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 765 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 765:

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AuthorGeddes, William
TitleSaints recreation, third part, upon the estate of grace
ImprintEdinburgh
Date of Publication1683
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis copy of Geddes's volume of pious verse can perhaps be described as a bibliographical conundrum. It was published in at least two variant forms. The first (of which the NLS holds two copies Cwn.699, H.29.b) contains dedications to Anna, Duchess of Hamilton, Dame Lilias Drummond wife of Lord James Drummond, Earl of Perth and Dame Anna Sinclair, Lady Tarbat. These dedications are dated September and November 1683. This second variant does not include any of the above dedications, but only a dedication to Margaret Lesley, Countess-Dowager of Weems (Wemyss) (d.1688), dated June 1683. This along with 'A summary view of the substance and method of the book' have been clearly inserted as cancellans in this copy and at least one other (Henry E. Huntington Library) which have been identified. It is unclear as to why the book was published with separate dedications and also why the Weems dedication is dated earlier than the publication with the cancellanda. Geddes (1600?-1694) was a Presbyterian minister at Wick and also at Urquhart, Elginshire. Prior to becoming a minister he was a schoolmaster at Keith and a governor to Hugh Rose of Kilravock. At the time the book was published he had resigned from the ministry on refusing to take the test of 1682. In the imprimatur at the beginning of the volume he mentions a number of books - on history, Hebrew and Latin -for which he had received some financial support towards their publication. However 'The saints recreation' appears to be his only published work. According to the dedication, the Countess-Dowager of Weems clearly assisted Geddes financially in the printing of this book. He praises fulsomely her 'Christian moderation, prudence and sobrietie' 'in this cold, Laodicean-like and backslyding age'. The volume is bound unusually in pink/red stained deerskin, decorated with gilt tooling on the borders. This material had been used primarily by medieval monastic binders, but was rarely used as late as the 17th century.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2076
Reference SourcesAldis 2381/ESTC R37394
Acquired on22/02/01
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
AuthorGeorge Lyttelton, Baron Lyttelton
TitleDialogues of the dead. 5th edition.
ImprintLondon: John Murray,
Date of Publication1768
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is the first book published by John Murray I, thus marking the start of what would grow to be a mighty publishing business carried on by successive generations of his family. In October 1768, a young Scottish naval officer based in Brompton, London, John McMurray (he would change his surname to 'Murray' around this time) was looking for a business investment. He found a suitable one in William Sandby's bookselling business in Fleet Street. Sandby had published the first four editions of "Dialogues of the dead" and the 5th edition was Murray's first publication, "the book ushered Murray into the trade in a respectable manner" (Zachs, p.22). In November 1768 the book sold to customers at 5s. 6d. and to the trade at 2s. 11d. Two separate print settings of the 5th edition are known, which may indicate that Murray's first publishing venture go off to a shaky start, the first printing possibly not being good enough, necessitating a second printing. However, the book would go on to be a steady seller for Murray over the coming years. Baron Lyttelton (1709-1773) was an English politician and writer. His "Dialogues of the Dead" was first published anonymously in 1760 and consisted of a series of imaginary dialogues between important historical and literary figures, from Classical times right up to the 18th century, on moral themes. It was inspired by a work of the same name from the 2nd century AD by the Ancient Greek author Lucian of Samosata, who also wrote 'Dialogues of the gods'. A further model was the "Dialogues" of the French Catholic theologian Francois Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambrai (1651-1715). Three of the dialogues in Lyttleton's collection were written by the writer, Elizabeth Montagu, who was a close friend of him. The first three editions sold quickly, and Lyttelton wrote four additional dialogues in 1765, which were added to the 4th edition. Later critics were harsh in the criticisms of the work, regarding them as 'dead dialogues', lacking the humour or spontaneity of Lucian's originals.
