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 727 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 76 to 90 of 727:

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AuthorBurn, John
TitleA pronouncing dictionary of the English language
ImprintGlasgow: Chapman & Duncan,
Date of Publication1777
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is the only known complete copy of the first edition of John Burn's English dictionary. The compiler (d. 1793) taught English in Glasgow and is best known for his work "A practical grammar of the English language", first published in 1766. In his introduction to the dictionary Burn refers to the 'several laudable attempts' of predecessors to settle the orthography and pronunciation of the English language, but notes that a pocket dictionary addressing these needs has so far been wanting. He also comments on the fluctuating state of English pronunciation and hopes for greater uniformity in future. Interest in correct pronunciation was of particular interest for some ambitious Scots of the period, who were keen to soften or eliminate their Scottish accents and to remove any Scotticisms from their speech in order to be accepted by English society. Indeed Burn states that his principal aim for this "compillation [sic]" is to "enable one to read or deliver written language with so much propriety, as not to offend even an Englishman of the most delicate ear". The rarity of the 1777 edition indicates either a very limited print-run, or, a more likely scenario, copies of the dictionary were heavily used by its owners and have simply not survived; it was reprinted in 1786 which is evidence that there was demand for such works in Scotland. The provenance of this volume is also worthy of note. It bears the armorial bookplate, and inscriptions, of the Gardiner family of Gardiners Island, a small island at the eastern tip of Long Island, New York state. The island was granted to Lion Gardiner, an English settler, in 1639, the first colonial English settlement in present-day New York state, and it has remained in Gardiner family hands ever since. John Lyon Gardiner (1770-1816), a later proprietor of the island, evidently used here the bookplate of his grandfather John Gardiner (d. 1764), inserting an 'L.' between the words 'John' and 'Gardiner' of the bookplate. John Lyon Gardiner was only four years old when his father, David Gardiner, died and he inherited Gardiner's Island. His uncle, Colonel Abraham Gardiner, served as his guardian until he reached his majority in 1791 and became the seventh proprietor of the island. It is probable that this book was used in his education and for subsequent generations of the family. J.L. Gardiner would achieve some fame during the war of 1812 between Britain and the USA. During an excursion of the British fleet to the island to buy provisions, some British sailors were captured by the local inhabitants. The British then came to arrest John Lyon Gardiner, holding him responsible for what had happened. Gardiner, who was a delicate man, adopted the 'green room defence' where he stayed in a bed with green curtains surrounded by medicine to make him look feeble. The British, not wanting a sick man onboard their ships, decided not to proceed with the arrest.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2730
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on19/12/08
AuthorForrester, Thomas.
TitleA review and consideration of two late pamphlets. The first entitled, Queries to the Presbyterians of Scotland, by a gentleman of that country. Bound with Causa episcopatus hierarchici Lucifuga.
ImprintEdinburgh: heirs and successors of Andrew Anderson
Date of Publication1706
LanguageEnglish
NotesThese two books by the Church of Scotland minister Thomas Forrester (c.1635-1706) were bound for Katherine Hamilton, the Duchess of Atholl (1662-1707). She has signed the book on the title page and her initials are tooled in gilt on the spine. By the standards of the early 18th century, this is quite a sober binding in terms of the design and decoration. Only the spine, divided into five compartments, is tooled in gilt with floral ornaments. Both covers are blind tooledwith rolls and fillets. This suggests that the binder's craftsmanship was not of the highest standard. The book was bound just prior to the period when the spectacular wheel and herringbone designs came into vogue in Scotland. Katherine Hamilton, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, married John, Lord Murray, in 1683. Thirteen years later Murray became Secretary of State for Scotland, and his wife acted as his eyes and ears in Scotland while he was in London carrying out his official duties. In 1703, Murray was created Duke and Katherine became Duchess of Atholl. She was well known for her support of the Darien scheme and like her husband was strongly opposed to the Union with England. As well as taking an interest in politics, she was a staunch Presbyterian who kept a religious diary and observed the Sabbath to the extent that her husband thought she was overdoing it. Her interest in religious matters is reflected not only in her ownership of these polemical works, but by the fact that she had them especially bound. Forrester, the author of these works, was a radical field preacher who spent much of his time (when not on the run or in prison) 'converting' the people of central Scotland, mainly in Stirlingshire and Dumbartonshire. After the Revolution settlement of 1688, life became easier for him. He was appointed minister of St. Andrews in 1692, where he remained until his death in 1706.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.912(1-2)
Reference SourcesDNB
Acquired on21/09/05
AuthorDavid Cox, 1783-1859
TitleA Series of Progressive Lessons Intended to Elucidate the Art of Painting in Water Colours: with Introductory Illustrations on Perspective and Drawing with Pencil.
