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 721 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 706 to 720 of 721:
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|Title||Foirceadul aith-ghearr cheasnuighe [The shorter catechism]|
|Imprint||Glas-gho: Anna Orr|
|Date of Publication||1776|
|Notes||Books in Scottish Gaelic are a key part of the National Library's collections, and we acquire such items wherever possible. This is a good copy of an eighteenth-century catechism, which also includes the alphabet, the Ten Commandments, various prayers, and a guide to numbers in arabic and roman. It was clearly designed for educational purposes. The book is particularly interesting as it was printed for a woman publisher, Anna Orr.|
Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue 2769|
|Author||William Blackwood (firm)|
|Date of Publication||[1840-1890?]|
|Notes||64 blocks from the Edinburgh printing and publishing firm of William Blackwood, with 43 proofs recently printed at the Tragara Press, in excellent condition. Some blocks have a base of wood, some of metal, but all have a good-quality metal (mainly copper) surface. The images include scenes from a printer's workshop, steam trains and steam agricultural vehicles, landscapes, birds and animals, towns and harbours. Many are signed or initialled by the designer. They probably date from the mid-to-late 19th century.|
|Title||Epistola Gulielmi Brussii Scoti. Ad illustrem D. Johannen Gostomium.|
|Date of Publication||1596|
|Notes||By the end of the 16th-century there was a large number of Scottish emigrants living in Poland and lands adjoining the Baltic Sea. One of the most prominent was the Scottish Catholic William Bruce. Born in Stanstill in Caithness around 1560 and educated in France, William Bruce worked in universities there before moving to Rome and then on to German city of Wuerzburg to take up the Chair of Law. Bruce's academic career was interrupted by a spell serving as a mercenary soldier when he joined the military campaign against the Ottoman Empire on the Slovak-Hungarian front. In 1595 he arrived in Poland and shortly afterwards he accepted the Polish Chancellor Zamoyski's offer of teaching Roman law at his recently inaugurated Humanist academy in Zamosc. During this time he had printed at least three pamphlets, including this one dated Torun, 12 February, attacking the Turks and stressing their threat to the Christian kingdoms of eastern and central Europe - the other two works are: "Ad principes populorum Christianum, de bello adversus Turcos gerendo" (Leipzig 1595) and "De Tartaris diarium" (Frankfurt, 1598). After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Bruce would became James VI/I's royal agent to Poland, securing trade links between Britain and Poland and protecting the rights of Scottish and English settler in Poland and Prussia.|
|Reference Sources||Bookseller's notes.
J.K. Fedorowicz, England's Baltic trade in the early seventeenth century, (Cambridge, 1980).|
|Title||Les types Russes|
|Imprint||[St. Petersburg: s.n.]|
|Date of Publication||c. 1860-1870]|
|Notes||An album of 24 carte-de-visite photographs pasted onto folding boards, making up a portfolio. William Carrick (1827-78) was born in Edinburgh but moved to Russia the following year when his father set up a timber business in Kronstadt, the port of St. Petersburg. William visited Scotland in 1857 where he met a young professional photographer, John MacGregor, who encouraged him in his plans to set up a photographic studio in St Petersburg. Carrick's studio opened in 1859 and MacGregor joined him to work together in the business. When they were not taking commissioned portraits, Carrick would invite people from the street in to have their photographs taken. He called these portraits his 'Russian types' and he and MacGregor photographed a broad cross-section of Russian society, from nuns, to street hawkers, coachmen and soldiers. These photographs found approval with the Russian court, Carrick getting a diamond ring from Tsar Alexander II. It is unusual to find Carrick 'Russian types' photographs in this album format. The title in French on the front cover suggests that the album may have been produced for the Russian court as French was the main language of the court.|
|Reference Sources||F. Ashbee & J. Lawson, "William Carrick 1827-1878" [Edinburgh, 1987] (Scottish Masters series no. 3)|
|Author||William Gilpin (& John Heaviside Clark)|
|Title||A practical illustration of Gilpin's day: representing the various effects on landscape scenery from morning till night|
|Imprint||London: Edward Orme|
|Date of Publication||1811|
|Notes||This is a rare first edition of a book illustrating the effects of light and the weather on the landscape. It reproduces landscape sketches by William Gilpin (1724-1804), an English writer on art, school teacher and clergyman, who is now best known for being one of the first people to put forward the idea of the picturesque in art. In his 1768 "Essay on Prints" he outlined 'the principles of picturesque beauty, the different kinds of prints, and the characters of the most noted masters'. For Gilpin 'picturesque' was 'a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture'; moreover, beauty could have an improving moral influence which meant that viewing a landscape was a religious as well as an aesthetic experience. Gilpin travelled the length and breadth of Britain, with his notebook and sketching materials, searching out picturesque locations in order to demonstrate his theories. From 1782 a series of works by Gilpin were published with the title "Observations on & relative chiefly to picturesque beauty". In these books, which covered specific areas of Britain, Gilpin's pen and wash sketches of landscapes were reproduced in