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 763 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.
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Important Acquisitions 721 to 735 of 763:
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|Title||Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii, Ioanne Stoflerino iustengensi authore.|
|Imprint||Paris: Hieronymum de Marnef, & Gulielmum Cavellat|
|Date of Publication||1570|
|Notes||Johannes Stoeffler (1452-1531) was professor of mathematics at the newly founded University of Tuebingen, who wrote the first German work on the astrolabe. The astrolabe was an inclinometer, a device invented in c. 150 BC by the Ancient Greeks. It had a variety of uses such as locating and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and vice-versa, and in surveying and triangulation. Used in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, Stoeffler's work was a comprehensive manual of the instrument. The first part concerns the construction of the astrolabe. The full page woodcut illustrations are extended by paper strips to almost double the page size and clearly show the various stages in the construction process. The second part explains the use of the astrolabe with equally remarkable woodcut illustrations. First printed in Oppenheim in 1512, 1513 and 1524, further editions were printed in Paris in 1553, 1564,1569 and 1570. NLS already has three 16th-century editions of this work, but this particular copy has been acquired for its provenance. At the foot of title page is the signature "Alexander seton", which indicates that this book was formerly in the library of Alexander Seton (1556-1622), Chancellor of Scotland 1605-1622 and 1st Earl of Dunfermline. Seton came from a pious Catholic family and, as a younger son, was destined for a career in the church. In 1571, when he was about fifteen, he was sent to the Jesuit-run German college in Rome, presumably to avoid the upheaval caused by the Reformation in Scotland. In Rome he acquired an enthusiasm for books and a knowledge of mathematics. From Italy he travelled to France, where he studied law, and presumably purchased Stoeffler's 'Elucidatio fabricae' at this time. By late 1580 he was back in Scotland. Given the political and religious climate in Scotland in the 1580s a career in the church was no longer an option. He did, however, manage to have a successful if somewhat turbulent career in politics, conforming outwardly to the established church while remaining privately loyal to his Catholic faith. In 1604, as the highest ranking official of King James's government, the King made Seton chief Scottish negotiator for the proposed Anglo-Scottish Union. The negotiations failed but James was sufficiently impressed by his conduct to appoint him lord chancellor of Scotland in 1604. He subsequently became the King's principal adviser and agent in Scottish affairs in 1611. As a very wealthy man he had a large collection of books; on his death in 1622 the libraries at his properties at Pinkie and Fyvie were valued at the huge sum of £1333 6s 4d. According to his descendant Walter Seton, writing in 1923, this book "was probably one of his earliest purchases. He was using [this] signature up to about 1586". Walter Seton was then the owner of this book and ten others with the same provenance. |
|Reference Sources||Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; bookseller's notes; Walter Seton 'Some relics of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline', Scottish Historical Review, vol.20, no.79 (1923) pp.187-89.|
|Title||Elements of the art of dancing.|
|Date of Publication||1822|
|Notes||This is the only known copy of this book in Britain - the only other recorded copy is at the Library of Congress. It is one of the earliest and most important manuals devoted to the performance of 'la danse de la ville', better known as the quadrille, which came to Britain from the salons of Paris around 1815.
