Rare Books - Important Acquisitions List All
Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through
purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 735 of the most important items we have acquired since 2000. We update it regularly as new material comes in. The description gives information about why it was chosen and what makes it particularly interesting. You can order the list by date of acquisition, author or title.
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 735:
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|Title||Bunch o' gatherings glean'd from the two past generations consisting of eight-page ballads, songs, tales, elegies, executions, &c., mostly poetical …|
|Imprint||Paisley: William Anderson|
|Date of Publication||1860|
|Notes||These two volumes of chapbooks were compiled by the Paisley 'broker and bookseller' William Anderson. Apparently he had come across a pile of undistributed chapbooks languishing in a Paisley warehouse. He then had them bound up into collections and issued them in volumes of between 30-100 chapbooks as is stated on the title page. Both these volumes containing 53 and 56 items were issued with a frontispiece of Robert Tannahill the Paisley poet/song-writer. Only one other copy - in Cleveland Public Library - has been traced.
Most of the chapbooks date from the 1820s and were printed in towns throughout Scotland including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Falkirk and Paisley. Most of them are already included in the National Library's collections, but there are a number of additions to the collection including 'The news to which is added, the humours of Glasgow Fair' printed by R. Hutchison at the Saltmarket, Glasgow and the wonderfully titled Paisley chapbook 'The wonderful advantages of drunkenness'
Included in the second volume are a number of issues of the Paisley Repository published in the early decades of the 19th century. Anderson had published issues of a penny periodical called the 'New Paisley Repository' between 1852 and 1853.|
|Title||Edinburgh the twenty day of May|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: by John Moncur|
|Date of Publication||1726|
|Notes||This broadside announces the annual Edinburgh archery competition, founded in 1709, for which the prize was a silver arrow. The contest was to take place at Leith Links, in July 1726. Only members of the Royal Company of Archers, a patriotic society with strong Jacobite leanings, were eligible to take part. The winner was to keep the silver arrow for a year, and have his badge fixed to it with the badges of previous winners. When he returned the arrow at the end of that year, he was to receive five pounds. It seems that John Earl of Wigtown was the winner in 1726.
The woodcut headpiece shows the arms and motto of the City of Edinburgh, with the doe and maiden supporters (but not the coronet and anchor). Together with the large historiated initial, this adds to the attraction of a most interesting single-sheet item. Only one other copy of this broadside has been traced.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC T32423
Old Leith at leisure, James Scott Marshall (1976) HP1.77.865
Sports and pastimes of Cotland, Fittis (1975). H2.88.473|
|Title||[The last words of James, El. Of Derwentwater]|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This is a remarkable broadside (68 x 50 cm) probably produced shortly after the execution in 1716 of the Jacobite leaders. It is engraved throughout and consists of the oval portraits of eight of the leaders and the last words of six of them. The British Museum Catalogue of Prints and Drawings lists a much smaller print (without any text) depicting 7 oval portraits - James III in the centre surrounded by Kenmure, Bruce, Collingwood, Paul, Hall and Gascoigne. One can only speculate on who produced this grand work and why. Presumably it was to keep alive the memory of the Jacobite leaders among their supporters in Scotland or abroad. It is however, likely that the proceeds from the sale of such a print were devoted to the relief of the executed mens' families.
After the 'Old Pretender' scuttled back to France in early February 1716, the rebellion collapsed. Most of the Jacobite noblemen made their way to the continent and of those noblemen condemned to death, only Derwentwater and Kenmure actually paid the penalty. Both had been captured in the course of the skirmish at Preston. The original sentence involved them being hanged but before they died they were to be disembowelled (with the bowels burned before their faces) then beheaded and quartered. But because of their social status a mere beheading, which took place on Tower Hill in February 1716, sufficed. The fact that there was considerable sympathy, though not active support, for the Jacobite cause in Scotland, meant that the rebels were dealt with relatively leniently with many being 'allowed' to escape.
The only other known copy is held by the Drambuie Liqueur Company, Edinburgh.|
|Reference Sources||Kemp, Hilary. Jacobite rebellion. (London, 1975)
Sharp, Richard. The engraved record of the Jacobite movement. Scolar Press, 1996. H4.97.202|
|Title||[Greenock Library catalogues].|
|Date of Publication||[1808-1820]|
|Notes||This bound volume containing 8 catalogues and supplements to the catalogues of the subscription library at Greenock (known today as the Watt Library) is an important addition to the Library's holdings of material relating to library history in Scotland. The catalogue comes from the family library of James Watt (1736-1819) the engineer and includes a note in Watt's hand preceding the supplement for 1815.