ShelfmarkAB.2.214.41
Reference SourcesW. Zachs, "The first John Murray and the late eighteenth-century London book trade" Oxford, 1998; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on20/07/14
AuthorGeorge Reavely
TitleA medley, history, directory, and discovery of Galashiels
ImprintGalashiels: T.F. Brockie
Date of Publication1875
LanguageGalashiels: T.F. Brockie
NotesThe author of this work, George Reavely (1815-1895) was a native of Galashiels, whose life is briefly described in Robert Hall's 1898 history of the town. Reavely worked initially in local textile mills in his home town and Stow, and also ran coach services in the Borders. In a long and varied working life he also worked as an auctioneer and barman, as well as spending time in North America. A true local eccentric, he was a keen inventor in his spare time, producing a variety of contraptions, including a flying machine, which proved to be, according to Hall, "a disastrous failure". Reavely's history of the town is not drawn from research into the ancient past but from the author's own extensive personal knowledge of events and personalities of the last 100 years or so; indeed the history part is "not so much of the town and trade of Galashiels, as of incidents connected with men and things generally". The book thus contains gossipy anecdotes on local worthies as well as some criticisms on the current state of the town; Hall comments wryly that, "at public meetings George was generally to the front, advocating his peculiar ideas about things in general; the kindly feelings with which he was regarded always secured for him a good-humoured, if, at times, a somewhat demonstrative reception". It is therefore no surprise that the printer of his book, Brockie, has seen fit to include a footnote to Reavely's "Apology" at the start of the work, disclaiming any responsibility for the book's contents. In the "Apology" Reavely mentions that 12 instalments were to be printed, to then be bound into a pamphlet. He may have run out of funds to produce the intended 12 numbers, as the book ends somewhat abruptly. The book was also supposed to cover, according to the title page, "a water scheme for power, domestic, and sanitary purposes, supplementing the use of fire engines, for the year 1875". However, the water scheme is only discussed briefly in the final 2-3 pages, almost as an afterthought. The provision of fresh water was indeed something of a hot topic in the town, as at the time Galashiels was dependent on various wells for its water supply; these were often polluted and blamed for an increased death rate, with three outbreaks of cholera between the years 1849 and 1853. Moreover, the population of the town had increased rapidly in the previous 20 years due to the development of the local textile industry, placing further pressures on the existing water supply. The recently established Town Council was due to decide on a new water supply for the town so Reavely advocates in his book the construction of a reservoir using water from the Lug(g)ate Water, to the north of the town, hoping that "unlettered men" in the Council were in the minority and that the rest would see the efficacy of the scheme he was proposing. The Council had other ideas; in 1876, a year after the publication of this book, an act of parliament was passed which authorised the construction of a water supply system fed by the Caddon Water, with contracts being undertaken the following year for the construction of reservoirs, including one at Meigle Hill to the west of the town. Piped water became available in the town in 1879.
ShelfmarkAB.1.212.01
Reference SourcesRobert Hall, "History of Galashiels", Galashiels, 1898.
Acquired on16/12/11
AuthorGeorge Richardson
TitleA new drawing book of ornaments in the antique style.
ImprintLondon
Date of Publication1812
LanguageEnglish
NotesOriginally published in 1795, this reissue with a variant title and the plates signed and dated "Design'd & Engraved by G. Richardson & Son; And Publish'd as the Act directs, London, Jan. 1. 1812." A further edition was issued in 1816. The fine aquatint plates are all numbered and titled, showing examples of rich foliage ornament for friezes, designs of ornaments for chimney pieces, ornaments for pilasters or sunk pannels, etc. There is little doubt that Richardson (who may have come from Inveresk, Midlothian) was closely associated with the Adam brothers earlier in his career. At the age of about 20 he was involved, albeit in a minor capacity and under James Adam's direction, in turning Robert Adam's plates of and commentary on Diocletian's Palace at Split into a publishable book (this was published in 1764 as Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia. Richardson accompanied James Adam on his Grand Tour from 1760 to 1763 and had plenty of opportunity to study the remains of ancient architecture and painting. As well as the 1795 and 1816 editions mentioned above, the National Library of Scotland also holds two copies of Richardson's major 1776 work A Book of Ceilings, one with coloured plates.
