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 761 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 email@example.com
Important Acquisitions 541 to 555 of 761:
Ordered by date acquired |
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|Title||Book of ceilings|
|Imprint||London: Printed for the author|
|Date of Publication||1776|
|Notes||The copy on offer seems to differ from the copy purchased by the Library in 1980 (Sotheby's auction - £456) only by the fact that all of the 48 plates have been coloured. The possibility of acquiring coloured copies of A book of ceilings was mentioned in an advertisement in Richardson's New designs in architecture (1792). The cost was 48 guineas - a guinea per plate - a colossal sum even in those days (in today's terms about over £3500). The only coloured copies traced are at the British Library and the National Library in Warsaw.
The British Library copy (55.I.18 from the Royal Library in an 'Adam' design binding) has both the coloured and uncoloured copies of each plate bound together. The coloured plates have less rich colour and 'white' areas are left as plain paper as compared to the body-colouring in the NLS copy. Also the coloured and uncoloured copies seem not be always the same printed state - e.g. for plate XII Richardson's name is engraved and printed in black on the uncoloured copy whereas on the coloured copy his name is in brown and may be in manuscript. A possible explanation is that the colouring in the BL copy was carried out separately and at an earlier stage.
ESTC lists 13 copies - the only other copies in Scotland are at Bowhill (the then Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch are listed among the subscribers), and Paxton House, Berwickshire, which has the first four plates published in 1774. Both copies are uncoloured. Eileen Harris in British architectural books and writers 1556-1785 lists 4 additional holdings (2 British). Two of the designs (plates XVII and XVIII) were carried out for Sir Lawrence Dundas of Edinburgh, one of which is now to be seen in the Board Room of the Royal Bank of Scotland building in St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh.
Ian Gow, Head of the Curators Department of the National Trust for Scotland has examined the work and believes it more likely that such a deluxe work would have been purchased by book collectors rather than by architects. He has also remarked on the unusual use of gouache and the body-colouring employed in the roundels in the designs. Mr. Gow believes that the acquisition of this work by the National Library offers the opportunity for art and architecture historians to find out more about the colouring of ceilings in 18th century houses and mansions.
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. The National Library holds 2 of Richardson's letters written to his patron (Archibald Shiells of Inveresk) recording his observations of Rome (MS.3812). He probably left the employ of the Adams prior to 1773 as he is not listed among the numerous artists and architects employed by them. According to Eileen Harris it was however Adam's folio of executed designs described in French and English (Works in architecture, published in parts from 1773) which prompted Richardson to start publishing his own works in a similar fashion in 1774. By publishing the work in instalments over a number of years he helped to increase the sales to those unable to invest 3-4 guineas all at once.
A book of ceilings did not have the desired effect of attracting new patrons for Richardson. By publishing his own designs he made available his works for imitation and execution by others and rendered unnecessary his actual employment as an architect.|
|Reference Sources||DNB, Harris, Eileen, British architecture books and writers 1556-1785 (Cambridge, 1990)|
|Title||Epitome colloquiorum Erasmii Roterodami|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Joannes Reid|
|Date of Publication||1696|
|Notes||This is an extremely rare and hitherto unrecorded printing of Erasmus's Colloquia by the Edinburgh publisher John Reid. No copies have been traced in ESTC, OCLC or the British Library and it is not recorded in Aldis.
It is an abridged version of one of the Dutch humanist's (1466-1636) most popular works and was first published in a collected form in Basle in 1518 as 'Familiarium colloquiorum formulae'. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the colloquies as 'a kind of textbook for the study of the Latin language, and introduction to the purely natural formal training of the mind, and a typical example of the frivolous Renaissance spirit. The defects of ecclesiastical and monastic life are in this work held up to pitiless scorn; moreover, he descends only too often to indecent and cynical descriptions.' Even Luther condemned Erasmus for scattering 'poison' and declared that if he died he would forbid his children to read the work.
Another edition of this work was printed in Edinburgh in 1691 by Societatis Bibliopolarum and the John Reid's printing of this edition a few years later indicates that there was some appetite for Erasmus's writings in Scotland at the time. Reid was active in Edinburgh from 1680 until 1712. Early in his printing career Reid had been imprisoned for not serving his full apprenticeship. He had also incurred the wrath of another printer for stealing type.