The library was established in 1783 when a number of gentlemen organized a library 'to save themselves the expence of purchasing many books, and to avert the fatal effects which are sometimes occasioned by circulating libraries'. What these 'fatal effects' were is a moot point, but the subscription libraries, were, in contrast to the circulating libraries, organized on a not-for-profit basis.
Watt, born in Greenock and educated at the Grammar School there, lived in the town until he was 18, when he left to go to Glasgow (and later London) to to become an apprentice to a mathematical instrument maker. In spite of the fact that he lived and worked in Birmingham from 1773, Watt retained his links with the west of Scotland throughout his life, with frequent holidays in Glasgow and Greenock as well as overseeing a new harbour in his home town.
After he retired from his firm Boulton & Watt in 1800, he continued to demonstrate his interest in Greenock, mainly as a subscriber to the library. In 1816 he gave the library the princely sume of £100 'to fom the beginning of a scientific library, for the instruction of the youth of Greenock' . By 1818, when Watt was on the 'Committee of the Greenock Library of Arts and Sciences' there were three parts to the library - arts and sciences, foreign books (from 1807 - mainly French) and the general library. In the 1812 supplementary catalogue, there is even a list of books in the juvenile library. In addition to the subscribers, scholars in the Mathematical school and 'any other respectable inhabitant' of Greenock could have access to the books relating to the 'arts and sciences'.
Catalogues also on microfilm at Mf.51(7)|
|Reference Sources||Kaufman, P. 'The rise of community libraries in Scotland', p.254 in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America vol.59, 1965.
Kelso, William. The James Watt story. Greenock, 1997.
|Author||Clarke, R. M., Captain.|
|Title||The angler's desideratum, containing the best and fullest directions for dressing the artificial fly; with some new and valuable
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Printed by M. Anderson|
|Date of Publication||1839|
|Notes||The author, Captain R.M. Clarke, wrote this work from his own personal experience of over fifty years of angling in the United Kingdom. Clarke felt that while other arts have been progressively improving, that of angling seems to have retrograded. He attributes this partly to the poor state of contemporary angling literature and indicates that in writing the Angler's Desideratum he was trying to address the faults and shortcomings of publications in this genre.
He attributes the poor state of angling literature to two factors: firstly, the fact that many fishermen jealously want to guard their angling secrets and thus are loath to put anything in print. Secondly, the observation that those who do publish have very little, if any, actual experience of fishing and that they are primarily plagiarizing and/or summarizing Izaak Walton's (1593-1683) classic Compleat Angler of 1653.
Topics covered include the rod, hooks, fly-casting, and the manner of tying a variety of flys. Both the preface and the conclusion state that this work is only "the precursor of another, more copious, and of consequence more efficient work" that is apparently in a state of being "far advanced." This larger work does not seem to have ever been published.|
|Title||Weekly miscellany [of instruction and entertainment]|
|Imprint||Glasgow: William Bell|
|Date of Publication||1791|
|Notes||The Weekly Miscellany was published from 1789-1792, but few copies of its later years seem to survive. The NLS already has No. 1 (25th June 1789)-no. 26 (16th Dec. 1789) (NG.1588.b.5); this is a rare copy of the issues for 1791: No. 85 (2nd Feb) to No. 131 (21st Dec). The journal contains articles covering a wide range of subjects - contemporary politics, the anti-slavery debate, and historical articles are mixed with essays, poetry and fiction. While the subjects are world-ranging, there is a special interest in Scottish affairs, such as recollections of the Jacobite rebellion (including an 'Imitation of Psalm CXXVII. by a Scots Gentleman upon his arrival in France, summer 1746' (p. 142). More notably, this particular volume contains what is probably the first appearance in print of Robert Burns' poem 'Written in Friars Carse Hermitage' (p. 382, 31 Nov 1791). (Certainly it is the first surviving appearance, though Egerer conjectures that this poem may have been printed in 1789). It also contains Burns' Address to the Shade of Thomson (p.319, 2 Nov 1791), which had already appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser.
