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 754 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 736 to 750 of 754:

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TitleVolume of Edinburgh newspapers, 1759-1770
Date of Publication1759-1770
NotesThis volume of newspapers comes from the library of the Writers to the Signet, and also displays the bookplate of Steuart of Allanton. The papers are in generally good condition, with tax-stamps and occasional manuscript notes; there are a few tears and worm-holes. The run of the Edinburgh Weekly Journal is darkened and damaged at the edges, probably because it is notably larger than the other newspapers. It is this run which gives the volume its particular interest, as these editions (from 7 August 1765 to 11 October 1769, with many gaps), do not seem to be represented elsewhere in the National Library, or indeed in any other collections. Published on Wednesdays, the Edinburgh Weekly Journal was sold at the printing-house of William Auld & Co., later Auld, Smellie & Co., in the Lawnmarket at 2½d. Later editions give details of the price of subscription (10s10d a year for collection from the shop, 11s10d a year for delivery within Edinburgh, 14s a year for post to any town in Scotland). Typically for a journal of this period, it contains extensive foreign news, news from London, Edinburgh and America, and miscellaneous advertisements: for miracle cures, the sale of land and buildings, and for dramatic performances and new books. Storms, explosions, murders and 'remarkable occurrences' are described with gusto. There are also a number of poems and letters. See W.J.Couper, Edinburgh Periodical Press (1908), II. 93-6; M.E.Craig, Scottish Periodical Press (1931), 26.
ShelfmarkRB.l.115(1-3)
Acquired on17/05/01
AuthorGmelin, Johann Georg, (1709-1755)
TitleVoyage en Sibérie, contenant la description des moeurs & usages des peuples de ce pays, le cours des rivieres considérables, la situation des chaînes de montagnes, des grandes forêts, des mines, avec tous les faits d'histoire naturelle qui sont particuliers à cette contrée.
ImprintA Paris, Desaint, Libraire, rue du foin Saint Jacques.
Date of Publication1767
LanguageFrench
NotesThis is a French translation of a German edition of one of the earliest accounts of Bering's second voyage. It contains some of the earliest material on the discovery and exploration of the Bering Strait and Alaska.
ShelfmarkGB/A.3884
Acquired on05/09/05
AuthorBurnes, Alexander, Sir, 1805-1841
TitleVoyages de l' embouchure de l' Indus [etc]
ImprintParis: Arthus Bertrand
Date of Publication1835
LanguageFrench
NotesFrench translation of Alexander 'Bokhara' Burnes's "Travels into Bokhara ..." first published in 1834. Burnes, a native of Montrose and relative of Burns the poet, enjoyed rapid success in his career in the army and civil service of British India. In 1832 he was one of the first Westerners to explore the Punjab, Afghanistan, Bokhara, Turkmenistan, Caspian sea and Persia. His aforementioned account of his travels won him fame and awards and an audience with King William IV, "Travels into Bokhara" was also translated into German and Italian. Burnes returned to India in 1835, was knighted, and eventually ended up in Kabul as deputy to Sir William Macnaghten, Britain's envoy to the court of Shah Shujah. His flamboyant and womanising conduct did little to ease the tensions between the Afghans and the British garrison and in the uprising of 1841 he was dragged from his residence in Kabul and hacked to death by a mob. This particular edition is entirely separate from a one-volume French translation/digest of Burnes's work "Voyages a Bokhara et sur l' Indus" which was also published in Paris in 1835. It includes in a separate volume 11 illustrated plates, which depict Burnes in native dress and also the giant Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan which were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. The plates are based on but are not exact copies of the lithographic prints used in the English 1834 edition; the map does not appear in the English edition. The translator of this edition, Jean-Baptiste-Benoît Eyries (1767-1846), is best known for his edition of German ghost stories, "Fantasmagoriana", which had a great influence on the development of the British Gothic novel.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2330
Acquired on31/05/04
AuthorWilliam Blacker
TitleW. Blacker's art of angling, and complete system of fly making and dying [sic] of colours
Imprint[London: W. Blacker]
Date of Publication1842
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis the first edition first issue of William Blacker's famous book on angling, printed in Edinburgh by Anderson and Bryce, with 38 pages. The author (1814-1857) was born in Wicklow in Ireland. He moved to London in the 1840s where he became a prominent fishing tackle dealer in Dean Street, Soho. Being an accomplished angler himself, his revolutionary methods made this book a key work in the history of fly fishing. A 48-page edition with 6 leaves of plates was also printed in London in the same year, followed by an expanded edition of 130 pages in 1843. The book was deliberately printed in a small pocket-size format so that it could be carried by anglers to the river bank. Surviving copies of the early editions are rarely identical, this particular copy for instance only has 2 plates. Blacker went on to publish in 1855 an expanded edition of the work, with the title 'Blacker's art of flymaking'.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2898
Acquired on23/05/14
AuthorByron, George Gordon, Lord
TitleWaltz: an apostrophic hymn. By Horace Hornem, Esq. (The author of Don Juan.)
