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 753 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Important Acquisitions 616 to 630 of 753:
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|Imprint||6 vols., Edinburgh: for William Coke|
|Date of Publication||1777|
|Notes||This is a fine set of an interesting edition of William Whiston's translation of the works of Josephus. Whiston's famous translation of the Jewish historian's writings had its first Scottish publication in Scotland in 1777. There seem to have been two issues; the Library already has a copy of the issue printed for Alexander Donaldson. (VV.1/2). ESTC N64882 records only one copy of the issue printed for the Leith bookseller William Coke, which is at the University of Texas. According to SBTI, William Coke had fomerly been Alexander Donaldson's clerk, and was a witness in the case of Donaldson v John Reid in 1767. All six volumes are bound in contemporary polished calf; each spine has raised bands between gilt rules and a red morocco label, gilt lettered. Each volume has the attractive armorial bookplate of Thomas Lowndes.|
|Title||Selection of blocks from the collection of John A. Birkbeck|
|Imprint||Alan Anderson and Alex M. Frizzell|
|Date of Publication||1971|
|Notes||This is a most attractive selection of examples of printing from the ornamental blocks in the collection of the Scottish printer John A. Birkbeck. Many of Birkbeck's manuscripts and books are now held by the Library, including those in the Birkbeck special collection. This acquisition complements these existing holdings. It is also notable that this is printed by the Edinburgh-based Tragara Press, whose publications we have been collecting over the years. This work was printed by Alan Anderson and Alex M. Frizzell on 15 June 1971, in a run of 25 copies only. It is in fine condition, loose in blue wrappers as issued.|
|Reference Sources||Anderson, Alan. The Tragara Press 1954-1979. Edinburgh, 1979.|
|Title||Copy of verses on the Tay Bridge Disaster|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||The Tay Bridge Disaster of 28 December 1879, in which some 75 people died when the bridge collapsed as their train was crossing, inspired many outpourings of verse. The bookseller here felt impelled to state 'NOT BY McGONAGALL', as William McGonagall's poem beginning 'Beautiful railway bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!' is one of his most notorious compositions. This broadside poem perhaps scans better than McGonagall's efforts, but it is still essentially sentimental doggerel. Incredible though it may seem, the writer thought that this was an appropriate composition to be sung, and suggests that this be done to the air known as 'Rock me to sleep'. There is even a chorus: 'Down 'neath the waters, down in the deep, / With the train for their coffin, in the river they sleep, / The Tay was the grave that received their last breath - / Near 100 poor souls went from pleasure to Death.' If this seems in rather poor taste, it compares quite well with the lurid media reporting of modern-day tragedies.|
|Title||Inquiry into the Human Mind|
|Imprint||3rd edition, Dublin|
|Date of Publication||1779|
|Notes||This is a useful edition to the Library's holdings of Scottish Enlightenment texts. Thomas Reid (1710-1796) is known as one of the founders of the 'common sense' school of philosophy. As a minister and traditionalist, he argued that our senses give us valid and trustworthy information about a real existent world, in opposition to other, more sceptical philosophers like David Hume. The Inquiry, written while Reid was Regent at King's College, Aberdeen, and first published in 1764, is perhaps Reid's most important work. In it Reid discusses all the five senses, but pays most attention to the faculty of sight, which had been at the centre of so many philosophical and scientific debates involving Berkeley, Locke and Newton. This 'third edition' printed at Dublin is a smaller, presumably cheaper reprint of the third edition printed in London in 1769. This copy was clearly read, as there are occasional pencil markings, and the title-page shows that it had at least two owners, thus providing more evidence for the importance of Irish publishing in promoting the Scottish Enlightenment. Jessop did not see a copy while compiling his bibliography of Scottish philosophers.|
|Reference Sources||T. E. Jessop, Bibliography of David Hume, p. 164|
|Title||Works of Anacreon|
|Date of Publication||1760|