This copy is lacking some text on the final leaf and it is clear that is was well used. It is signed by one 'William Horsburgh' in 1754.|
|Reference Sources||SBTI; Catholic Encyclopedia online|
|Date of Publication||1892|
|Notes||This is an excellent example of how donations can enrich the Library's collection in surprising ways. This book is by the noted Hungarian writer, Mikszath Kalman (in Hungarian, surnames are placed first). Mikszath (1847-1910) was a writer of satirical stories and novels, including some for children. Several of his works have been translated into English, such as his novel St. Peter's Umbrella (1895). The title of this work roughly translates as 'Sketches of Parliament', and consists of both narrative and dialogue, following events from 1883 to 1891.
This copy is particularly interesting as it was a presentation copy from the author to the donor's great-uncle. It appears to be in a special binding, half-leather, with gilt tooling on corners and spine, and with blue satin rather than cloth over the remainder of the boards. There is white satin laid over the endpapers. Tipped in is a card with the author's name printed on one side, and a manuscript note on the other.
The recipient was Leopold Goldschmied, a Rabbi, who left Hungary and moved to the new country of Czechoslovakia and became an adviser on Jewish affairs to the government; he died in 1935. A photograph of Leopold and other information is also tipped in.
The donor's family came to Britain in 1938. This book is a reminder of the contribution that people from Eastern Europe have made to Scotland, and will be a good addition to our existing collections of East European literature.|
|Author||Forrester, Alexander; MacFarlane, Thomas; MacGregor, James Gordon|
|Title||Objects, Benefits and History of Normal Schools, with Acts of the Legislature of Nova Scotia Anent Normal School, &c.; Observations on Canadian Geology; Technical Education Abroad and at Home.|
|Imprint||Halifax : James Barnes, 1855; Montreal : Dawson Bros., 1871; Halifax : Heral Publishing Company, 1882.|
|Date of Publication||see imprints above|
|Notes||Three items highlighting the activity and influence of Scots in 19th century Canada. Canada has always had strong emotional and historical ties to Scotland. For example, the first two Prime Ministers of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie, were both born in Scotland.
Alexander Forrester (1805-1869) the author of The Objects, Benefits and History of Normal Schools, was typical of many Scots who made a name for themselves in the New World. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1848. He would later become the Principal of the Normal School in Truro, Nova Scotia and Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia from 1855 to 1864.
Thomas MacFarlane (1834-1907), the author of Observations on Canadian Geology, was born at Pollockshaws, Renfrewshire and came to Canada as a mining engineer. He was later to discover the famous Silver Inlet Mine on Lake Superior.
James Gordon MacGregor (1852-1913), the author of Technical Education Abroad and at Home, presents the interesting case of a type of Scottish/Canadian cross-pollination. MacGregor was the Canadian born grandson of the Scottish emigrant Rev. James MacGregor (1759-1830). James Gordon MacGregor later immigrated to Scotland where he became a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1901-1913.|
|Shelfmark||AP.3.203.02; AP.1.203.11; AP.2.203.04|
|Date of Publication||1782|
|Notes||The 'Joy of Sex' of its day, this is a revised version of the work that first appeared with this title in 1694, and was continually republished thereafter. A compendium of popular medical knowledge, folklore and myth, it promises a guide to marriage, copulation and procreation, plus 'the picture of several monstrous births'. There are various unpleasant woodcuts, some derived from the first edition, of deformed babies. All kinds of remedies are proposed for infertility, difficult childbirth or 'green sickness' in virgins. There are detailed descriptions of the genitals and practical sections for midwives. Works like this have an enduring popularity. This Glasgow edition of 1782 is otherwise unrecorded.
This edition has an amusing section at the end, 'Observations on the human body', which discusses how appearances reveal more about the person. ('When the nostrils are close and thin, they denote a man to have but little testicles'.)
A curious feature of this copy is that the endpapers are printed leaves from an Edinburgh sermon. The bookseller suggests that the binder had a sense of humour.|
|Reference Sources||Wing, EEBO, ESTC|
|Title||Newcastle Courant, giving an account of the most material occurrences, both foreign and domestick.|
|Imprint||Newcastle upon Tyne: printed and sold by John White|
|Date of Publication||1716|
|Notes||This bound volume contains of 20 of the tri-weekly issues of the Newcastle Courant for 1716. It brings together news of British affairs from places such as Gibraltar, Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris, Venice, Malta, Petersburg, Warsaw, London and Edinburgh. For instance, one news item reports the drowning at sea in a storm of the chief of Clanranald and 20 of his followers on 1 March.