In the preface Strathy, a dancing master about whom little is known, opined that 'dancing may be to the body what reading is to the mind'. The book is divided into two parts. Part one contains an extensive account of exercises for the improvement of one's deportment. Part two provides precise descriptions for more than twenty steps for the quadrille, including a number of new steps added by the author. The book concludes with directions, given in French and English for eleven quadrille figures.|
|Author||Stuart, John Knox|
|Title||The chemical experimentalist; or, an attempt to allure by experiment. Third edition.|
|Date of Publication||1834-37|
|Notes||With the running title of "Stuart's Useful Information for the People", this book is an excellent example of early 19th-century attempts to popularise science for the masses. The author aims to guide the reader "towards the cultivation of the simple and sublime science - chemistry", using simple language and lots of diagrams. The book appears to have been issued in individual numbers which form seven parts. Of particular interest are the rather crudely produced illustrations, including an advertisement for the author's own popular medicines, as well as a cloth sample on p. 121. |
|Title||French grammatology: or a course of French.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd|
|Date of Publication||1828|
|Language||English and French|
|Notes||Gabriel Surenne was French master at the Scottish Military and Naval Academy, according to the title-page of this volume, an Edinburgh institution 'for training young men chiefly for the service of the royal and East India Company's services, and to all the ordinary branches of education were added fortification, military drawing, gun-drill, and military exercises' (James Grant, Old and New Edinburgh, vol. 3, p. 138). It was closed in the late 19th century, when at around the same time a new system of army entrance examinations was introduced, and the site was required for the Caledonian Railway Station (now the Caledonian Hilton). His French textbooks were reprinted throughout the nineteenth century, but this copy used in a class taught by Surenne himself, as the inscription on all volumes testifies: 'Alexander Graham at Mr Surenne's Class, Military Academy, May 18th 1831'. |
|Reference Sources||James Grant, Old and New Edinburgh (Cassell) vol. 3; Bookseller's catalogue.|
|Author||Swinburne, Algernon Charles|
|Title||Atalanta in Calydon|
|Imprint||Kelmscott: Kelmscot Press-|
|Date of Publication||1894|
|Notes||The Library has an almost complete set of publications of the Kelmscott Press, the acquisition of this fine copy leaves only 2 more to acquire (1 of which was privately printed and not available for public sale).
The publication of "Atalanta in Calydon" in 1865 brought the budding poet Swinburne both fame and notoriety in equal measure. The work is based on the ancient Greek myth of the huntress Atalanta, who takes part in the hunt of the ferocious Calydonian boar and becomes inadvertently embroiled in a family conflict which leads to the death of the hero Meleager, caused by his own mother. Swinburne wrote a verse drama, using the structure of an Classical Greek tragedy, complete with Chorus and semi-Chorus, and formal dialogue. Although Classical Greek in content and form Swinburne uses the drama to challenge not just the religious acquiescence to the will of the gods portrayed in the Classical Greek tragedies but also by implication Victorian attitudes to God and Christianity.
As a keen admirer of the Kelmscott Press, Swinburne wrote to Morris after the publication of "Atalanta" in July 1894 that it was "certainly one of the loveliest examples of even your incomparable press". Morris too was pleased with the book, of which 250 copies were produced on paper and 6 on vellum, and which sold out within a few weeks. The publication is also unusual as it is the only KP book in which Morris used a type not designed by himself. To reproduce the Greek text which appears at the start of work, Morris used electrotypes of a Greek type designed by the artist and designer Selwyn Image.
This particular copy, as well as being in fine, almost mint, condition, is bound in early twentieth century blue morocco with gilt ornamentation by the famous bookdbing firm of Birdsall & Sons of Northampton.|
|Reference Sources||Peterson A25|
|Title||[Works ed. Franciscus Puteolanus]|
|Imprint||[Milan: Antonius Zarotus]|
|Date of Publication||1487|
|Notes||This is the second collected edition of the works of the Roman historian Tacitus (AD 56-AD117) containing the 'Annals', and 'Histories', the 'Germania', and the first printing of the 'Agricola'. The text was edited by the famous Italian Renaissance scholar Francesco Dal Pozzo (Franciscus Puteolanus) (d. 1490), who was professor of rhetoric and poetry at the University of Bologna. Dal Pozzo edited the texts of several classical authors for publication and his edition of Tacitus was praised by later editors for its textual emendations. This copy of the book has a notable provenance: it is from the library of the Scottish patriot Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655-1716), with his distinctive "Fletcher" signature on the final blank leaf and on the rear paste-down. The 'Agricola' is Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law, the Roman general and governor