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 755 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 rarebooks@nls.uk

      

Important Acquisitions 496 to 510 of 755:

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AuthorRoberts, David
TitlePicturesque sketches in Spain taken during ye years 1832 & 1833
ImprintLondon
Date of Publication1837
NotesThis volume of tinted lithographs was David Roberts's first published set of views. After working as a house painter in Edinburgh he became a scene painter at theatres in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle and London. He began travelling on the continent in the 1820s and visited Spain and Tangier on the recommendation of his fellow Scottish artist David Wilkie. Roberts's skill as a draughtsman and his love of architecture are clearly to be seen in this work. Though not as well-known as his later sketches of the Holy Land and Egypt, these lithographs helped to establish Roberts as a topographical artist and aided his election as a Royal Academician in 1841. Roberts being dissatisfied with the quality of many of the lithographs, worked on many of the lithographic stones himself, erasing some of the original engravings. Instead of taking two months, this work took seven months. It is perhaps significant that Roberts's later work was lithographed by Louis Haghe and printed by Day and Haghe, rather than Charles Hullmandel, who printed 'Picturesque sketches'. Although Roberts received £350 for the drawings, he felt he had been cheated by Hodgson and Graves, the publishers. They sold the drawings to Colnaghi for £300 and sold the book of the prints for four guineas. According to James Ballantine, Roberts's first biographer, 'the views … when they were published had an enormous sale, and since then the work has gone through more printings than any work in lithography ever published'. Within 2 months they had sold 1,200 copies and reprints were still selling twenty years later. Only copies in UK at BL and V&A (imperfect).
ShelfmarkRB.l.113
Acquired on22/05/01
AuthorFraser, John
TitlePlain directions for raising potatoes on the lazy bed
ImprintEdinburgh : Printed for the author, and sold by him at his house in Leith, and by the booksellers in Edinburgh,
Date of Publication1757
NotesA rare work (not in ESTC or OCLC) by an unknown author who was 'Collector of Shore-dues in the Port of Leith' (t.p.) He appears not to have been a major writer on agricultural matters as he doesn't appear in either; Early Scottish agricultural writers (1697-1790) by Watson and Amery. Oxford : School of Rural Economy, 1931 or Agricultural writers ... 1200 to 1800 by Donald McDonald. London : Horace Cox, 1908. The earliest accounts of potato cultivation in Scotland date from the latter 17th century but it seems that it was not widely grown until around 1725. The lazy bed system is used to aid cultivation on damp soils. The potatoes are planted on the surface with trenches either side. As the plant grows more soil is taken from the trenches to earth them up.
ShelfmarkAPS.1.201.010
Acquired on01/02/01
TitlePlan for Raising a Militia in that part of Great Britain called Scotland
NotesOnly three copies of this draft bill for regulating the militia in Scotland, by means of adapting the English Militia Acts, are recorded by ESTC (T42402). Interesting details include the fact that on page 9 the blanks relating to the number of privates to be raised for each county have been filled in manuscript (the city of Edinburgh was to raise 333 men). On the verso of the title-page is a full page of manuscript notes signed 'Richd Hewit. Clerk', which explains how the plan was drawn up by a committee of notables following a meeting in Edinburgh on 30 November 1759. The bill was rejected at its second reading in Westminster on 15 April 1760: although there was much sympathy for Scotland's vulnerability to French invasion, many still had doubts about giving arms to the Jacobites among the Highlanders. (John Robertson, Scottish Enlightenment and the Militia Issue, Edinburgh: John Donald, 1985).
ShelfmarkAPS.4.201.17
Acquired on26/06/01
AuthorKinniburgh, Robert
TitlePlates for the deaf and dumb
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by J. Ritchie, published by William Oliphant
Date of Publication1820
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Children in Edinburgh was established in June 1810. One of the teachers, Robert Kinniburgh, designed illustrated educational materials for the school. We already have a copy of his book 'The manual alphabet', which has a title-page with illustrations showing a kind of sign language, followed by 55 numbered plates with woodcuts of important objects, animals and scenes of work. The book we have just purchased appears to be an earlier edition, with the illustrations ordered differently. There are some changes in the states of the woodcuts; for example, on p. 9 in 'Plates for the deaf and dumb', the top woodcut is of an agricultural scene with a gardener surrounded by tools and a cold-frame; the same woodcut appears on p. 30 of 'The manual alphabet', but without the cold-frame. Perhaps the woodcut had become damaged. It is interesting to speculate about the use of these books. Perhaps the illustrations were shown first and the students were expected to then learn the relevant word. In the new copy of 'Plates for the deaf and dumb', someone has added captions in pencil to several illustrations. The order of the plates in the two editions may be significant; in 'Plates for the deaf and dumb', the book starts with people in different clothing engaged in different tasks, and moves on to animals and then household objects. In 'The manual alphabet', however, the animals come first, followed by the household objects, and the people last. Only one other copy of 'Plates for the deaf and dumb' has been traced, at the John Rylands library in Manchester. This acquisition complements some of our special collections such as the Royal Blind School Collection.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2637
Acquired on27/11/06
AuthorScott, Walter.