ImprintLondon: Benbow
Date of Publication1821
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis rare pirate edition contains not only Byron's poem 'Waltz', first printed in 1813, but also five more of his poems, including 'To Jessy' ('addressed by Lord Byron to his Lady, a few months before their separation'), 'Adieu to Malta', and 'On the Star of the Legion of Honour'. The poems 'Lines to Tom Moore' and 'Lines to Hobhouse', both occasional verse, were first published in this edition or in the other pirate edition of 'Waltz' produced in the same year by T. Clark (NLS shelfmark AB.3.86.15) - it is unknown which was first printed. Unlike the Clark edition, this Benbow edition is not included in the standard Byron bibliography by T.J. Wise. This copy is in the original paper covers, with an inscription dated London, April 1822 on the title page. There were many pirate editions of Byron's poems in the early nineteenth century. William Benbow, who also printed other poems by Byron and Shelley, was a radical bookseller who 'seized on pirating as a form of proto-class warfare' (Neil Fraistat, 'Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Condition as Cultural Performance, PMLA 109(3), 409-423). Presumably he approved of the satirical 'Waltz', written in the persona of a smug 'country gentleman' but full of Byron's political wit.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2679
Reference SourcesBookseller's catalogue
Acquired on23/08/07
AuthorSpence, Elizabeth Isabella
TitleWedding Day, a Novel. 3 vols.
ImprintLondon, printed by C. Stower for Longman etc., .
Date of Publication1807
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis work by the Scottish-born writer Elizabeth Spence is extremely rare. Spence (1768-1832) was born at Dunkeld, and produced several sentimental novels and travel books from 1799 onwards. Niece of the Aberdeen-born preacher James Fordyce, Spence ended up orphaned and poor in London, and seems to have written to support herself. The Wedding Day enjoyed little critical success, but does not seem wholly devoid of merit. It is deeply Scottish, full of descriptions of landscapes and buildings from Roslin Chapel to Calton Hill, although most of the action takes place in England. Literary quotations abound; suffering aristocrats write wordy letters; the heroine endures everything from shipwrecks to romantic catastrophe with the same moral resolution.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2093
Reference SourcesDNB
Acquired on18/12/01
AuthorWood, Lawson, 1878-1957
TitleWee scrap o' paper is Britain's bond
Date of Publication1914
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis 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.
ShelfmarkRB.l.228
Reference SourcesDictionary of 19th century British book illustrators / Simon Houfe
Acquired on24/05/04
TitleWeekly miscellany [of instruction and entertainment]
ImprintGlasgow: William Bell
Date of Publication1791
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe 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.
ShelfmarkABS.1.204.023
Reference SourcesESTC P2351 J.W. Egerer: A bibliography of Robert Burns. London, 1964. Item 1260, p.344. (Friars Carse) Item 24, p. 37 (Thomson)
Acquired on01/05/03
Author[Anon]
TitleWhiskiana, or, the drunkard's progress. A poem. In Scottish verse.
ImprintGlasgow: printed by A. Napier
Date of Publication1812
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a poem in Scots dealing with the "evil of habitual intoxication", which mixes humour with a serious moral message. The anonymous author, 'Anti-Whiskianus', reveals in the preface that he was originally from the village of Ceres in Fife and wrote the poem between 1810 and 1811. "Whiskiana" is in five parts covering the progress of a drunkard from inebriation to redemption: a description of the drunkard, his wife's lament for his "infatuated conduct", his remorse, his repentance, and finally his complete reformation when he swaps the bottle for a prayer book. The author acknowledges Scots popular poet Hector Macneill as an inspiration; Macneill had written a ballad against the evils of drink, "Scotland's Skaith, or, The History of Will and Jean", first published in 1795, which quickly became a popular favourite and which is quoted on the title page. "Whiskiana" can be regarded as a further sign of growing unease among some Scots about the social problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was becoming an increasingly urbanised society due to the Industrial Revolution, with a growing and thirsty population, and there was little attempt to control and regulate alcohol production, illicit spirits being found in most taverns. 'Anti-Whiskianus' has no qualms in his preface about criticising the late Robert Burns, indeed the poem is meant to "counteract the excessive praises lavished on whisky by Burns". The author may have been influenced by James Currie's biography in his four-volume edition of the works of Burns, first published in 1800, in which Currie controversially mentioned that Burns drank to excess. He may also have in mind the traditions of Scottish conviviality exemplified by the male drinking clubs of the 18th-century to which many Scottish literary figures, including Burns, belonged, 'How comes it why ilk Scottish bard/Their sonnets always interlard, Strong recommending drinking hard, Wit to inspire?/Can sober thinking e'er retard/Poetic fire?" For men such as 'Anti-Whiskianus' temperance was the only solution to the problem; such sentiments would lead in the late 1820s to the establishment of temperance societies in Scotland. This appears to be the only published version of the poem, no other copies have been recorded in other major libraries.
ShelfmarkAP.1.211.06
Reference SourcesJack S. Blocker, David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell eds "Alcohol and temperance in modern history: an international encyclopedia" v. 1 Santa Barbara, Calif., c. 2003.