|Notes||The importance of James Scott in the history of Scottish bookbinding is very great, and through J.H.Loudon's book on Scott the National Library of Scotland is widely recognised as having the pre-eminent collection of Scott bindings. This addition to the collection is notable for the gilt roll-tool border to the covers, with a crisp and attractive floral design, which seems to be wholly unrecorded. The spine is heavily tooled with gilt compartments separated by bars and enclosing a design which is almost identical to that produced by the tool recorded by Loudon as pallet Ro2.7 (here, the diamond has a dotted outline, as in pallet Ro2.14). There is also a red morocco spine label and marbled endpapers. Although there is no binder's label, it seems overwhelmingly likely that this is a new Scott binding. The text, of which we already have a copy, is in good condition, with a manuscript note 'The gift of Doctor Brody 1776'. Most of Scott's binding seems to have been carried out in the 1770s, and it seems unlikely that he bound the book in the year it was printed, 1760. Presumably the generous Dr. Brody had the gift specially bound in 1776.|
|Reference Sources||J.H.Loudon, James Scott and William Scott, Bookbinders, 1980.|
|Title||Exact abridgement of all the public acts of assembly of Virginia.|
|Date of Publication||1759|
|Notes||This collection of early acts passed by the assembly of colonial Virginia covers legislation from 1660 to 1758. Chronological tables give summary information, but the bulk of the text is taken up with an abridgement of the acts under alphabetical headings such as 'Deer', 'Duty on Slaves', 'Executions', 'Madeira Wine', 'Runaways' etc. A detailed index ensures that this is a highly practical reference work. Mercer had produced his first collection of acts in 1737, which was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia. Presumably this edition was printed in Glasgow in order to give Scottish traders information about the community with which they were making commercial transactions. However, most copies seem to have found their way to North America, with the result that this is a rare book in the British Isles; no copy is found in the Advocates' Library.|
|Author||Korb, Johann Georg.|
|Title||Diarium itineris in Moscoviam.|
|Imprint||Vienna: Leopold Voigt|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||An account of the Austrian diplomatic mission to Russia in 1698 to discuss an alliance against the Turkish Empire does not sound particularly thrilling, but this unexpectedly shocking book seems to have caused something of a diplomatic incident. While describing the progress of the embassy, Korb, the secretary to the embassy, described at length the turmoil of Russian internal politics. In the summer of 1698, the Tsar, Peter the Great, was on his famous incognito tour of western Europe, when the streltsy, the musketeer troops based in Moscow, rose up in rebellion. Curiously, the rebels were defeated by a Scottish general, Patrick Gordon. Gordon, born in 1635 at Auchleuchries in Aberdeenshire, had served in Russia since the 1660s, and rose to great eminence under Peter. As a Catholic, he was greatly distrusted by some in the Russian establishment (just as he would have been in Britain), but the Tsar's liking for Gordon extended so far that he was actually permitted to erect a stone-built Roman Catholic church in Moscow, in which Gordon was eventually buried. Gordon is mentioned repeatedly in this text, and some of the plates depict Gordon's fortifications at the town of Azov.
Peter hastily returned to Russia at the news of the rebellion, and proceeded to carry out a ferocious retaliatory campaign involving torture, mass executions and the punishment of the rebels' wives and children. Korb records all this in gruesome detail, and the large plates with which this volume is illustrated depict Moscow festooned with gallows, people being burned and buried alive, and rows of prisoners waiting to be beheaded. All in all, this was not a book conducive to better Austro-Russian relations, and it seems that the Austrian government had it suppressed. This is consequently a scarce book, and this is an excellent copy, from the library and bearing the bookplate of Archibald, 5th earl of Rosebery, one of the greatest early benefactors of the National Library of Scotland.|
|Reference Sources||Gordon, Patrick. Passages from the Diary. Aberdeen, 1859.
MacDonnell transl.. Diary of an Austrian secretary of legation at the court of Czar Peter the Great. London, 1863.|
|Author||Gibb, J. Taylor.|
|Title||Land of Burns: Mauchline town and district.|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||This 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.|
|Reference Sources||Baker, John. Mauchline ware and associated Scottish souvenir ware. (Shire Album 140) 1985. HP2.85.3149|
|Title||Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, in his embassy to the Ottoman Porte, from the year 1621 to 1628 inclusive|
|Imprint||Printed by Samuel Richardson at the expence of the Society for the Encouragement of Learning|
|Date of Publication||1740|
|Notes||This is the diplomatic correspondence of Thomas Roe (1581?-1644) during the time that he was ambassador to the Ottoman Porte between the years 1621 and 1628. Roe was one of the most distinguished and successful diplomats of his day as well as being an accomplished scholar and a patron of learning. He was knighted in 1605 and was made an MP for Tamworth in 1614 and later for Cirencester in 1621.