TitlePoema posledniago barda. [Lay of the last minstrel]
ImprintMoscow: V Universitetskoi Tipografii
Date of Publication1823
LanguageRussian
NotesThis is the rare first edition in Russian of "The Lay of the Last Minstrel", first published in English in 1805. Only one other copy has been located in western European libraries at the National Library of Finland. The publisher/translator of the prose translation was Mikhail Kachenovsky (1775-1842), professor at Moscow University and editor of the journal "Vestnik Evropy" (Herald of Europe).
ShelfmarkRB.s.2828
Acquired on07/10/11
AuthorDrummond, William, 1585-1649
TitlePoems
ImprintLondon: for Richard Tomlins
Date of Publication1656
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a rare copy of one of the two editions of Drummond’s works published in London in 1656, seven years after the poet’s death. Two other copies of this work are held in public institutions in Scotland – at Edinburgh University Library and at Innerpeffray Library, near Crieff. The only difference between the two editions is the imprint – this edition was ‘Printed for Richard Tomlins, at the Sun and Bible…’ whereas the other edition was ‘Printed by W.H. and are to be sold at the Company of Stationers’. Both copies have the fine frontispiece portrait by Richard Gaywood (1630-1680).The binding – calf, blind tooled - probably dates from the 18th century. Drummond spent most of his life on his estate at Hawthornden near Edinburgh. Most of his poems were written in the Petrarchan tradition and he was thus considered to be out of tune with metaphysical poets of his day. He wrote in English rather than Scots. In political terms he supported the Royalists and wrote a pamphlet attacking the Covenanters, but his isolation cut him off from the main events of his lifetime. His death was apparently hastened by news of the execution of Charles I in London.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2571
Reference SourcesWing D2202
Acquired on04/04/05
AuthorBurns, Robert [et al.] + Armstrong, John.
TitlePoems chiefly by Robert Burns, and Peter Pindar, &c. &c. To which is added the Life of Robert Burns. + The Oeconomy of love [by John Armstrong]
ImprintLondon: Printed for the booksellers,
Date of Publication1798
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis small volume contains two unrecorded editions bound together; the first is an anthology which contains nine of Robert Burns's most famous poems, as well as works from other poets including John Wolcot 'Peter Pindar'; the second is an Oxford printing of Scottish poet John Armstrong's erotic poem "The oeconomy of love", a bestseller in the 18th century. The Burns edition is probably a piracy, appearing under the convenient, catch-all imprint "Printed for the booksellers". The composition of the book suggests that it was hastily put together. The contents page lists a 'Life of Robert Burns' on pp. 3-4 but in fact on pp. [v]-xx there is an unacknowledged reprint of Robert Heron's "A memoir of the life of the late Robert Burns" which had first appeared the previous year, 1797, the earliest printed biography of the poet. In addition to the Burns poems there are the following: four poems by 'Peter Pindar'; an unacknowledged printing of Matthew Lewis's "Alonzo the brave"; Thomas Holcroft's satirical song "Gaffer Gray" which first appeared in print in 1794; two Border ballads "Lord Gregory/The lass of Loch Royan" (which both Burns and Wolcot produced versions of) and "The battle of Otterburn"; four anonymous poems "Saint Genevieve of the Woods" (which was first printed in Warrington, c. 1780, under the title "The saint of the woods, or the loves of Siffred, and the maid of Brabant"), "The contented cottager", "Poem translated from the Persian" and "The blind boy".
ShelfmarkAB.1.212.02(1-2)
Acquired on05/08/11
AuthorHewit, Alexander.
TitlePoems on various subjects, (English and Scotch).