Acquired on15/01/11
TitleWild Roses
ImprintLondon: b. T. Maiden f. Ann Lemoine
Date of Publication[1806-9]
NotesHere 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.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2284
Reference SourcesTodd & Bowden. Todd 21Aa http://www.cf.ac.uk/encap/corvey/articles/printer/cc09_n03.html
Acquired on18/03/03
AuthorPaterson, William & Francklin, John
TitleWilhelm Patterson's Reisen in das Land der Hottentotten + William Franklin's Bermerkungen auf einer Reise von Bengalen nach Persien
ImprintBerlin: Voss
Date of Publication1790
LanguageGerman
NotesThis volume contains two German editions of important 18th-century British works of travel and exploration, both translated by Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-98). Forster, a German naturalist of partial Scottish descent, was at the time Professor of Natural History and Mineralogy at the University of Halle. The first item in the volume is the rare first German translation, complete with the often missing map, of "A narrative of four journeys into the country of the Hottentots and Caffraria" by the Scots army officer and natural historian Lieutenant William Paterson (1755-1810). Paterson made four journeys from Cape Town into the largely unexplored interior of South Africa between 1777 and 1779 and first published this account of his travels in 1789. It includes a number of plates illustrating indigenous plants, demonstrating Paterson's own particular interest in the flora and fauna of the country. Indeed, his book is dedicated to the eminent English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. This German translation and a French translation appeared shortly afterwards, an indication of the appetite for information about Africa in Western Europe at this time. Paterson spent the last 20 years of his life involved in colonial administration in Australia, but he is best remembered for his explorations, his South African publications, and his botanical collections, which are located in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington. The second item in the volume is a German translation of "Observations made on a tour from Bengal to Persia" by another soldier turned explorer William Francklin [sic] (1763-1839). Francklin's work was first published in Calcutta in 1788, then in London in 1790. The German translation appeared seven years before the French one. Forster was an ideal choice to do these translations, having lived and taught in Britain for several years and having served as the naturalist on Captain Cook's second voyage 1772-75.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2740(1)
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on16/02/09
AuthorWitherspoon, John
TitleWorks
ImprintPhiladelphia: Printed and published by William W. Woodward
Date of Publication1800-1801
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis 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.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2689
Reference SourcesESTC W2749
Acquired on26/10/07
AuthorFawkes, Francis
TitleWorks of Anacreon
ImprintLondon
Date of Publication1760
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe 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.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.919
Reference SourcesJ.H.Loudon, James Scott and William Scott, Bookbinders, 1980.
Acquired on24/05/02
AuthorMacDonald, George
TitleWorks of fancy and imagination
ImprintLondon: Alexander Strahan
Date of Publication1884
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a ten-volume set of the second collected edition of George MacDonald's early prose and verse. It includes his first book, "Within and Without", and his long dramatic poem, "A Hidden Life", covering his upbringing in rural Aberdeenshire and his life at Aberdeen University. MacDonald (1824-1905) had by the 1880s "achieved an international reputation as a poet, novelist, lecturer, and preacher" (DNB). This set comes complete with a rare publisher's clamshell box of red cloth, designed to house the ten volumes, and also includes part of an autograph note signed by MacDonald himself.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2681
Reference SourcesDNB
Acquired on12/10/07
AuthorGouge, Thomas
TitleWorks of the Reverend and pious Mr. Thomas Gouge, late Minister of the Gospel.
ImprintWhitburn : Printed by and for J. Findlay and J. Main
Date of Publication1798
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is one of only three known Whitburn (West Lothian) imprints extant and is not recorded in ESTC. In the late 1790s the minister Rev. Archibald Bruce (1746-1816) set up his own printing press in Whitburn as he was unable to find anyone who would publish his books and pamphlets (because of their content). In 1786 Bruce had been appointed Professor of Divinity by the Anti-Burgher Secession Synod and the church at Whitburn became a theological college as well. He bought a printing press in Edinburgh, had it transported to Whitburn and hired an old printer to work it. 'The printing was bad, the paper was execrable, but the matter made amends' (quoted in Brucefield Church, see above). The printer was possibly James Findlay, a librarian and stationer, who was working in Edinburgh in 1789-90. The Anti-Burgher Church was an off-shoot of the Secession Church which developed in the 1730s from dissatisfaction with the Church of Scotland on matters of patronage and doctrine. A Secession church was founded in Whitburn in 1766 as a result of the frustration of the parishoners who had contributed financially to the building of the church, but were not permitted to have any say in choosing their minister. The book itself contains the works of Thomas Gouge (1609-1681), a Non-Conformist divine and philantrophist, who spent much of his life evanglising Wales. At the end of the volume is a 5 page list of subscribers, with the names of people mainly from Whitburn, Bathgate, Linlithgow and the surrounding areas.
ShelfmarkABS.3.204.003
Reference SourcesDNB Statistical accounts Brucefield Church, Whitburn: a history of the congregation, 1857-1957 (HP2.91.5154)
Acquired on12/06/03
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