ShelfmarkRB.m.746
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes and notes on A Book of Ceilings, also in the Important Acquisitions Directory
Acquired on24/08/12
AuthorGeorge Ure & Coy. (Limited.)
TitleOrnamental and general iron founders. Bonnybridge foundry. [Catalogue]
ImprintGlasgow: [s.n.]
Date of Publication[1885]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis trade catalogue of Bonnybridge iron foundries dates from the 1880s, the heyday of heavy industry in central Scotland. The firm of Smith & Wellstood was established in Glasgow in 1858 to sell American-style free-standing stoves in Britain. Outlets were subsequently opened in Liverpool, Dublin and London. The firm was the driving force in persuading the British public to invest in efficient, slow-burning stoves in place of open fires. These stoves used less fuel and produced more heat than the type being used in Britain in the 1850s. The founders were James Smith and Stephen Wellstood, both Edinburgh-born entrepreneurs who had begun their business careers in the United States. Smith decided it would be more economic to produce the stoves in Scotland than to import them from the United States. In 1855 James Smith had contracted the services of George Ure, an ironfounder of some repute and a partner of Crosthwaite, Ure & Co. of Camelon. Ure opened his own foundry - the Columbian Stove Works - in Bonnybridge in 1860 to make the castings for the stoves. The finished products were transported down the Forth-Clyde canal to Smith's warehouses in Glasgow. Smith & Wellstood opened their foundry in 1873 and in 1890 amalgamated with George Ure & Co. In addition to stoves, baths, ranges, gates, railings, pots, pans, piano frames and umbrella stands were manufactured. At the turn of the century Smith & Wellstood introduced the first closed anthracite-burning stoves onto the UK market. These were modelled on a French design and became known as the Esse range of stoves.
ShelfmarkABS.8.202.02
Reference SourcesBorthwick, Alastair. The history of Smith & Wellstood Ltd. ironfounders. (Bonnybridge, 1954) H4.80.755 McIntosh, Fiona. Bonnybridge in bygone days. (Falkirk, 1989) HP3.90.453 Smith & Wellstood Ltd., Ironfounders, Bonnybridge. (Survey / National Register of Archives (Scotland) no.2198) (Edinburgh, 1989) GRH.9
Acquired on19/06/01
AuthorGerrond, John
TitleThe new poetical works of John Gerrond, the Galloway poet.
ImprintDumfries: Printed for the author
Date of Publication1818
LanguageEnglish
NotesJohn Gerrond was born near Gateside in Galloway in 1765. In 1776 his family moved to what is now Castle Douglas. He eventually trained as a blacksmith under his father and in 1783 he opened a smithy at Clarebrand, Galloway. He spent some time travelling through the United States and after returning from America, he set up as a grocer and spirit merchant in Castle Douglas, displaying the sign, 'John Gerrond, from Boston.' In 1802, he published the first edition of his poems entitled: 'Poems on Several Occasions'. A second edition was issued in 1808; and a third, for which he obtained fourteen hundred subscribers, was printed in 1811. This 1818 edition is extremely rare with the only other extant copy being held in the collection of the Broughton House Library in Kirkcudbright. John Mactaggart (1791-1830), author of 'The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia' did not hold John Gerrond in high regard. He states that Gerrond "published at various times stuff he termed poems; shameless trash ..." However, he goes on to state that "if he had had ten times more industry than what he has, he would have wrote some tolerable verses, as his madness is ratherly that of a poet's."
ShelfmarkAP.1.208.012
Acquired on15/02/08
AuthorGibb, J. Taylor.
TitleLand of Burns: Mauchline town and district.