aquatint plates. His picturesque books proved to be very popular, however his didactic and pedantic tone grated with some authors, and with professional artists such as John Landseer, who dismissed his 'aquatinted smearings & tarnished with false principles of art'. Gilpin was also mercilessly satirised in William Combe's Doctor Syntax books, first published in the 1810s. Despite his critics, there was still a devoted readership for Gilpin's works among amateur artists and they continued to be published after his death in 1804. In 1810, the London print seller and publisher Edward Orme published a work entitled "The last work published of W. Gilpin ... representing the effect of a morning, a noon tide, and an evening sun" (better known as "Gilpin's day"), which reproduced 30 of Gilpin's landscape drawings as monochromatic aquatints, ordered according to the times of day. The success of the work prompted Orme to republish it a year later as "A practical illustration of Gilpin's day", rearranging the order of the plates and with an introduction and descriptive text for each plate by the Scottish artist John Heaviside Clark. In addition, Clark hand-coloured the plates, adding spectacular dashes of colour and dramatic effects, such as rainbows and flashes of lightning, to the rather muted aquatints of the earlier edition. Clark's jazzing up of Gilpin's soft colours reflected a change in popular taste; people no longer favoured standardised depictions of landscapes with universal appeal but rather wanted to see particular landscapes and individual features highlighted. The Clark edition was reprinted in 1824, indicating that it too was a commercial success. This particular copy is in a half-morocco binding by the renowned London bookbinding company, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, which has retained the original upper printed wrapper.|
|Reference Sources||Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Bermingham, "Learning to draw: studies in the cultural history of polite and useful art" (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000)|
|Author||William Smellie (1697-1763)|
|Title||Traite de la theorie et pratique des accouchemens, et observations sur les accouchemens ...|
|Imprint||Paris : Delaguette|
|Date of Publication||1754-1765|
|Notes||This is a three-volume French translation of William Smellie's classic 'Treatise of the Theory and Practice of Midwifery' published between 1754 and 1768.
The man-midwife, William Smellie, was born in the parish of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire on 5 February 1697 and died in 1763. His medical training was prolonged and peripatetic: he received some medical instruction from John Gordon, a Glasgow surgeon and also spent time serving as a naval surgeon (March 1720-November 1721) on the Sandwich before setting up as an independent apothecary in Lanark in 1722.
He remained in practice in Lanark for the next fifteen years and it was during this time that Smellie gained practical experience in midwifery. On 5 May 1733 he became a member of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. However, it was not until 18 February 1745, at the age of 48, that he was awarded his MD degree by Glasgow University.
Stimulated by his desire for further education, Smellie moved to London in 1739 and set himself up as a teacher with his lectures specializing in all aspects of pregnancy and labour. Over the next ten years he taught over 900 male students and an unknown number of female ones.
Based upon records of his cases, Smellie published in 1752 'A Treatise of the Theory and Practice of Midwifery'. This was supplemented two years later by a volume of illustrations entitled 'A Set of Anatomical Tables, with Explanations'. Smellie's treatise describes the physiology of pregnancy and the mechanisms of both normal and abnormal labour with far more exactitude than any previous writer. In addition to French, the work was later translated into German and Dutch and became a classic in obstetric literature thus making Smellie the best-known name in 18th century midwifery.
|Title||Dirge or a voice in the night, originally addressed to a clergyman at Edinburgh 1845.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Anderson and Bryce|
|Date of Publication||1848|
|Notes||This work is attributed to one Susan Williamson on the strength of a telling inscription on the verso of the dedication to Queen Victoria which reads: 'The writer of this book was Miss Susan Williamson who resided in Edinburgh with her brother Mr. David Williamson, in some of her ways she was odd, but not considered to be insane'. The 600 or so pages which follow can certainly be considered to be odd if not downright unintelligble to readers in the 21st century. An extract from the introduction sets the tone for what follows:
'And all vitellent spirits revolt or resault over whom was ratified reflection as a whispered word imputave before the perfectability of planatory imparature in the temporal attribute, whose nullity remained in premonitory complex'
The book consists of short texts of a religious nature dealing with sin, creation, eternity and so on. The only other copy traced is at the British Library and no other works by Susan Williamson are known.|
|Title||Foresters: a poetic account of a walking journey to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1804.|
|Imprint||Newtown, P.A.: Bird & Bull Press|
|Date of Publication||2000|
|Notes||Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) was born in Paisley in 1766 and emigrated to the American colonies in 1794 after being imprisoned for publishing a severe personal satire against a local dignatory. He had many occupations, including weaver, packman, printer, school teacher, but his obsession was with ornithology.