of Britain who extended Roman occupation northwards into Scotland. The introductory chapters of the 'Agricola' include an account of Britain and its tribes, its geography (Tacitus is rather vague, but for the first time it was possible to state with confidence that Britain was indeed an island); there is even a mention of the "objectionable climate with its frequent rains and mists". It contains the first substantial historical account of events in what is now Scotland, in particular the first printing of the first published account of a battle on Scottish soil (Mons Graupius). After conquering what is now Wales in AD 77, Agricola advanced northwards and overran the lowlands of what is now Scotland. In his seventh campaign, in AD 83, Agricola faced a pitched battle against the Highlanders at "mons Graupius" (the precise location is uncertain, antiquaries, historians and archaeologists have been searching for the battlefield for centuries). The Britons had, according to Tacitus, rallied more than 30,000 men from all their states in an determined attempt to defeat the powerful invaders. Despite their superior numbers the Britons were soon put to flight, breaking formation "into small groups to reach their far and trackless retreats. Only night and exhaustion ended the pursuit". The Roman victory was total but the campaigning season was almost over so Agricola moved his army to their winter quarters. The next year he was recalled to Rome, thus ending Roman military campaigns in northern Scotland. It is not surprising that a well-educated member of the Scottish aristocracy, who quotes widely from ancient historians in his own political writings, would have owned a text of Tacitus. However, Tacitus' works appear to have been particularly important for Fletcher - he also owned fifteen later editions, presumably because of the 'Agricola' and its coverage of Scotland. From the early 1670s onwards, Fletcher built up a huge library of c. 5,500-6000 books, thanks to his regular travels on the continent, where he hunted for bargains and rarities in bookshops. His collection included some 20 incunables, including this edition of Tacitus. The books were kept in the family home of Saltoun Hall in East Lothian and the library appears to have survived intact until the 1940s when a few of the more valuable items in the library appeared on the London market. The rest of the library was sold off in the 1960s. The family archive was deposited in NLS (now MSS.16501-17900) in 1957 and it includes Fletcher's MS catalogues of the collection, MS 17863-17864), where this particular copy is listed. |
|Reference Sources||P. J. Willems, "Bibliotheca Fletcheriana, or the extraordinary Library of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, reconstructed and systematically arranged" (Wassenaar, 1999) |
|Title||Report on the present state of the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian knowledge|
|Date of Publication||1833|
|Notes||Although the Library has a number of bindings by Alexander Banks jnr (for example, NC.314.a.10; Hall.1.f ; ABS.2.80.64) there is nothing to compare with this one. His entry in SBTI reads: BANKS, Alexander junior bookbinder 5 North Bridge 1833-45 and stationer 29 North Bridge 1850. Whereas the bindings by Banks in NLS are half or full leather, mostly in blind but with some gilt work, this one is in full crimson morocco with elaborate decorations in both blind and gilt. The main design is a rectangular panel in blind with a central image of the royal crown in gilt surrounding by a gilt wreath. Enclosing all is an elaborate arabesque design in gilt at each corner with each connected by single and triple fillet lines in gilt. The spine is decorated in gilt. The stunning inner boards have eight panel segments in gilt surrounding a green satin circle. The free endpapers are fully covered in the same green satin.
The binding is signed in the lower margin of the upper inner board.|
|Title||The lady's, housewife's, and cookmaid's assistant: or, the art of cookery, explained and adapted to the meanest capacity|
|Imprint||Berwick: Printed and sold by R. Taylor|
|Date of Publication||1778|
|Notes||Elizabeth, née Nealson, was a Berwick resident who married the printer and bookbinder Robert Taylor. She drew extensively on Hannah Glasse's Art of Cookery made plain and simple (London, 1747), adapting it for the tastes of Northumberland and southern Scotland. There are many more recipes for fish than in Glasse, reflecting Berwick's status as a fishing port. Taylor also tells her readers how to boil an egg, which Glasse did not, perhaps assuming that her metropolitan audience would already be familiar with this technique. (Taylor, p. 185) There are a number of recipes for using birds of the upland moors and wetlands, such as dotterels and ruffs.
As is common with early cookery books, there are a number of interesting stains suggesting that it was put to practical use. For example, on p. 241 the section on how 'To preserve Apricots' has some colourful smears that may come from the fruit.
This second edition is very rare and not recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue. There is a copy at the Brotherton Library in Leeds University. Although there are few changes from the first edition, it is a useful acquisition showing how the work was a commercial success. There was also a 1795 edition.