ImprintLondon : Ackermann and Co.
Date of Publication1841
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe 1841 edition is the only one listed in R.V. Tooley's English books with Coloured Plates 1790 to 1860. Cox made important changes to later editions such as this, notably by improvements in the quality of the plates. The volume contains 18 plates of which 10 are coloured, one uncoloured aquatint, 4 lithographs and 3 line engravings. Small blocks of colour samples appear throughout the text and one of the coloured plates features a scene set near Balquhidder. David Cox's standing as an artist was reinforced by the publication of a number of successful manuals, beginning with Ackermann's New Drawing Book in Light and Shadow in 1809. Although not credited to Cox, its range of subjects and depicted locations strongly suggests that he supplied the images. This was followed in 1811 by the first edition of A Series of Progressive Lessons Intended to Elucidate the Art of Painting in Water Colours. The book became one of the most influential of all drawing books and had the unforeseen consequence of training a whole generation of amateurs to imitate Cox's style. Cox's work was praised by Thackeray in Sketches after English Landscape Painters (1850) and Ruskin wrote in 1857 that "there is not any other landscape which comes near these works of David Cox in simplicity or seriousness". Although Cox's standing in the art world reached its apex in the late 19th century, recent reappraisals of Victorian art have seen Cox rightly restored to his position as one of the finest of all British landscape painters. There are only two other extant copies of the 1841 edition at Cambridge University and Yale.
ShelfmarkRB.m.646
Reference SourcesTooley 161
Acquired on15/02/07
Author[Jones, Robert T.]
TitleA short love story: the people of St Andrews and Robert T. (Bobby) Jones Jr.
Imprint[Atlanta, GA : Atlanta Athletic Club]
Date of Publication[1973?]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a commemorative pamphlet issued by the Atlanta Athletic Club shortly after the death of its most famous member, the amateur golfer Robert (Bobby) Tyre Jones Jr. (1902-1971). The pamphlet reproduces the text of two speeches, one given by Jones and the other by the Provost of St Andrews, Robert Leonard, on the occasion of Jones becoming a citizen of the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews in 1958. The 19-year-old Jones had first played at the home of golf at the British Open in 1921; he famously tore up his scorecard in disgust during his third round after failing to get his ball out of a bunker on the 11th hole. He publicly expressed his dislike of the Old Course and in return the local press labelled him as an 'ordinary boy'. Six years later, however, he returned to St. Andrews to successfully defend his British Open championship, which marked the beginning of a long and special relationship with the course and Scottish golfing fans. In 1930 he won a Grand Slam of tournaments (the open and amateur championships in both the USA and Britain), winning the British championship at St Andrews. He effectively retired from the game after 1930, but continued to be active in the world of golf. In 1948 Jones was diagnosed with a rare, incurable spinal cord disorder which gradually crippled him. In 1958 he was appointed as team captain of the USA for the World Amateur Team Championship at St. Andrews. At the packed and emotional dinner at the Younger Graduation Hall to mark Jones becoming an Honorary Burgess (he was the first American since Benjamin Franklin to receive the honour), the golfer, who by now could only stand with the aid of leg braces, spoke movingly of his career and the special role St. Andrews had played in it.
ShelfmarkAP.3.209.32
Reference SourcesGolf Digest Magazine
Acquired on03/04/09
AuthorGoalen, Walter
TitleA thanksgiving ode on the recovery of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by Muir & Paterson
Date of Publication1872
LanguageEnglish
NotesAn unrecorded work by the Scottish poet Walter Goalen, specially written and published to commemorate the recovery from typhoid fever of Edward VII, Prince of Wales. The text is printed in gold throughout and the upper vellum board features the royal coat of arms in gilt. A bookplate on the front pastedown indicates that this copy was part of the Prince of Wales's Library. A manuscript dedication by the author to the Prince of Wales appears on the recto of the front flyleaf. The prince's illness had caused great national concern, and public celebrations at his recovery also included the composition of Arthur Sullivan's 'Festival Te Deum' performed at a special concert in his honour at the Crystal Palace.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2801
Acquired on03/11/10
AuthorHamilton, Alexander
TitleA treatise of midwifery. 2nd edition.