Wilson is best known for his magnum opus American Ornithology the first major attempt to describe and illustrate the birds of America which ran to nine volumes and was illustrated with Wilson's own drawings. Before he undertook that work, Wilson embarked on a walking tour to Niagara in 1804 that inspired the long poem giving an account of the journey, The Foresters. It first appeared in serial form in Philadelphia's leading literary magazine The Port Folio and came out in book form in 1818. The present edition is produced by the Bird & Bull Press of Newtown Pennsylvannia, the same town where The Foresters first appeared in book form. It is illustrated throughout with wood engravings in the classic British style by the Canadian artist, Wesley W. Bates. The book is composed in Dante type, printed on Arches mouldmade paper, quarter bound in morocco and enclosed in a cloth-covered slipcase.|
|Imprint||Philadelphia: Printed and published by William W. Woodward|
|Date of Publication||1800-1801|
|Notes||This is the first collected edition of the works of John Witherspoon (1723-1794), a Scot who emigrated to America and became a leading figure in the Revolution - even signing the Declaration of Independence.
Born at Gifford in Haddingtonshire, Witherspoon studied at Edinburgh University and became a minister in the established Church of Scotland. He fought on the Hanoverian side in the 1745-6 Jacobite rising, and was briefly captured at the Battle of Falkirk in January 1746. Witherspoon became famous as the author of books and pamphlets defending orthodox presbyterian teaching, and in 1766 he was offered the presidency of the Presbyterian College of New Jersey at Princeton. In deciding to accept this post, he and his wife left Scotland for ever. Witherspoon proved a successful college president. His convictions led him to support the American Revolution and he was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. He encouraged emigration from Scotland to North America, for which he was heavily criticised by some in his home country.
This is the first edition of Witherspoon's collected works. It is a good set, including the scarce Volume Four which was printed later. There is a loose note in Volume Three advertising the fourth volume and urging subscribers to sign up for it. All four volumes are bound in early calf and have contemporary ownership inscriptions.
The works include his sermons, lectures, selections from his letters and speeches to Congress. Volume Four is particularly interesting as it includes several works relating to Scotland, including Witherspoon's defence of encouraging emigration to North America.
It is extremely surprising that there are no other copies of this important edition recorded in a public library outside North America.
|Reference Sources||ESTC W2749|
|Title||A collection of 22 novels by George Woden in original dust jackets.|
|Imprint||London: Hutchinson (and others)|
|Date of Publication||1919-1951|
|Notes||This set of 22 novels were presented by the author George Woden during the 1940s and 1950s to his daughter Margery Noel, better known as M. Noel Slaney (1915-2000), the Scottish artist. Unusually all have their original dust jackets and show a variety of artistic styles. The artists include Philip Youngman Carter, Ben Pares, Wyndham Payne, Ley Kenyon and Lance Cattermole.
Woden was the pseudonym of George Wilson Slaney (1888-1978) who was born in
Staffordshire of Scottish parents. He abandoned engineering to study art and music and
eventually became a teacher in Glasgow, working there from 1913. He wrote over 30
works, including novels and plays, many of which were set in Scotland between 1913
and 1952. He was President of Scottish Pen from 1944-1947.
|Title||Aureum Johannis Woltheri Peinensis Saxonis. Das ist Gulden Arch ...|
|Date of Publication||c.1623|
|Notes||This book is the first and only edition of Johannes Wolther's critique of John Napier's work 'A plaine discovery of the whole revelation of Saint John' (1593), translated into German in 1615. It also includes a partial translation of the work. Napier asserted that the symbols in the Book of Revelation were mathematical ones which could be discovered with reason. Little is known of Wolther, or Walther, as he is sometimes known. He was in born in 1562 in Salzwedel in northern Germany. He probably studied in the university town of Wittenberg, before becoming assistant head teacher of the school in Stralsund. He then, in 1597, moved to take up the same post in the Latin school in Salzwedel, where, a year later he became head (rector). In 1602 he moved to Danzig where he was deacon of the Johanniskirche. He died in Danzig in 1620 from the plague. During his time in Danzig he wrote a series of theological works. He is best known for a comic play he wrote for his pupils in Salzwedel, 'Speculum Josephi', on the biblical story of Joseph, which was based on two older German dramas on the same theme. The play was first performed in 1600 and published in Magdeburg in 1603. Napier (1550-1617) from Merchiston is best remembered now as a mathematician and inventor of logarithms.|
|Reference Sources||Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (Leipzig, 1898), vol.44.|
|Author||Wood, Lawson, 1878-1957|
|Title||Wee scrap o' paper is Britain's bond|
|Date of Publication||1914|
|Notes||This striking print by the illustator Lawson Wood portrays a Gordon Highlander standing with a rifle on a street corner in a Flemish town. The purpose of the print is not clear - in this case it has been used to advertise 'ceilidh and dance village hall Saturday'. This is written in ink on a slip of paper attached to the foot of the print. Directly underneath the soldier is the phrase 'A wee "scrap of paper" is Britain's bond', referring to Britain's signature in 1830 to the Treaty of London to guarantee the independence of Belgium. Germany wanted Britain to disregard this agreement, describing it as a mere 'scrap of paper'.