With this copy we have purchased a facsimile of the 1769 edition of the Art of Cookery published by the Berwick History Society in 2002, with a useful introduction by David Brenchley about Elizabeth Taylor.
|Reference Sources||Maclean, Virginia. A short-title catalogue of household and cookery books published in the English tongue 1701-1800, London: 1981, p. 140.|
|Author||Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne|
|Title||For the benefit of Madame Frederick, on Friday evening, December 26, 1800, will be performed the favorite comedy of The wonder! ... to which will be added a grand historical romance ... taken from Ossian's poems) called Oscar & Malvina or The Hall of Fingal.|
|Imprint||[Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Theatre Royal]|
|Date of Publication||1800|
|Notes||Theatre poster advertising performances at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in December 1800. Among the pieces being performed was the popular ballet-pantomime 'Oscar and Malvina', based on the poems of Ossian. The work was first performed in Covent Garden 1791. The house composer William Shield had resigned that year leaving the score for pantomime unfinished. William Reeve (1757-1815)completed the piece, and its success secured his place as the composer of many of the Covent Garden operas and pantomimes. The performances in Newcastle were for the benefit of Madame Frederick, a popular dancer on the Edinburgh stage, best known for her performances of the Scottish Strathspey at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh.|
|Reference Sources||F. Burwick, 'Romantic drama: acting and reacting' (Cambridge, 2009)|
|Author||Thomas a Kempis|
|Title||De imitatione Christi libri quatuor. Editio novissima.|
|Imprint||Mechliniae [Mechelen] : H. Dessain, |
|Date of Publication||1885.|
|Notes||This edition of medieval monk Thomas a Kempis's famous devotional work, "The imitation of Christ" has been acquired for its modelled goatskin binding. It has been done in the style of Annie MacDonald, the Scottish bookbinder. Annie MacDonald herself invented the technique for modelling leather for bookbindings used for this binding, and other bindings produced by her and her pupils. She and a few other women in Edinburgh had only begun binding books a few years previously. Walter Biggar Blaikie (whose collection of Jacobite-related books and manuscripts is now in NLS) of the publishers A. & J. Constable let them use his workshops after hours. From 1895 two of Constable's workmen, a finisher and a forwarder, taught the group of women, who soon became known as the Edinburgh Arts and Crafts Club. MacDonald tried various types of leather for modelled bindings but found that natural goatskin, before any curing processes, could be moulded as she wanted. The modelling was done after the book itself was covered in the goatskin. It involved neither cutting nor raising the leather to relief. The design was traced onto the dampened leather and worked with one small tool called a 'Dresden', which was used to carefully press the background and mould the relief design. Using glue rather than paste to cover the books, the leather was a pale ivory when completed which developed into a richer brown once aged. Silk endpapers were used because the goatskin tended to stain both paper and vellum. The work of MacDonald and the other Edinburgh-based women inspired London bookseller Frank Karslake to found of the Guild of Women Binders in 1898 as an outlet for the sale of work by women binders who lived outside London. This particular binding is listed as no. 93 in the 1898 "Catalogue of the first exhibition of bookbinding by women", organised by Karslake. The binding is attributed to one "Miss MacLagan". The identity of the binder is further confirmed by an inscription on one of the front endpapers: Kathleen from M.D.M. 'M.D.M.' is almost certainly Mary Dalrymple Maclagan (1878-1815), one of the Edinburgh women binders. Mary Maclagan's mother was a founder member, along with Patrick Geddes, of the Edinburgh Social Union (ESU), a philanthropic organisation established to improve living conditions in slum areas of the city through housing provision, education and training, and the decoration of public spaces. Both Maclagans were active members of the ESU's guild of women bookbinders, which met regularly at the Dean Studio under the guidance of Phoebe Traquair. 'Kathleen' appears to be one Kathleen R. Pearson who has also inscribed the endpapers with: Bound Dec. 1896 K.R. Pearson - 4th Novr. 1907. This binding has an additional significance as a photographic illustration of it was used in a promotional leaflet printed in 1898 for Karslake, which described the work of the Guild of Women Binders. The binding was chosen as an example of 'the new "Edinburgh binding"; a revival of the monastic bindings of the Middle Ages & (specially suited for early printed books and Church Services)'. The design for the front board is taken from a painting of 1878 by Sir Edward Burne-Jones of an angel playing a flageolet, now held in Sudley House, Liverpool. The date of the binding, 1896, has been included in the design. On the back board there is a crucifix with hearts. The endpapers are green and gilt patterned silk. There are also two quotations concerning the text taken from Matthew Arnold and George Eliot written on the front endpapers, as well as pencil annotations at the start of the book. A further mark of provenance is a ticket on the back pastedown of the bookseller T.B. Mills, Buckingham Gate, London. |
|Reference Sources||M. Tidcombe, Women bookbinders 1880-1920, London, 1996.