His permanent reputation was mainly secured by the success that attended his embassy in 1615 - 1618 to the court at Agra of the Great Mogul, JahangIr, the principal object of the mission being to obtain protection for an English factory at Surat. Upon becoming ambassador to the Porte in 1621 he distinguished himself with further successes. He obtained an extension of the privileges of the English merchants, concluded a treaty with Algiers in 1624, by which he secured the liberation of several hundred English captives, and gained the support, by an English subsidy, of the Transylvanian Prince Bethien Gabor for the European Protestant alliance and the cause of the Palatinate.
The volume is bound in plain leather covers with an elaborately decorated spine featuring gilt floral patterns and gilt depictions of small garden animals such as bees, flies, spiders, snails and worms. Although the preface indicates that this is the first volume of the letters and negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, no more volumes were actually published. An armorial bookplate on the verso of the t.p. indicates that it belonged to the Right Honourable Charles Viscount Bruce of Ampthill who was the son and heir of Thomas Earl of Ailesbury (1655? - 1741).|
|Reference Sources||ESTC T33247|
|Imprint||Glasgow, David Bryce|
|Date of Publication||ca. 1900|
|Notes||This is a miniature copy of The Koran, in Arabic, published by David Bryce of Glasgow around the turn of the 19th century. The book measures 19 x 27 mm. and is accompanied by a metal locket with an inset magnifying glass to help facilitate reading the tiny script. The edges of the book are gilt and it is bound in red morocco with a gilt pattern very reminiscent of that which was used on Bryce's miniature version of the Bible published in 1896. According to Louis W. Bondy's 'Miniature Books: their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day', many copies of Bryce's Koran were issued to during World War I to Muslim soldiers fighting with allied troops.|
|Reference Sources||Bondy, Louis W. Miniature books, their history from the beginnings to the present day (London: Sheppard Press, 1981) pp. 111-112.|
|Author||Scott, Walter, Sir.|
|Title||Character of Lord Byron|
|Date of Publication|||
|Notes||Sir Walter Scott's Character of Lord Byron is bound with William Parry's Last days of Lord Byron with His Lordship's Opinions on Various Subjects Particularly on the State and Prospects of Greece. Scott's tribute to Byron first appeared in the May 19, 1824 issue of the 'Edinburgh Weekly Journal' and was later reprinted in 'The Pamphleteer', vol. 24, 1824.
This copy of the Character of Lord Byron does not incorporate the same typeface, or follow the same layout as the edition of Scott's article published in the 'The Pamphleteer.' No bibliographic record for this copy can be found in NSTC, RLIN, CURL, or the catalogues of the British Library, Library of Congress, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge or the University of Edinburgh. Neither does it appear in William B. Todd's Sir Walter Scott : a bibliographical history, 1796-1832.
A footnote on p. 197, vol. VII, in John Gibson Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh: Constable, 1902) presents some relevant background information. According to a recollection in 1839 by Andrew Shortrede, an apprentice in the Edinburgh printing trade in 1824: 'Sir Walter came down from the Court of Session to the printing-office the day the intelligence of Byron's death reached Edinburgh and there dictated to James Ballantyne the article which appeared in the Weekly Journal. I think it was inserted without correction, or revisal, except by Ballantyne. From these circumstances, I with others imagined James had himself produced it in some moment of inspiration; but when I afterwards told him how I had been misled, he detailed suo more the full, true, and particular history of the article. Separate copies, I remember, were thrown off for some of Byron's friends.'