This particular copy is not perfect, lacking some numbers and with some torn pages, but these imperfections are greatly outweighed by the rarity of the volume.|
|Reference Sources||ESTC P2351
J.W. Egerer: A bibliography of Robert Burns. London, 1964. Item 1260, p.344. (Friars Carse)
Item 24, p. 37 (Thomson)|
|Author||De Serres, Jean/ Buchanan, George|
|Title||Psalmorum Davidis aliquot metaphrasis Graeca Ioannis Serrani. Adiuncta eregione paraphrasi Latinia G. Buchanani.|
|Imprint||[Geneva] Henri Estienne|
|Date of Publication||1575|
|Language||Greek and Latin|
|Notes||This copy of Jean de Serres' translation of the Psalms into Greek verse, with George Buchanan's Latin verse paraphrase on facing pages, was presented by de Serres to Buchanan, that 'most excellent' man, as his inscription on the title page attests. It would be wonderful if such a gift were part of a fruitful exchange between two humanist scholars, but the reality seems a more pathetic tale.
In the printed preface to his Psalms, de Serres explains how Buchanan's psalm paraphrase inspired his own. In 1578, three years later, when he was one of the editors of Estienne's edition of Plato, he wrote to Buchanan, sending him a copy, and again mentioning how he had produced his Psalm translations and the debt he owed to Buchanan, but commenting that he had written before and had not received a reply. This letter is held by the NLS at Adv.Ms.15.1.6.f24. (There is no record that he ever received a reply to this second gift, either.) Buchanan had by most accounts a good relationship with Henri Estienne, the celebrated scholar-printer who published this book - the Estienne family were the original publishers of Buchanan's psalm paraphrases and indeed brought out an edition of that work in the same year, so why he would not reply to a fellow Estienne author, and a Calvinist and classical scholar at that, is unknown.
The obvious conclusion is that this item was sent to Buchanan by de Serres on its publication with a letter of praise and introduction similar to the one that still survives, but Buchanan never acknowledged the gift. However, since it survived and presumably remained in Scottish hands, he must have kept this copy, or at least given it to a good home. This copy is not mentioned in Durkan's Buchanan bibliography.
The whereabouts of this item for the next few hundred years are uncertain; the next recorded owner is Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, (1747-1813) whose signature is on the flyleaf. Lord Woodhouselee was an important figure in Edinburgh legal and literary circles at the end of the 18th century, and the NLS holds a number of other items from his library. This book is considerably earlier than those works, perhaps showing an interest in earlier Scottish authors - Woodhouselee's concern with his literary contemporaries, especially Burns, is well documented.
More recently this book was owned by the modern scholar Elizabeth Armstrong, whose label is inside the front cover. Presumably she acquired this book through her interest in the Estienne family (her book on Robert Estienne first appeared in 1954).|
|Reference Sources||Durkan: Bibliography of George Buchanan 1994|
|Title||Complete Glossary for Sir W. Scott's Novels and Romances.|
|Imprint||Paris: Baudry's European Library|
|Date of Publication||1833|
|Notes||This volume contains three works which were published in Paris, in English, in the nineteenth century. All have been annotated, most likely by a French owner, whose notes provide a fascinating insight into how much, or how little, the Scots dialect was understood abroad in the period. The third item is Thomas Moore's poem The Loves of the Angels (1823), and the second is a collection called Tales for the Fireside or the Road, by Popular Living Authors (1854). These tales include Mrs Norton's 'The Ruined Laird', and James Hogg's 'Extraordinary History of a Border Beauty', in both of which the Scots dialect is glossed by the annotator.
But the most interesting item is the Glossary to Scott, where the annotator has written in many additional entries, presumably representing words encountered in his reading of the Waverley novels. These include 'Plaid, a worsted mantle' ; 'Claymore, epee avec garde en osier'; 'Quhom, whom'; 'Sonsy, merry'; 'Yoursell, yourself'. Scott was hugely popular in Europe: this book shows how one contintental reader coped with the language in which he wrote.|
|Title||Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (2 vols. and Supplement)|
|Imprint||London: Chapman and Hall|
|Date of Publication||1845|
|Notes||The NLS already has later editions of this work, but this was an opportunity to acquire a first edition with interesting provenance.
The half-title of the first volume is inscribed 'To Miss Wilson with many kind regards. T.C' in Carlyle's unmistakable hand, and a later hand notes that the volume was 'given to F.J. Conance Esq. as a Memorial from J.W. 1872'. This 'Miss Wilson' is probably Jane Wilson, 1790-1890, friend of Harriet Martineau, who with her brother Thomas began a friendship with Carlyle around 1836, when they suggested a lecture series to him. (Kaplan, pp. 239-240). Carlyle and his wife Jane wrte to the Wilsons and mention them in their letters of the period: in 1845, the year this book was published, Miss Wilson is chiefly notable for an unlucky dinner invitation which Carlyle complained about and tried to get out of.|
|Reference Sources||Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Duke-Edinburgh Edition.