The Newcastle Courant is particularly interesting for its coverage of events relating to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 and its aftermath. It has numerous reports of executions, such as the "decollation" of the Jacobite rebels the Earl of Derwentwater and the Lord Viscount Kenmure on 25 February 1716. The escape via Caithness and Kirkwall to Sweden of 120 rebels, among them Lord Duffus, Sir George Stirling of Sinclair and Keith Seaton of Touch, appeared on 3 March. A journal of the proceedings of captured rebels from Edinburgh to London, written by a Scots prisoner in the Marshal Sea, was published in instalments.
ESTC records 9 holdings of the Newcastle Courant in Britain, but none in Scotland.|
|Author||Stevenson, Robert Louis [transl. Mme B.-J. Lowe]|
|Title||Cas etrange du Docteur Jekyll|
|Imprint||Paris: Librairie Plon|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||The first French edition of Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of those books which one would automatically assume could be found in the National Library of Scotland. However, this seems to be an extremely rare book, which was not included in the extensive library of Stevenson's works collected by Edwin J. Beinecke. One copy is located in the Bibliotheque Nationale. The rarity of this work is something of a puzzle as the book is a typical yellow paperback, the format in which many popular works were published in the late nineteenth century. Perhaps the other copies were simply read to death.
The copy we have just acquired is in near-mint condition.|
|Imprint||Glasguae: R. & A. Foulis|
|Date of Publication||1751|
|Notes||This is a beautiful Scottish edition of a classic, and a fine example of the aesthetically innovative and well-constructed books produced by Glasgow's Foulis Press. It measures 84 x 51 x 11 mm. Anacreon, the 6th-century BC Greek poet who wrote on wine, women and song, is here celebrated in a neat miniature version.
This copy is remarkable as it is printed on silk of four different colours, blue, pink, yellow and cream. The silk is not backed with paper, which makes the pages of some books printed on silk quite thick and rigid; here the silk is limp and the sheets are neatly sewn around the edges.
There is an ink inscription on the first (blank) leaf: "This Book was given to Mr. Baker by the Revd Mr Lumley Jan 10th 1771". A few sheets are a little spotted but the overall condition is delightful. Bound in contemporary red goatskin, gilt, with double gilt embossed endleaves (of two different patterns).
ESTC T85607 notes 4 copies on silk. See Bondy, Miniature Books, p.24, and Gaskell, Foulis Press, no. 181. The bookseller notes 'It doesn't appear in Book Auction Records and neither Houghton (who had a great miniature book collection) nor Getty ever found one.' The opportunity to acquire such a book is unlikely to recur.
NLS has a copy printed on paper, ABS.1.84.108. We also have a copy of Anacreon's Odes printed on silk by Hamilton, Balfour and Neill (1754), Nha.Misc.47. Other copies of books on fabric in NLS are at F.5.g.31 (limp white linen, not sewn at the edges) and F.6.b.4 (limp white silk, interleaved with paper, not sewn at the edges). There seems to have been a minor cult of printing on silk in Scotland at this period; see Brian Hillyard, 'Books printed on silk or linen', Factotum 28 (1989) pp.19-20. In 2000 we bought an unrecorded Aberdeen thesis printed on silk in 1675.
The National Library of Scotland has purchased this as an item of outstanding importance, which demonstrates how much Scots of the eighteenth century loved and admired their books. It is also a fine example of the Scottish cult of printing on silk, and of the Scottish tradition of producing miniature books, which arguably culminated in the work of David Bryce of Glasgow at the start of the 20th century.|
|Reference Sources||Gaskell, Foulis Press.
Bondy, Miniature Books.|
|Title||Information for Ross of Auchlossin, against the possessors of the Temple-lands.|
|Date of Publication||1706?|
|Notes||This is a most curious document discussing the order of the Knights Templar in Scottish history, of which no other copies can be traced. The text is known from its appearance in 'Templaria', 1828 (shelfmark H.30.c.26): this edition seems to have used the copy we have just acquired, as the 1828 editor notes that the last page seems to be missing a few words of text. In 1828 it was stated that no other copies were known.
A dispute between Robert Ross of Auchlossin and his tenants on lands formerly held by the Templars led to the production of this document. It traces the fortunes of the order, in order to make the case that the Templars were not a religious order, and that therefore their lands were not directly annexed to the crown after the Reformation in 1587. The Lords of Session agreed that Auchlossin's case was correct.
This is a striking example of early Scottish interest in the medieval religious order, often associated with Freemasonry.