ImprintEdinburgh: Charles Elliot
Date of Publication1785
LanguageEnglish
NotesAlexander Hamilton (1739-1802) from Fordoun, Kincardineshire, spent his working life in Edinburgh, becoming deacon of the College of Surgeons and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. In 1772 he was elected physician to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, becoming a renowned practitioner of midwifery and a lecturer on the subject. He was eventually appointed professor of midwifery in the University of Edinburgh, but his progressive views on the study of medicine occasionally brought him into conflict with the more conservative members of the Edinburgh medical establishment. His son James followed in his footsteps as professor of midwifery at Edinburgh University. Hamilton wrote a number of treatises on the theory and practice of midwifery, and on the treatment of the diseases of women and infants. This is an unrecorded variant second edition of his second work on midwifery, which is bibliographically complete but which lacks the brief preface usually found in extant copies of this edition. Of particular interest is the final section which lists various medicines, drinks and foods which can be prepared for "lying-in women".
ShelfmarkAB.3.207.45
Reference SourcesDNB
Acquired on09/11/07
AuthorBoutcher, William.
TitleA treatise on forest-trees.
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by R. Fleming, and sold by the author,
Date of Publication1775
LanguageEnglish
NotesWilliam Boutcher was a Scottish nurseryman, who had premises at Comely Bank, Edinburgh (his father, William Boutcher, senior, had also been a nurseryman and leading garden designer). "A treatise on forest trees" was his first printed work, dedicated to the Duke of Buccleuch, and was financed by subscription. Boutcher notes in his preface, concerning the subscribers, "the quality, if not the number of those, does me honour, as I can boast of many of the greatest and most respectable names in the kingdom". These names included most of the Scottish land-owning aristocracy. A number of copies for the subscribers were bound by the leading Scottish bookbinder of his day, James Scott of Edinburgh. The Library already four copies, all with different designs, of Scott bindings for this book; this is another example. The boards have a roll-pattern used by Scott from 1775 onwards (Loudon Ro16 (1775)) and the botanical ornaments on the spine recall a tool used by Scott used in other bindings (Loudon Bo.46a). This copy has an early 19th-century heraldic bookplate of Sir James Montgomery Bart. of Stanhope (1721-1803), lord chief baron of the Scottish exchequer who became a baronet in 1801, two years before his death. Montgomery took a keen interest in the science of agriculture and subscribed for two copies of the book.
ShelfmarkBdg.m.172
Reference SourcesJ.H. Loudon, "James and William Scott, bookbinders" (NY, 1980)
Acquired on03/06/11
AuthorSmall, James, 1740-1793
TitleA treatise on ploughs and wheel-carriages.
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed for the author and sold by W. Creech and C. Elliot…,
Date of Publication1784
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis book, according to the inscription on the front pastedown, was presented by the Duke of Buccleuch – Henry Scott (1746-1812) to ‘Mr. Ducket at Petersham, April 1786, with a plow made by James Small in Scotland 1786’. The 3rd Duke of Buccleuch was one of number of Small’s patrons. Others were Henry Home (Lord Kames), Sir John Sinclair, the man behind the first Statistical Accounts in the 1790s and the Berwickshire landowner, James Renton. It is not known who Mr. Ducket was – possibly a landowner in Petersham, Surrey. The book is also inscribed on the title page ‘Dalkeith House 1784’ - one of the homes of the Duke of Buccleuch. The duke, as well as being one of the greatest landowners in Scotland, was also an army officer and acted as advisor to the politicians Henry Dundas and William Pitt the Younger.This work was the first to set out the scientific principles of plough design in print and was the standard text on the subject until the 1830s. The author, James Small, born in Ladykirk in Berwickshire, learned about ploughs and wagons both in Berwickshire and in Yorkshire. When he returned to Scotland, he settled on a farm at Blackadder Mount, Berwickshire where he began to experiment with ploughs. In the early 1780s Small moved to Rosebank, Ford, in Midlothian just a few miles from Dalkeith House. As well as designing ploughs he also had his own workshop and smithy, making ploughs, wagons and carts. Small’s main innovation was in his use of cast iron and generally speaking his plough was much lighter that the ‘old Scotch’ ploughs.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2597
Reference SourcesB, ESTC T150379
Acquired on04/04/05
AuthorMurray, Mungo, d. 1770.