The print is signed and dated 'Lawson Wood '14'. Wood was an artist and illustrator and best known for his caricatures, including those of army officers. But there is no hint of the caricature in this instance. He himself served as an officer in the Kite Balloon Wing of the Royal Flying Corps and was decorated for his action over Vimy Ridge.
The Second Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders were recalled from Egypt when the war broke out and made their way through Holland to Loos and Ypres and eventually took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The Gordon Highlanders lost a total of 29,000 men during the war.|
|Reference Sources||Dictionary of 19th century British book illustrators / Simon Houfe|
|Title||His Royal Highness, William Duke of Cumberland|
|Imprint||London: Bernard Baron|
|Date of Publication||1747|
|Notes||This engraving was executed by B. Baron after a painting by John Wootton (ca. 1686-1765). This pose has been reproduced in a number of other paintings and engravings of Cumberland. The BM catalogue of British engraved portraits (Vol.4, 1914, p.495) lists 43 engraved portraits in total of the victor of Culloden.
The artist John Wootton was a popular painter of landscapes, topographical views, battle and sporting scenes but he was best known as an equestrian artist. He was the first Englishman to paint horses and he worked at Newmarket for a while. The engraving shows Cumberland in complete control of proceedings at Culloden with an unfortunate Jacobite swordsman cowering at his feet.
This is a significant addition to the National Library's holdings of Jacobite material, notably to the Blaikie prints on deposit at the Scottish National Portrait. There are nearly 20 other engravings of Cumberland held there.|
|Reference Sources||Sharp, Richard. The engraved record of the Jacobite movement. Scolar Press, 1996. HP4.97.202|
|Author||Wotherspoon, John and Stevenson, William|
|Title||The weaver's pocket companion|
|Imprint||Glasgow: David Niven,|
|Date of Publication||1796|
|Notes||This is an unrecorded second printing of a work which was first published in Glasgow in 1779. The first edition is also very rare, only two copies recorded in ESTC at NLS and the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. The book is one of several such 'companions' produced by and for members of the weaving community in the west of Scotland, who were noted for their high level of education. It gives practical advice and a series of tables to help weavers produce the right quantity and quality of cloth. The fact that so few copies of either edition of Wotherspoon and Stevenson's companion survive is probably testament to their heavy use by individual handloom weavers. After the mechanisation of cloth production in factories in the early 19th century, the handloom weavers, and by extension these printed weaving companions, became largely redundant. |
|Author||Wright, Robert W.|
|Title||On foot from Edinburgh to Inverness. On foot through the Lake district. On foot from Oxford to Exeter. On foot John o' Groats to Lands End. [4 items]|
|Date of Publication||1928-1933|
|Notes||These four privately printed volumes of topographical verse by Robert W. Wright were issued as Christmas presents to friends. It appears that in 1927 Mr. Wright (who was from Cheshire) visited Hawick in the course of one of his pedestrian adventures and made the acquaintance of a Mrs. Storic and her family. His accounts of his walks from Edinburgh to Inverness and from Oxford to Exeter are incorporated into his most substantial work which covers John o'Groats to Lands End. The 'pilgrimage' as he describes it was accomplished over a period of seven years, with 'no advantage being taken of the ferries across the estuaries of rivers, the avoidance of which has added considerably to the mileage'. Wright and his companions walked along the roads, which were apparently still not very busy with motorised transport.
The tone of the verse is generally light-hearted. Wright comments on the scenery, the architecture and the weather and is generally positive about his experiences. Occasionally he is critical as when he chides the city authorities of Edinburgh about 'the mountains of rubbish and shale of all kinds & disfigure the prospect' to the south of the city. The border town of Longtown, Cumberland, impresses him the least describing it as a 'small and slovenly bungalow town, which stands in the order of merit low down'.
In August 1932 Wright and a few of his friends walked through the Lake District and a further volume was presented to friends the following year. Unlike the other volumes, this volume is illustrated with sketches and photographs which show a trio of bowler-hatted elderly gentlemen attired more for a day in the office than for a long walk through the countryside.