The conjectural date of 1706 is taken from a manuscript annotation on the first page.|
|Reference Sources||Fountainhall, 'Decisions', v. 2, 1761, shelfmark Nha.L74, pp. 94-5|
|Author||Ogilvie, John [& John Mayne]|
|Title||Relatio incarcerationis & martyrij P. Ioannis Ogilbei natione Scoti|
|Imprint||Constantiae: ex typographaeo Leonhardi Straub.|
|Date of Publication||1616|
|Notes||This appears to be the second edition of the primary account of the sufferings of John Ogilvie (1580-1615), the Jesuit priest who was hanged for treason in Glasgow, thereby becoming one of the very few Catholic martyrs of the Reformation period. This is his own account of his sufferings, which was continued by John Mayne using the testimony of Ogilvie's fellow-prisoners, and first published at Douai in 1615. The Library has a copy of the first edition at BCL.S165, but the second edition has 7 pages of additional material. This copy has early provenance from German libraries.
Born at Drum na Keith, Ogilvie converted to Catholicism and entered the Society of Jesus. Ordained in either 1610 or 1613, he requested to work in Scotland, despite the danger faced by Catholic priests, and particularly Jesuits, when the penalty for saying Mass was death. After a successful ministry in Edinburgh and Glasgow lasting nine months, he was arrested and tortured to reveal the names of other Catholics, being deprived of sleep by being pricked with needles. James VI had offered him the chance of liberation if he would accept the spiritual supremacy of the monarch, but Ogilvie publicly rejected these terms at his trial. He was executed as a traitor on 10 March 1615.
St. John Ogilvie was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976, the first Scot to be canonised for over 700 years.|
|Reference Sources||True Relation of the proceedings against John Ogilvie, Edinburgh: 1615, H.34.c.41|
|Title||Cynthio to Leonora: the last poem of William Falconer|
|Imprint||London : R T. Harvey and Co.|
|Date of Publication||1825|
|Notes||William Falconer, born in Edinburgh in 1732, was both a sailor and poet. As a young man he joined a merchant vessel at Leith where he served his apprenticeship. Afterwards, he was servant to Archibald Campbell (1726?-1780) who was then purser on a man-of-war. Campbell was the author of Lexiphanes: A Dialogue Imitated from Lucian (1774), and it was he who discovered and encouraged Falconer's literary tastes. In 1751 Falconer published a poem on the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales and contributed a few poems to the 'Gentleman's Magazine.' In 1762 he published his chief poem, the 'Shipwreck,' which was partly based upon his own earlier experience of being one of only three survivors of a shipwreck on a voyage from Alexandria to Venice.
Although the preface to Cynthio to Leonora states that "the circumstances under which the following poem came into our possession, sufficiently evidence of its being the production of the author of the 'Shipwreck'", the attribution is, in fact, false. Cynthio to Leonora was first published in the Gentleman's Magazine for June and July 1738 (vol. viii, pp. 319, 370-1) and dated 1736. At that date Falconer would have been only 4 years old.
Reasons for a publisher in 1825 reviving a poem written nearly a century earlier may have to do with Falconer's enormous popularity in the first decades of the 19th century. By 1820 there were at least 46 different editions and impressions of 'The Shipwreck' and his works had been praised by Bryon and referred to by Coleridge in Sibylline Leaves. The temptation to publish a hitherto 'unpublished' Falconer poem was clearly too good an opportunity to pass up.
The pamphlet is nevertheless extremely rare and may be only extant copy: no bibliographic records have been found for it in NSTC, NUC, OCLC, RLIN, the Library of Congress, British Library, or the libraries at Harvard and Yale. It is bound together with four other titles: Man and the Animals by Mrs. Gordon; The Highlanders and Other Poems by Mrs. Grant, and Human Life, a Poem by Samuel Rogers.
Shipwreck, A Poem: with the life of the author / by J. S. Clarke. London, 1811.|
|Title||Petri Bembi Cardinalis viri clariss. Rerum Venetarum historiae libri XII.|
|Imprint||Lutetiae [Paris]: Ex officina Michaelis Vascosani, via Jacobea ad insigne Fontis|
|Date of Publication||1551|
|Notes||This is a fine addition to the National Library's holdings of books with important early Scottish provenance. The book itself is important, the history of Venice by Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), the famous Italian scholar and churchman. The library has two other copies of this finely-printed volume (Nha.B188, BCL.B3451), but both are imperfect, whereas this is complete, including the folding plates at the end. However, this donation is particularly important because it was owned by at least three well-known sixteenth-century Scots. The title-page is inscribed 'Adamus Episcopus Orchaden[sis]' - this is Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney (c. 1526-1593), the bishop who joined the reformers and whose extensive library has been recorded. On folio 1 and on the verso of folio 311 is the inscription 'Hen. Sinclar' - this is Henry Sinclair (1508-1565), Bishop of Ross and another known collector of books, who wrote additions to Boece's History of Scotland. On the recto following the title-page is the inscription 'W Santclair of roislin knecht', which also appears on the verso of folio 311. This is William Sinclair, who succeeded to the estates of Roslin in 1554 (see Lawlor, p.95). The Sinclairs of Roslin are one of the more famous Scottish families, associated in popular memory with Rosslyn Chapel which they founded. It seems likely that the book came to Henry Sinclair soon after it was printed, then passed to William Sinclair, and then into the library of Adam Bothwell. On the cover is the date 'Aug. 18, 1593', five days before Bothwell's death.