TitleA treatise on ship-building and navigation. In three parts wherein the theory, practice, and application of all the necessary instruments are perspicuously handled. With the construction and use of a new invented shipwright's sector, for readily laying down and delineating ships, whether of similar or dissimilar forms. Also tables of the sun's declination, of meridional parts, of difference of latitude and departure, of logarithms, and of artificial sines, tangents and secants. By Mungo Murray. Shipwright, in His Majesty's Yard, Deptford. To which is added by way of appendix, an English abridgment of another treatise on naval architecture, lately published at Paris by M. Duhamel, Mem. of the R. Acad. of Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and Surveyor General of the French Marine. The whole illustrated with eighteen Copper Plates.
ImprintLondon: Printed by D. Henry and R. Cave, for the author; and sold by A. Millar, in the Strand; J. Scott, in Exchange-Alley; T. Jeffreys, at the Corner of St Martin's Lane, Charing-Cross; Mess. Greig and Campbell, at Union-Stairs, and by the author, at his house at Deptford., M,DCC,LIV. [1754]
Date of Publication1754
LanguageEnglish
NotesMurray, Mungo (1705-1770) was born in Fowlis Wester, near Crieff, Perth. In 1738, after completing a customary seven-year apprenticeship at an unknown shipyard, he entered the naval dockyard at Deptford as a shipwright. In 1754 he published his first book: 'A Treatise on Shipbuilding and Navigation'. A second larger edition would appear in 1765. To the Victorian historian Nathan Dews, it was 'the only English treatise on ship-building that can lay any claim to a scientific character; and [Murray] was a man "whose conduct was irreproachable".' On the title page Murray describes himself as 'Shipwright in His Majesty's yard, Deptford'. He makes clear his relatively modest position by acknowledging 'the great obligation I am under to the principle officers and gentlemen in His Majesty's service, not only in the yard where I have the happiness to be employed, but in several others'. Interestingly, he also used the book to advertise for extra income: 'The several branches of mathematicks treated of in this book are expeditiously taught by the author, at his house in Deptford; where may be had all sorts of sliding rules and scales: As also sectors for delineating ships, diagonal scales, &c. on brass, wood or paste-board. Attendance from six to eight every evening, except Wednesdays and Saturdays.' Murray's fortunes improved after the publication of his first book with Lord Howe appointing him as a mathematics and navigation teacher on board his ships Magnanime and Princess Amelia. Among his pupils was Henry, Earl of Gainsborough to whom Murray dedicated his next book on navigation. Murray would go on to publish several more volumes before his death in 1770.
ShelfmarkRB.m.694
Acquired on27/11/09
AuthorAlexander Brand
TitleA true collection of poems on the several birth-days of His Majesty King George
Imprint[Edinburgh? s.n.]