|Title||My own life and times 1741-1814.|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas|
|Date of Publication||1861|
|Notes||This is an extra-illustrated copy of the memoir of Thomas Somerville, minister of Jedburgh and uncle of the famous scientic writer Mary Somerville. This copy bears the bookplate of William John Lee, presumably the son of the editor of Thomas Somerville's text, William Lee, a professor of Glasgow University. There are almost 200 prints and 19th-century photographs added to the volume. Of particular interest is the carte-de-visite photograph of Mary Somerville, bound in after p. 390 and a photograph of a marble bust of her. Thomas Somerville had first been Mary's uncle by marriage and subsequently her father-in-law, he gave her early encouragement and tuition.|
|Title||Illustrated price list of bowling green bowls and bowling requisites|
|Date of Publication||1955|
|Notes||This is an attractive trade catalogue from a Glasgow manufacturer of lawn bowling equipment.
The company, established in 1796, was the first to offer standard bias on bowls by creating the world's first bowl shaping machine. In the same year that the shaping machine was invented and patented - 1871 - Thomas Taylor Bowls also constructed the first bowls testing table, using a slate base similar to a billiards table and covering it in felt and canvas. The bowls were made of lignum-vitae, a special wood obtainable only from the West Indies.
In 1928 the newly formed International Bowling Board adopted the Scottish Bowling Association's rules of the game and the Thomas Taylor standard bowl as the minimum bias bowl for all international matches. As well as bowls the company also manufactured bowl measures and bowl cases. The Library also holds trade catalogues from this company dating from 1937 and 1962.|
|Imprint||London: T. Heptinstall|
|Date of Publication||1797|
|Notes||This is a rare illustrated edition of James Thomson's popular poem with an engraved portrait by J. Caldwall and four engraved plates done by R. Laurie after drawings by Scottish painter and caricaturist Isaac Cruikshank. As attested to by a note from Laurie, this copy is extra-illustrated with Cruikshank's own, original wash drawings for each of the seasons; Laurie's note, "The Four Seasons original drawing by I. Cruikshank," appears on the verso of the Winter plate (signed, "R.H. Laurie, Esq."). Thomson (1700-48), Scottish poet and dramatist, was one of the most influential poets of his day. He is perhaps best remembered for the present work, originally published in separate sections: Winter in 1726, Summer in 1727, Spring in 1728, and Autumn in 1730. The provenance of this copy is particularly interesting: the book contains the morocco and gilt bookplate of Jerome Kern (1885-1945), the American composer and legendary book collector who collected rare books for a brief period in the 1920s before selling most of them in 1929. The book also contains the morocco and gilt bookplate of the collector Francis Kettaneh. As befitting a volume of this nature, the book is splendidly bound in a early 20th-century green morocco binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. |
|Reference Sources||Cruikshank, I, 797; Thieme-Becker, VIII, 176;
Bookseller's own notes|
|Title||The mountain cottage.|
|Imprint||Pittsfield, Mass. : E.P. Little|
|Date of Publication||1844|
|Notes||This short work is a rare and virtually unknown American children's story about a Scottish immigrant, James Orwell, which perpetuates stereotypes of Scottish greed and melancholy. The anti-hero had been in the U.S. for over 50 years, losing his livelihood when his shop was burnt down during the revolutionary wars. He retreated from society to this mountain cottage and cut a forlorn and repulsive figure. There is a moral and uplifting aspect to the tale relating to Orwell's children. The daughter dies after a long illness while the son returns in the manner of the prodigal son.
The author, John Todd (1800-1873) was an American Congregationalist who wrote a number of books for children. Only three copies of this work are recorded, all in North America.
|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|