No publication details can be found anywhere on this copy of Scott's article. As Shortrede's recollection suggests, this is most probably one of the very few surviving separate copies, which James Ballantyne and Company had printed for the friends of Byron.|
|Reference Sources||Not in NSTC, RLIN or CURL|
|Date of Publication||1580-1581|
|Notes||This is a pleasing volume of three Duns Scotus works, bound in vellum and with gauffered floral designs on all edges. The works are Quaestiones Quolibetales, Disputationes Collationales, and Syllabus generalis (this last is a concordance to the Scripti Oxoniensis super Sententias). All are edited by Salvatore Bartolucio of Assisi, and published in Venice in 1580-1581. These editions seem to be quite rare; the third item is not found in the Bibliothèque Nationale or Adams. The printer 'Haeredes Melchioris Sessae' has a rather striking device of a cat carrying a mouse in its jaws. The only indication of provenance is the manuscript note on the first title-page, 'Cornelio Francescucci'. John Duns Scotus, the Franciscan theologian, Scholastic philosopher and commentator, is believed to have been born in about 1265-1270. His name is not conclusive proof that he was born in Scotland. Some have argued that he came from Ireland, and he certainly taught in England, at Oxford. On the basis of tradition, the Library treats him as a Scottish writer.|
|Title||Remarks upon an essay on government by James Mill|
|Imprint||London: James Ridgway|
|Date of Publication||1827|
|Notes||The Scottish Utilitarian philosopher James Mill, who was father of John Stuart Mill, was an important writer on politics and economics in his own right. His article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on government, which was strongly influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham, provoked this critical response from the young writer Leveson Smith. Smith dislikes Mill's style, ideas and beliefs, and is strongly hostile to democratisation; he is also critical of David Hume. Smith's essay was published posthumously in this volume, edited by his mother. Also included are notes on the contemporary debates over Catholic emancipation (Smith was in favour) and a selection of poems. There is an attractive portrait of Smith included. The book is bound in red cloth and half-morocco, with marbled endpapers. There is a bookplate of Sidney Edward Bouverie Bouverie-Pusey. On the title-page is the manuscript note 'With Mr Vernon Smith's compliments'.|
|Reference Sources||DNB, Encyclopaedia Britannica|
|Title||Bicentenary edition of Pitman's extra illustrated Boswell's Johnson|
|Imprint||Isaac Pitman & Sons|
|Date of Publication||1909|
|Notes||This edition of Boswell's Johnson was published in twenty weekly instalments beginning on Saturday September 18, 1909 and finishing on Saturday January 29th, 1910. The text is supplemented by the inclusion of over 560 illustrations offering information on people, places, documents and events associated with the narrative. The National Library's copy of this edition is notable for two reasons. Firstly, all twenty of the individually published parts are accounted for. Secondly, all of the front and back paper wrappers are present and in excellent condition.|
|Title||Davington Library catalogue of books, 1905|
|Date of Publication||1905|
|Notes||A rare catalogue from the library in the hamlet of Davington, between Ettrick and Eskdalemuir, Dumfriesshire, which indicates the spread of the community library in rural Scotland. It is not known when exactly this library was established - the entry in the New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845) written by Rev. William Brown mentions the growing popularity of a library lately established in Eskdalemuir parish and the 'moderate' terms of admission. However a copy of The Christian Monitor was presented to 'Eskdalemuir Library by the Rev. William Brown' in January 1831, which may indicate that a library was in the parish from the 1830s or earlier. Until then 'those fond of reading were subscribers to Westerkirk parish library', which was first established in 1792. Three years later Thomas Telford, the distinguished local and famous engineer had endowed this library and subequently that at Langholm with £1000 each. In 1868 a gift of 104 volumes was made to Davington Library by Westerkirk Parish Library. It is clear that in Eskadale there was a considerable demand for the printed word. There was a Free Church and a school in Davington , so it is possible that the library may have been funded by the church in some way.
This is the second printed catalogue of Davington library – the first, listing 755 items, dates from 1858. A total of 332 books are listed in alphabetical order by title with the press numbers and shelf letters. The stock ranged from popular periodicals such as Chambers's Journal, Good Words, Leisure Hour and Sunday at home to novels like Adam Bede, Vanity Fair, Barnaby Rudge, and The Heart of Midlothian, intriguing titles such as Abominations of modern society, How to be happy though married, Sports that kill as well as biographical and historical works.
It appears that the library at Davington (housed in the school) was in existence until c.1935; manuscript additions to the 1858 catalogue (now at Westerkirk) end with vol. 40 of the Border magazine (1935). When the school closed, possibly during the 1950s, many of the books came into the possession of Westerkirk Parish Library, others were dispersed throughout the parish and to the book trade. The remainder, c.100 volumes, were purchased by Mr. Cutteridge, Billholm, Westerkirk for £25 and the money was used to buy an encyclopedia of Eskdalemuir School.|
|Reference Sources||Shirley, G.W. Dumfriesshire libraries. 1933. 5.478
Kaufman, Paul. 'The rise of community libraries in Scotland' in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 59, 1965. HP1.201.1250
Crawford, John C. 'The rural community library in Scotland' in Library review, vol. 24, no.6, summer 1974. Y.183|