ImprintBerwick-upon-Tweed: Berwick-upon-Tweed : Printed for the author, by W. Lochhead
Date of Publication1823
LanguageEnglish
NotesAlexander Hewit (1778-1850), "the Berwickshire ploughman" published three editions of his poems in Berwick-upon-Tweed, in 1798, 1807, and this edition of 1823. He was born and grew up in the village of Lintlaw a few miles north of Berwick. After service in the army during the Napoleonic Wars he returned to his native Berwickshire where he worked on local farms for the rest of his life. The poems are divided into parts: religious poems in English and secular ones in Scots. The Scots poems deal mainly with rural life. There is also a poem addressed to Sir Walter Scott, in which he contrasts Scott's brilliance as an author with the humble output of a "rustic bard" such as himself. As might be expected in a book dedicated to his patron, a local landowner, Hewit has a conservative, 'kailyard' outlook on politics; his 'Elegy to Thomas Paine' is in fact a sarcastic attack on the English author. Only two other copies of this edition are recorded in the UK, and this particular copy has an unusual provenance. It has a sturdy, plain, 20th-century leather binding. The binder's ticket reveals that it was done by the Yee Lee Company, bookbinders based in Hong Kong. The question of how the book came to be rebound in Hong Kong is answered by an ownership inscription in the book, namely Alec M. (Alexander Mackenzie) Hardie who worked as a lecturer in the English literature department of Hong Kong University in the 1950s. Hardie had been a contemporary of the 2nd World War poet Keith Douglas, both having been at Oxford in the late 1930s, where they were students of the poet and academic Edmund Blunden. They worked together on the 1940 publication "Augury: An Oxford Miscellany of Verse and Prose". Hardie's inscription records that he purchased the book, "a rarity", in 1943 for around two shillings. When Blunden was appointed as a professor at Hong Kong University in 1953, Hardie also moved out there to work and presumably took this book with him and had it rebound.
ShelfmarkAB.1.212.08
Reference SourcesW.S. Crockett, "Minstrelsy of the Merse", Paisley, 1893.
Acquired on23/12/11
AuthorCameron, William
TitlePoems on various subjects
ImprintEdinburgh: Gordon and Murray
Date of Publication1780
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe Library bid successfully for this lot at the auction of part of the library of the late Lord Perth. The lot comprised two books: a fine copy of William Cameron's Poems bound by James Scott of Edinburgh, and a fine copy of the Foulis Press Terence printed in 1742 in a 'Chippendale' binding. William Cameron of Kirknewton (now in West Lothian) is the anonymous writer of these poems. The Library has another copy also bound by Scott showing the same gilt twist-roll border and ornamented spine, but that copy is very worn. Our new copy is crisp and attractive, with Scott's label affixed to the title-page. It is the same copy that was photographed for J. H. Loudon's book on James and William Scott, which helped to bring their innovative bindings to widespread attention. The second item is Terence, Comoediae, Glasgow, printed by Robert Urie for Robert Foulis, 1742. This is a most attractive red morocco binding with a gilt-tooled design in the 'Chippendale' style, with flowers and birds around the scrolls of foliage. The textblock, printed by the important Foulis Press, is not on large paper but is uncut. Both books are important additions to our collection of Scottish bindings, and their provenance makes them particularly pleasing; Lord Perth was a good friend of the Library and a remarkable Scottish collector.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.895
Reference SourcesLoudon, p.190-1 Gaskell 13
Acquired on28/11/03
Author[Cameron, William]
TitlePoems on various subjects.
ImprintEdinburgh: Gordon and Murray
Date of Publication1780
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is the only published collection of poems by the Church of Scotland minister William Cameron (1751-1811), who was educated at the Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he had been a pupil of James Beattie. It has been bought for its contemporary tree calf binding by James Scott of Edinburgh - NLS already has two copies of this book with Scott bindings. The title page has Scott's circular binder's ticket stuck on at the foot of the page (Scott was the first Scottish bookbinder to have used a ticket). This copy is not recorded in J.S. Loudon's bibliography of Scott bindings but the tools used on the binding can be found in Loudon's book. The boards are decorated with Greek key borders, the spine with olive morocco label, and with musical instrument ornaments. This copy was one of two in the library at Invercauld Castle, near Braemar. Both copies were bound by James Scott (the other binding does not contain Scott's ticket). Invercauld has been the seat of the Farquharson family since at least the sixteenth century. It seems very probable that the Farquharson family knew Cameron well, as of the three copies of this book identified by Loudon in 1980 as being in Scott bindings, two (JS 74 and 74.5) have associations with the family, one is inscribed with the names of F. Farquharson and C. Farquharson, the other is noted as 'a present ... from Mr. Farquharson 1781'. The family may in fact have been responsible for distributing the book to their friends. The binding became available when the library of Invercauld was sold at auction in 2012.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.954
Reference SourcesJ.H. Loudon, James Scott and William Scott, bookbinders (1980); Bookseller's notes
Acquired on03/08/12
AuthorBurns, Robert
TitlePoems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect.