Fred Kaplan: Thomas Carlyle, A Biography. CUP 1983|
|Author||Coultershoggle, Mungo (pseud.)|
|Imprint||New York: Collins & Hannay et al|
|Date of Publication||1825|
|Notes||This is an extraordinary acquisition, a two-volume novel published in America which has most of the dialogue in Scots. The work is extremely rare and the British Library only has a microfilm. This presumably explains why it seems to have escaped critical and literary recognition.
The unknown pseudonymous writer also wrote 'Leslie Linkfield' (1826). It seems overwhelmingly likely that he was a Scottish emigrant; the descriptions of the Scottish countryside, and the dialogue, could hardly have been written by someone who had not spent many years in Scotland. The plot is rather reminiscent of Scott's 'Redgauntlet': a naïve youth comes to discover that he is the heir of a powerful aristocratic family, which had fought for the Jacobites. The preposterously-named Goslington Shadow emerges as a hero and lover of noble blood.
In terms of literary constuction, this novel is most curious. The narrator adopts a high prose style in flowery English, full of sentimental reflections on landscape, rather like Gothic writers like Mrs. Radcliffe. The tone is frequently knowing and ironic, which can make it an irritating text to read. When the characters speak, however, the language used is serious Scots, and hard to read for a non-native speaker. The plot develops in the most meandering way, introducing numerous picaresque figures whose relevance is rarely immediately clear. I would conjecture that this novel was received in New York in 1825 with utter bafflement.
This novel would repay serious study. It seems to me that this is a major attempt at literary innovation, of real significance in the development of Scottish literature. The result is certainly not an unqualified success. Some passages are wonderful and horrible stylistic failures, so bad as to be rather good. Yet the overall wit and intelligence of the writer shine through (see, for example, the debate over the reading of 'Paradise Lost' towards the end of vol. 1). Certainly, compared to some of the examples of 'Scottish literature' currently in print, 'Goslington Shadow' has much to recommend it.|
|Author||Joersson, S. A.|
|Title||Adam Smith auteur des recherches sur la richesse des nations & Thomas Payne|
|Date of Publication||1796|
|Notes||This book sets Smith against Paine, arguing that Paine's teaching in 'The decline and fall of the English system of finance' threatens disastrous war and political disorder. This work, presented to the French government, offers Smith's philosophy as the sensible alternative. The author quotes from the 1781 Yverdon edition of Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'.
The work seems to have been published simultaneously in English, French and German. NLS currently has only a copy of the English version, at shelfmark NG.1300.b.16. Despite being published in multiple languages, it seems to be an uncommon book, and it clearly did not have the effect its author was seeking. The appeal to France to seek peace rather than further destructive conflict evidently did not prevent the Napoleonic wars.
This is a very nice copy in gilt red morocco, with marbled endpapers.|
|Author||Tytler, Alexander Fraser, Lord Woodhouselee|
|Title||Essay on Military Law|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: b. Murray & Cochrane f. T. Egerton|
|Date of Publication||1800|
|Notes||This copy of the first edition of Tytler's work on military law is particularly important as it was owned and corrected by the author. It has his initials on the title-page, and extensive ink annotations throughout, sometimes on inserted pages. There is also a printed correction slip pasted to the verso of the title-page. The second edition, for which the author's corrections were apparently made, appeared in 1806.
Tytler (1747-1813) was professor of history at the University of Edinburgh, then judge-advocate for Scotland, and eventually a lord of the Court of Session. This copy shows that he was a careful editor and reviser. A detailed comparison between these corrections and the printed text of the second edition would reveal how many of the author's changes were actually incorporated.|
|Title||Novus cursus philosophicus Scotistarum complectens universam philosophiam, rationalem, naturalem, moralem & transnaturalem…|
|Imprint||Lugduni : Sumpt. Lavr. Arnavd, et Petri Borde|
|Date of Publication||1669|
|Notes||This is a one volume compendium of the works of John Duns Scotus (1265/66-1308). Sources variously state that Scotus was born in Duns, Berwickshire, Friar Minor at Dumfries where his uncle Elias Duns was superior, or Maxton (now Littledean).
Scotus was one of the most important and influential philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages. His complex and nuanced thought, which earned him the nickname "the Subtle Doctor," left a mark on discussions of such disparate topics as the semantics of religious language, the problem of universals, divine illumination, and the nature of human freedom.