ImprintGlasgow
Date of Publication[1911]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a rare Mauchline-ware book signed by the author J. Taylor Gibb. The binding is 'made of wood from the old United Presbyterian Church, Mauchline' which was built in 1793 and demolished in 1884. Mauchline was one of a number of Ayrshire towns where during the nineteenth century, snuff boxes, tea-caddies, napkin rings and cigar cases were made of wood - sycamore or oak. Because of the dominant position of W. and A. Smith in Mauchline in the trade, these wooden objects were referred to as Mauchline ware. The beautifully-crafted sold in vast quantities not only in Britain but throughout Europe and the British Empire until the 1930s. Robert Burns's association with the town - he lived there with Jean Armour and composed some of his most famous poems locally - meant that many objects were decorated with portraits of the poet. From the 1860s photographs were applied as a decoration to many items of Mauchline ware. It is possible that this binding was made at the Caledonian Box Works founded in Lanark in 1866 by Alexander Brown a keen photographer and an acquaintance of George Washington Wilson.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.878
Reference SourcesBaker, John. Mauchline ware and associated Scottish souvenir ware. (Shire Album 140) 1985. HP2.85.3149
Acquired on08/05/02
AuthorGilchrist, John Borthwick
TitleThe strangers East Indian guide to the Hindoostanee; or grand popular language of India, (improperly called Moors).
ImprintCalcutta: Printed at the Hindoostanee Press, by Tho. Hubbard
Date of Publication1808
LanguageEnglish/Hindustani
NotesEdinburgh-born John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759-1841) arrived in India as an assistant surgeon in 1782. Appointed to a position with the East India Company, he became interested in Hindustani as a language understood in different regions of the country, and began the philological investigations which would occupy the rest of his life. He compiled a grammar and dictionary of Hindustani, and was appointed first professor of the language at Fort William College in 1801, where he worked with Indian scribes and scholars to publish Hindustani material in print. Gilchrist left India in 1804; this book, a grammatical guide and vocabulary of Hindustani for those in service to the East India Company, was first published in London in 1802. While 'second editions' of the Strangers [sic] East Indian Guide to the Hindoostanee have been recorded with London imprints, the only other reference to this Calcutta edition is in a Maggs Bros. catalogue from 1964 (Catalogue 891, Dictionaries and Grammars). It contains an appendix by Alexander Hamilton Kelso, a young officer in the East India Company who, to judge by his name, may have been a compatriot of Gilchrist.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2715
Reference SourcesBookseller's catalogue; DNB
Acquired on10/06/08
AuthorGilles, Nicole.
TitleLes annales et croniques de France
ImprintParis: Barbe Regnault
Date of Publication1560
LanguageFrench
NotesThis book has been donated from the collection of the late John Buchanan-Brown (d. 2011), author and translator of French books. It includes a typescript article by him on the provenance of the book and in particular of one its owners, John Somer. The book also has a notable Scottish provenance, the contemporary calf binding being gilt-stamped with the name "Franciscus Stevartvs", presumably Francis Stewart, 1st Earl of Bothwell (1562-1612). Francis was a son of John Stewart, Lord Darnley, Prior of Coldingham, who was an illegitimate child of James V of Scotland by his mistress Elizabeth Carmichael. The first owner of the book, however, was John Somer (1527?-1585), an English diplomat, who probably purchased the book when he was in Paris in 1559 to 1562, serving Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador to the French court. Somer has signed the title page of vol. 1 of the book and and also written his motto "Iuste. Sobrie.pie" 'Soberly, righteously and godly' - taken from The Epistle of Paul to Titus in the New Testament. Somer has also made occasional corrections and annotations to the text in a neat and minute italic hand. Somer became a highly-regarded diplomat, being involved in negotiations with the French court during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was renowned for his skills in deciphering letters written in code, such as the ones written by Mary of Guise to her brothers in France in 1560 which had been intercepted by the English. Ill-health prevented Somer from taking up the post of ambassador to the Scottish court in 1583, but his final job in 1584 was linked to Scotland, namely acting as one the minders of the captive Mary Queen of Scots; his skills as a code-breaker no doubt acting as a deterrent to Mary's supporters trying to send messages to her. He died the following year shortly after having managed to secure release from his job due to his ill health.