ImprintEdinburgh : Printed for A. Constable & Co.
Date of Publication1807
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis early 19th-century edition of Burns's "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect" was published in 1807 and was printed by Francis Ray of Dundee. It resembles closely, up to p. 228, the edition printed in the same year by Abernethy & Walker for booksellers in Stirling and Glasgow. However, there is a different type-setting of the words "Scottish dialect" on the title page, and minor changes elsewhere in the use of font, as well as the correct spelling of "idiot" on p. iii. It also includes 'Miscellaneous poems' from pp. 229-251, which are popular poems in Scots not by Burns: Shepherd Lubin, The farmer's ingle, Rab and Ringan, The loss o' the pack, Marg'ret and the minister, The twa cats. The glossary of Scots words follows these miscellaneous words and is not separately paginated, as in the Abernethy & Walker printing. This copy has an interesting provenance. It belonged to the Stark family of Cupar as can be seen by the inscription of James F. Stark, dated 1854, on the front pastedown. There is also a blue library label numbered '32'. James Stark was a writer/solicitor in Cupar who became procurator fiscal in the town. However, the book was clearly in the family from an earlier date. On the rear pastedown there is a crude drawing of houses (in Cupar?) and inscriptions by Jn. Stark (John Stark), and on the endpaper an inscription in Latin: Hic liber pertinet ad me Ioannem [?] Stark ut praemium [?] virtutis Doctore Jacobi Clark (this book belongs to me John Stark as a reward of good behaviour, [given] by Dr James Clark). John Stark would appear to have been a pupil of Dr James Clarke/Clark, the rector of Cupar grammar school from 1802 onwards. Clarke was a friend and correspondent of Robert Burns. He was working at Moffat grammar school when, in 1791, he fell out with the parents of some of the pupils. They, along with the Earl of Hopetoun, the local landowner, tried to get him sacked for cruelty to the children. Burns took on it himself to defend Clarke, writing to his friend Alexander Cunningham in June 1791 asking him to join the cause, which would also be joined by Robert Riddell of Glenriddell and Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch. Burns refers to Clarke as a "man of genius and sensibility" who was being persecuted for alleged "harshness to some perverse dunces". Burns's help extended to drafting a letter for Clarke to send to Sir James Stirling, one of the school's trustees, protesting his innocence, and another letter later that year which was sent to Alexander Williamson, the Earl of Hopetoun's factor. Two letters also survive from Burns to Clarke in early 1792, asking him to hold his nerve and assuring him of his unwavering support. Clarke travelled to Edinburgh in February 1792 to clear his name. Burns had drafted a letter for him to send to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, one of the patrons of the school, requesting a fair hearing of his case. Clarke was successful in defending himself and remained at Moffat until 1794, when he moved to a school in Forfar, before going on to Cupar. Burns also lent money to Clarke during the crisis of 1791/92, even though he had enough financial problems of his own. The schoolmaster was still paying back his debt in instalments at the time of Burns's death in July, 1796. The poet wrote one last plaintive letter to Clarke in June 1796, acknowledging receipt of the latest repayment and asking for another to be sent by return of post. By this stage Burns was aware that he was dying, and noted that his old friend would not recognise the "emaciated figure" writing to him and that it was highly improbable that they would see each other again.
ShelfmarkAB.1.213.202
Reference Sources"The complete letters of Robert Burns" ed. J. Mackay, Alloway, 1987; bookseller's notes
Acquired on13/09/13
AuthorBurns, Robert
TitlePoems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect. 2nd edition.
