson around 1743. It is not known how many copies were corrected in this way - the copy now at K.33.b. is among those corrected. It was received by the Advocates' Library some time between 1742 and 1776. Perhaps the correction was made for the 200th anniversary of the first printing of Archimedes?|
|Reference Sources||Gaskell, Foulis Press
Archimedes, Opera, ed. Heiberg
|Author||Curties, T. J. Horsley|
|Title||The Watch Tower; or, sons of Ulthona|
|Imprint||Brentford: Printed by and for P. Norbury|
|Date of Publication||1803|
|Notes||An extremely rare historical Gothic novel set in 14th-century Scotland during the wars of Robert the Bruce and Edward II. It features the fictional villain Morcar, who commits the horrid crimes of rape, murder and torture in his castle-fortress Stroma, but even worse supports the king of England. Morcar has a crane which provides the only access to the Fortress and which he uses to lower his victims into his clutches. By the end of The Watch-Tower Morcar has tortured Earl Ulthona to death, raped the sweet Imogen, shown a visitor through his hall of torture (which is full of Morcar's mutilated victims), and finally been thrown off one of his battlements by the son of another of his victims.
Of Curties's life almost nothing is known, beside the publication of his six deep-dyed Gothic novels over an eight-year period, 1799-1807, including another Scottish-influenced one, "The Scottish Legend, or, the Isle of Saint Clothair". He was a Londoner of some means, an unabashed admirer of Ann Radcliffe, and according to Montague Summers 'there is no author more Gothic, more romantic than he' (The Gothic Quest, p. 333).|
|Reference Sources||Not in NSTC
Garside and Schoewerling "The English Novel 1770-1829) v.2|
|Author||Dupont, John et al.|
|Title||[4 anti-Jacobite pamphlets]|
|Imprint||York: Printed for John Hildyard|
|Date of Publication||1745 & 1746|
|Notes||A collection of 4 rare anti-Jacobite pamphlets, printed for John Hildyard in York. Jacobitism had a strong base of support not just in Scotland but also south of the border in counties such as Northumberland, Yorkshire and Lancashire, as well as areas of the Midlands, Wales and the West Country. However, in the 1745 uprising very few men from northern England were prepared to commit to the Jacobite cause. The printing of these violently anti-Jacobite (and also anti-Catholic) pamphlets served as a warning to the local population of the dangers of supporting the Stuarts (NB pamphlet 1 was printed after the defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden). Pamphlets 1 and 3 are by John Dupont, vicar of Aysgarth in Yorkshire.|
|Reference Sources||1. ESTC T4272, 2. ESTC T33080, 3. ESTC ????, 4. ESTC ????|
|Title||Histoire de la maison de Stuart [de Tudor]|
|Date of Publication||1761|
|Notes||This is the first duodecimo edition in French of this part of David Hume's History of Great Britain. This 6-volume set is accompanied by a 6-volume duodecimo set of Hume's Histoire de la maison de Tudor (Amsterdam, 1763). Hume actually wrote the volumes on the Stuarts first, only turning later to the Tudors (and then to the Plantagenets).
The Library collects translations of Scottish works written during the Enlightenment, as evidence for the influence of Scottish thought on Europe as a whole. The Stuart set was translated by A.-F. Prevost, the Tudor set was translated by Octavie Guichard (Mme. Belot).
This is a handsome set in a contemporary binding; the volumes have both early and later bookplates.|
|Shelfmark||RB.s.2327 and RB.s.2328|
|Reference Sources||ESTC T229804
Jessop, Bibliography of David Hume, p.32|
|Author||Mackenzie, William Lyon|
|Title||Mackenzie's own narrative of the late rebellion, with illustrations and notes, critical and explanatory: exhibiting the only true account of what took place at the memorable seige of Toronto, in the month of December, 1837.|
|Imprint||Toronto: Printed and sold at The Palladium Office, York Street, 1838.|
|Date of Publication||1838|
|Notes||William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) was born near Dundee. When he was less than a month old, his father died, leaving the family in poverty. He obtained a meager business education in Dundee, and after some six years' work in a shop at Alyth he emigrated with his mother to Canada in 1820 at the age of 25.
It was in North America that Mackenzie made a name for himself as a politician, journalist and insurgent leader. In 1824 he published 'The Colonial Advocate', a newspaper that was strongly in favour of governmental reform. In 1828 he was elected to the legislative assembly of Upper Canada for the county of York.
Mackenzie's oratory was often inflammatory and he was five times expelled for libel and five times reelected by his constituency. As a leader of the Reform party of Upper Canada he went to London in 1832 to obtain a redress of grievances. After his return to Canada, Mackenzie was chosen as the first mayor of Toronto in May 1834.
In 1837, frustrated by Britain's refusal to begin democratic changes, he gathered supporters in an effort to overthrow the government. Mackenzie's ideal at this time was an American-style democracy. The attempt by the rebels was a fiasco and after being defeated at Montgomery's Tavern north of Toronto, Mackenzie fled to the United States, setting up a provisional government on Navy island in the Niagara River. It was there that he wrote his 'Narrative' , addressing it to the editor of the 'Jeffersonian', a newspaper published at Watertown, New York.
In 1849 Mackenzie was granted an amnesty and returned to Canada. He later sat as a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada from 1851 to 1858. Mackenzie was the grandfather of the Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950)
The Canadian editor of this rare first edition -clearly a Loyalist - has provided numerous critical annotations to the text and an introduction where he refers to Mackenzie as the 'Arch-Traitor'. Also included is an 'Appendix containing further particulars obtained from conversations with John Powell, Esquire, Mayor of the City of Toronto'.|
Booksellers Catalogue (D & E Lake Bulletin 219)
Various Internet biographical sites|