The recto of the front free endpaper has a manuscript entry in the hand of Professor Geoffrey W.S. Barrow, M.A., B.Litt., D.Litt., Hon.D.Litt. Barrow was formerly a professor in the Scottish History Department of the University of Edinburgh and the inscription indicates that the book was once in his ownership. The inscription begins: "This is a remarkable compendium of the philosophy of John Duns Scotus ... NB. There is no copy of this work listed in the catalogues of the British Library not that of the Bibl. Nat. at Paris."|
|Imprint||London: M. Darly,|
|Date of Publication||1775|
|Notes||This is a rare print of an engraving of the explorer James Bruce, 1730-1794. It was drawn by the caricaturist Edward Topham (1751-1820) who worked for the engraver and printseller Matthew Darly of the Strand, London in the 1770s. Darly's printshop was known as 'The Macaroni Print shop' as he was the printer par excellence of prints of macaronies (fops) very much in vogue from 1771 to 1773. This print of Bruce was first sold as an individual print but later published as part of a series of caricatures published by Darly in 1776. The only other known copy of the print is held in the Department of Prints at the British Museum.
A giant of a man for the time at 6 ft. 4, James Bruce was born in Kinnaird, Stirlingshire and educated at Harrow. After studying law, he developed an interest in archaeology and ancient languages. He served as the British consul in Algiers from 1763-1765 after which he explored the Roman ruins in North Africa (known then as Barbary). Further adventures followed during which he was shipwrecked and attacked by the Arabs.
Bruce made his name as the explorer of Abyssinia and the Nile between 1769 and 1772. He is credited with the discovery of the source of the Blue Nile, though he himself thought he had discovered the White Nile ('the Nile of the ancients'). Feted on his return to Britain in 1775 - at the time this print was produced - his popularity rapidly waned. This was due to his very candid description of some of the customs of the Abyssinians including cutting meat from a live animal and eating it - which he admitted to indulging in!
He retired to his ancestral home in Scotland and his account of his travels was eventually published in 5 vols in 1790 as 'Travels to discover the source of the Nile'.|
Dictionary of 19th century British book illustrators
British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings: catalogue of political and personal satires vol V 1771-1783, no.5317|
|Imprint||London: b. T. Maiden f. Ann Lemoine|
|Date of Publication||[1806-9]|
|Notes||Here are two finely-bound volumes of novellas and poems, most with a strong Gothic flavour. The titles give the game away ('The Tomb of Aurora', 'The Midnight Hour', 'The Mysterious Spaniard'). 'Gothic' literature in English includes some of the most important early novels, such as Matthew Lewis' 'The Monk' and Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. Gothic writing is characterised by a fascination with the medieval period from which it takes its name, an obsessive interest in the supernatural, an exploration of the emotions tending towards the sensual, and an appreciation of wild and romantic landscapes. There were many who had concerns about the influence of Gothic writing, such as Jane Austen who parodied the conventional Gothic narrative in 'Northanger Abbey'. 'Wild Roses' feels the need to open with a declaration that the editors have sought 'to prune from them every Luxuriance which might justly offend the Breast of Morality.' The blood-soaked pages which follow explain why such a disclaimer was felt necessary.
Although many of the main 'Gothic writers' were English, the genre had a major impact on Scotland (part of 'Frankenstein' is actually set in Scotland), and on Scottish writers such as Burns, Hogg and Scott. Many of Walter Scott's 'historical' novels show traces of Gothic influence, and one of the most important features of 'Wild Roses' is the fact that it includes a poem by Scott. 'The Maid of Toro', which appears at the end of 'The Captive Prince' in vol. 2, presents the despair of a medieval maiden hiding in a wood, who learns of the slaughter of her champion in battle, despite her prayers to the Virgin. It is a highly appropriate inclusion. Intriguingly, this printing of the poem was not recorded by Todd and Bowden in their Scott bibliography, which notes the first printing of the poem in 1806 (Todd 21Aa).
The works collected in these volumes seem to have been printed in 1806-1809, judging by the dates on the numerous engraved plates. The title-pages are undated. The items seem to have been printed as chapbooks in blue wrappers, a fragment of which adheres to the verso of the plate illustrating 'Livonia of Venice' in vol. 2. However, they were clearly intended to be bound up as a collection, as the signatures are continuous, and the final page in each volume gives the correct number of pages in each. The whole set is in excellent condition, bound in half red roan and red grained paper, with gilt-tooled spines bearing green leather labels. Both volumes have the bookplate of the Bibliotek Tido.|
|Reference Sources||Todd & Bowden. Todd 21Aa