ShelfmarkRB.l.282
Acquired on01/03/13
AuthorGilmour, J. P. (ed.)
TitleChemists & Druggists' Directory and Year Book for Scotland.
ImprintGlasgow
Date of Publication1914
NotesThere is an enormous quantity of information about medicine and business practice in Scotland on the eve of the First World War in this volume. The most striking feature of the book is certainly the adverts for miracle cures, weed killers, bandages and cosmetics which fill the opening and closing pages. The delights of 'flexible gelatine capsules' and 'Burgess' Lion Ointment' are celebrated in terms that might well have the modern Advertising Standards Agency raising an eyebrow.
ShelfmarkNG.728
Acquired on19/11/02
AuthorGirvin, John
TitleA letter to Adam Smith
ImprintDublin: Printed by P. Byrne, no. 8, Grafton-Street
Date of Publication1786
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe library tries to collect works on Adam Smith comprehensively. This is an early reply to Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' (1776) of which there are no other copies in public ownership in Scotland. It does not seem to have been known by the main Smith bibliographers. John Girvin (1734-1804) was a Dublin merchant who wrote extensively on trade policy. He seems to have been using the 4th Dublin edition of the 'Wealth of Nations', printed in 1785, for this book. He takes issue in particular with Smith's analysis of the herring industry. He argues that Smith does not understand the trade, and expresses concern for the Irish trade if Smith's arguments for changing the bounty arrangements are accepted. This is a good copy, uncut and unopened.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2623
Reference SourcesESTC N33556 'Vanderblue Memorial Collection of Smithiana', 1939 Lai, Cheng-chung, 'Adam Smith across nations', 2000 Tribe, Keith, 'A critical bibliography of Adam Smith', 2002
Acquired on13/04/06
AuthorGlasgow Ayrshire Society
TitleArticles of the Glasgow Ayrshire Society.
Imprint[Glasgow?: s.n.]
Date of Publication[1791]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis unrecorded pamphlet is a early publication relating to the Glasgow Ayrshire Society. The Society was instituted on 20 October 1761 in order to provide support to impoverished and distressed people from Ayrshire in Glasgow and also "to connect together Ayrshire people by the most social and friendly ties". To qualify for membership you had to have been been born in or have landed property in Ayrshire or have lived there for seven years. You could also qualify if one of your parents or your wife or in-laws had links with Ayrshire. However, none were to be admitted who "either from old age or disease are likely to become an immediate burden on the society". These new set of articles of the society were ordered to be printed at a meeting of the Society in Glasgow on 2 December 1791. The new articles were intended to clarify the existing regulations, which had "on different occasions, been found in some respects defective and inexplicit". The nine articles cover such matters as admission of members, subscription costs, the organisation and management of the society, discipline expected of members and the procedures by which members and their families might apply for financial assistance from the organisation. The Society still exists today and provides financial support for Ayrshire students to assist with further education.
ShelfmarkAP.2.213.23
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on05/07/13
AuthorGmelin, Johann Georg, (1709-1755)
TitleVoyage 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.
ImprintA Paris, Desaint, Libraire, rue du foin Saint Jacques.
Date of Publication1767
LanguageFrench
NotesThis 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.
ShelfmarkGB/A.3884
Acquired on05/09/05
AuthorGoalen, Walter
TitleA thanksgiving ode on the recovery of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by Muir & Paterson
Date of Publication1872
LanguageEnglish
NotesAn unrecorded work by the Scottish poet Walter Goalen, specially written and published to commemorate the recovery from typhoid fever of Edward VII, Prince of Wales. The text is printed in gold throughout and the upper vellum board features the royal coat of arms in gilt. A bookplate on the front pastedown indicates that this copy was part of the Prince of Wales's Library. A manuscript dedication by the author to the Prince of Wales appears on the recto of the front flyleaf. The prince's illness had caused great national concern, and public celebrations at his recovery also included the composition of Arthur Sullivan's 'Festival Te Deum' performed at a special concert in his honour at the Crystal Palace.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2801
Acquired on03/11/10
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