ImprintEdinburgh & London: Creech and Cadell
Date of Publication1793
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a copy of the 2-volume second edition of Burns's "Poems chiefly in the Scottish dialect" with a noteworthy provenance. It is a presentation copy from Burns's good friend William Nicol (1744-1797) to a Mrs Bain. Nicol has inscribed the front free endpaper of vol. 1, presenting the book as "a sincere friend and admirer of her virtuous, learned and highly ingenious husband". The inscription is dated "Edinr. 27 September 1793". The identity of Mrs Bain and her husband is not known; there is no recorded correspondence between Burns and anyone of that name, so the Bains may have been only friends of Nicol. A William Bain, who was teacher in Anderston, Glasgow, was the author of a work titled "The family instructor: being, an attempt to illustrate the principles of Christianity" (Glasgow, 1788). Nicol was at this time employed as a schoolmaster at Edinburgh High School, a post he occupied until 1795, so it may be that he knew Bain as a fellow-teacher. Nicol, himself, was an irascible character who tended to polarise opinions amongst those he met and worked with. He became a friend of Burns at some point in the 1780s. In a letter written on 1st June 1787, Burns, on his Border tour, addressed his only surviving letter in Scots to 'Kind honest hearted Willie'. Nicol would provide moral support (and a useless old bay mare when Burns was farming at Ellisland) to Burns for the rest of the poet's life. Burns, in return, would name one of his sons after his friend.
ShelfmarkAB.2.213.59-60
Reference SourcesBurns Encyclopedia (http://www.robertburns.org/)
Acquired on05/07/13
AuthorScott, Walter
TitlePoetical works
ImprintEdinburgh: Adam and Charles Black
Date of Publication1882
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis 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.
ShelfmarkBdg.m.165
Acquired on17/08/05
AuthorBurns, Robert
TitlePoetical Works
ImprintAlnwick: by W. Davison
Date of Publication[1812]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is an attractive set of the works of Burns, published with engravings by Thomas Bewick, and bound in brown gilt crushed morocco by the late 19th-century binder Joseph William Zaehnsdorf. The date 1812 is found on the original boards of our existing copy at shelfmark X.171.h. The two volumes were formerly owned by the noted collector of Scottish books John Gribbel. All this, however, is put into the shade by the fact that the first volume has the title-page inscribed 'Robert Louis Stevenson'. Stevenson is known to have owned various copies of Burns' poems, but this one does not seem to have been previously noted. It has not been traced in the various auctions of Stevenson's books. The signature has his characteristic looped 'L' and the long cross-bar of the 't' in 'Stevenson'. Stevenson and Burns are two of the best known names in Scottish literature, although Stevenson had reservations about Burns. In his essay 'Some aspects of Robert Burns', published in 1879, Stevenson refers to the personal remarks in Burns' poetry as 'his own pitiful apology for such a marred existence and talents so misused and stunted'. There are, nevertheless, many striking parallels in the lives of the two writers, not least their passionate rebellion against orthodox morality and their early deaths. It is enormously plesasing that the National Library of Scotland now has a set of Burns with Stevenson provenance.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2331
Reference SourcesEgerer 130
Acquired on10/06/04
AuthorSpenser, Edmund.
TitlePoetical Works.
ImprintLondon: [by S. and R. Bentley for] William Pickering, Nattali and Combe, and Talboys and Wheeler in Oxford
Date of Publication1825
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis edition of the works of the great English poet Spenser was not, for some reason, acquired by the Advocates Library through the copyright privilege, but the main reason for purchasing these five volumes now is the binding. The books were from the library of one James Hamilton, whose red ink stamp appears on the title pages. Mr. Hamilton had a number of his books bound in the unusual material of chenille - using a different colour or pattern for each set. This set is bound in red chenille with yellow dots. Inside the rear board of the first volume is the printed label of R. Grant & Son, an Edinburgh firm listed in the Scottish Book Trade Index under this name from 1840 onwards. The Library has another binding identified as the work of the same firm (William Aytoun, Lays of the Scottish cavaliers, 1863, Bdg.m.115). It is possible that both bindings date from the 1860s. It is difficult to know why Mr. Hamilton chose to have his books bound in this way; the effect of a whole library bound in brightly coloured chenille would be quite overpowering. It is not a durable material and these books would not withstand heavy handling. Other curious features of this binding are the fact that the boards are so much larger than the text block, the elaborately gauffered gilt edges, the brass and velvet catches and clasps, and the brass frames nailed on the front covers with a vellum slip to write the title or volume number. This is a curiosity of Scottish binding creativity.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.921
Acquired on16/02/07
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