More recently, the book has the bookplate of Arthur Kay designed by Kate Cameron.
The existence of this copy was known, as it appeared for sale in 1814 and 1968 (recorded in our interleaved copy of Durkan & Ross). It is very satisfying to finally add it to the national collections.|
|Reference Sources||Durkan & Ross, Early Scottish Libraries
Cherry, 'Library of Henry Sinclair', Bibliotheck 4 (1963), no. 1
Lawlor, H. J., 'Notes on the library of the Sinclairs of Rosslyn', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1898|
|Title||Seelen Artzney. Das ist: Ein schoener und nuetzlicher Tractat, in welchem die Kranckheiten der Seele, ihre Ursachen, Zeichen, Zufaelle und Prognostica ordentlich beschrieben und zugleich angezeigt wird …|
|Imprint||Hanau: David Aubry; Frankfurt: Clemens Schleichen und Peter de Zetter|
|Date of Publication||1634|
|Notes||This is the second German edition of Abernethy's seminal "Christian and heavenly treatise containing Physick for the soule" of 1615; the first German translation was published in 1625.
This edition is bound in contemporary vellum with blind tooling and gauffered edges.
John Abernethy became Bishop of Caithness in 1616, but was deprived of the See in 1638; he died in 1639.
His "Physick" deals with original sin as the source of spiritual illness, and with the cure or "Artzney" for different sins such as jealousy, impatience, fear, intemperance or hatred. The treatise is modelled on medical books detailing cures for certain diseases, and indeed draws on diseases of the body as parallels, such as the "cancer of heresy".
The translator of the German edition is unknown, but he has added comments and enlarged the original English version.|
|Reference Sources||Scott, H. Fasti ecclesiae Scoticanae, 1928: |b vol. 2, p. 125|
|Title||Johann Barclayens Argenis Deutsch gemacht durch Martin Opitzen.|
|Imprint||Breslau: David Mueller|
|Date of Publication||1626|
|Notes||The Scotsman John Barclay published his political novel "Argenis" in Latin in 1621, one month prior to his death. This long romance, which introduces the leading personages of international importance, has been called the prototype of a courtly roman a clef. Martin Opitz made his, the first German translation, from a French version of "Argenis" between 1626 and 1631.
This two volume edition is bound in contemporary vellum over wooden boards. It has 24 engraved plates with scenic illustrations, as well as a portrait of Barclay in volume 2.
Martin Opitz (1597-1639) was the foremost German Baroque poet. He was considered the authority on the best metrical pattern in all genres. Johann Christoph Gottsched called him the father of German poetry. In Vienna in 1623, Opitz was awarded the position of an imperial poet on account of an extempore poem. He received a knighthood from the Austrian Emperor in 1627.
The first volume is Opitz's translation of Barclay's text, whereas the second volume contains the translation of a second instalment by A.M. de Mouchemberg.|
|Title||Saturday Feb. 18th. For the St. James's Chronicle. Sketch of a comparison between the two late writers of travels in Scotland.|
|Date of Publication||[1775?]|
|Notes||Bound at the end of a copy of the first edition of Samuel Johnson's 'Journey to the Western Islands' of 1775 is this 3-page comparison between the traveller writers Thomas Pennant and Samuel Johnson. The author, who simply signs himself 'Staffa', seems to be a Scot who feels that Johnson has insulted his country. With plenty of satirical humour, he compares the way they approach Scotland, much to Johnson's disadvantage. Pennant looked for interesting landscapes and places, whereas Johnson looked for things to grumble about. Prejudice is the problem:
'Whence can proceed this wide difference between these two travellers, as to their objects, pursuits, reception, and accounts of the same country in the same year? Is it because Mr. Pennant is a gentleman and a scholar, and Dr. Johnson only a scholar? Or is it because Mr. Pennant is a Welchman, and Dr. Johnson an Englishman, and the subject of discourse, Scotland?'
This is a good addition to the Library's holdings of Johnsoniana and books about travellers in Scotland.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC N46421|