Date of Publication[1727]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis small collection of seven poems in honour of the Hanoverian royal family was written by a now obscure Scottish knight, Sir Alexander Brand of Brandfield (Brandsfield). Only two other copies of this printing are recorded - at the British Library and the Bodleian. It is likely that this printing was done in Edinburgh, possibly for private circulation; a London reissue of the same year is also recorded in ESTC as now being held at Yale University. These particular poems, written between 1724 and 1727, are gushing in their praise of the King and his son and daughter, as one would expect from hagiographic poems of the period, but they are of absolutely no literary merit. The text of one of them, to the Princess of Wales, was reproduced in the St. James's Evening Post of 1725, and then in the Caledonian Mercury. The Caledonian Mercury reveals that Brand had presented the poem in person at court as part of his efforts to be recompensed for his loyalty to the British Crown. He had served in the Edinburgh militia during the 'Glorious revolution' of 1688 and had imported arms and provisions to Scotland for government troops, but had never been reimbursed, due, according to him, to the actions of unnamed enemies. Of particular interest is a later poem dedicated to the princess of Wales, 'Verses to her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, on her birth-day, March 1. 1725-26', in which Brand seems less concerned about praising the princess than including random details of his personal life and settling scores against his enemies. He begins it with the lines: "Brand, the oldest bard in life, Marry'd fifty years t' a wife", before revealing some eccentric and grandiose schemes. In the poem he proposes to fund the cutting of a canal between Leith and Holyrood House, "Twice as long and broad's the Mall". In a footnote he claims that the canal and the erection of statues of the King and Prince William of Orange would be there "to convince the world of his great loyalty, and that he is no bankrupt". Brand seems over-eager to prove his financial solvency; although a landowner in the Edinburgh area (Brandfield Street in the Fountainbridge Area of Edinburgh is presumably named after him) and a businessman involved in schemes for improving trade and manufacturing gilt leather, in his dedication to the Princess of Wales at the front of the book he refers to being "oppressed with years infirmities and disasters". Quite how he would have financed a canal from Leith to Holyrood is open to question. He also offers to help in the field of international politics, referring to Empress Catherine I of Russia, then sole ruler of Imperial Russia, "Or if she shou'd be mistaken , I'd tell her how to save her bacon". His ambitious plans and perhaps his ardent anti-Jacobite feelings seem to have made him a controversial figure in his homeland. In another footnote to the same poem he says he has "designs to buy land in England or Hanover, being determin'd not to live among Scotch Justices of the Peace & who have insulted him in coffee-houses", regarding a trial he was currently involved in. His plans for a canal in Edinburgh and his general character were satirised in an anonymous pamphlet published in London in 1725 "A letter from a gentleman in White's Chocolate-House, to his friend at the Smyrna Coffee-House". Moreover, Brand's sudden switch of loyalties in 1688 to Prince William, having loyally served both Charles II and James VII/II (as sheriff of Edinburgh he had supervised the execution of the Earl of Argyll in 1685) seems to have rendered him suspect to fellow Scotsmen, including Gilbert Burnet. Brand does not appear to have ever got the financial rewards he was seeking. The Caledonian Mercury in October 1729 advertises, on behalf of creditors, the sale of the lands of "Dalray (alias Brandsfield)" (i.e. Dalry), presumably after the death of Sir Alexander. This particular copy of Brand's poems is notable for having the title page misbound after leaf [A2], and for having an extra leaf bound into it which contains a 44-line poem in praise of the second Duke of Argyll (1648-1743). Argyll had commanded government troops in Scotland during the 1715 Jacobite uprising and, according to Brand, tamed the Highlands and forced the clans to "give up dispotick power". The leaf is on paper with a different watermark to the rest of the book and is possibly a later inclusion.
ShelfmarkAP.4.213.11
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on13/09/13
AuthorJohn Catnach
TitleAbove 1200 volumes of books to be sold by auction, in the town-hall, Alnwick, on Tuesday the 2d, March
ImprintAlnwick: J. Catnach
Date of Publication1802
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is a very rare hand-bill, dated 12 February 1802, advertising the sale of the remainder of the stock of the printer and bookseller John Catnach from 2 March onwards. Would-be purchasers were also directed to purchase any of the books by private contract until 27 February by contacting the two agents for the sale, who had catalogues available. John Catnach was born in Burntisland, Fife, in 1769. Having served an apprenticeship as a printer in Edinburgh, he started in business in Berwick-upon-Tweed in the late 1780s, moving to Alnwick in 1790. The work of the Catnach press was of high quality but Catnach himself was not a successful businessman. He was declared bankrupt in 1801, hence the sale advertised in this hand-bill. He managed to start in business again, before moving to Newcastle in 1808, where he eventually ended up in the debtors prison. He moved again, this time to London, in 1812, where he and his family lived in poverty until his death the following year. His son James later became famous for the street literature publications produced on his press at Seven Dials. This hand-bill has survived among the recently dispersed personal papers of Thomas Adams, solicitor, Alnwick agent for the Duke of Northumberland and owner of Eshott Hall, south of Alnwick; a Joseph Moor has used the verso to record the receipt of the final five shillings and six pence due to him from Adams for building work on the property.
ShelfmarkAP.3.207.08
Reference SourcesC. Hindley "History of the Catnach Press" London, 1886.
Acquired on15/05/07
AuthorMonipennie, John
TitleAbridgement or summarie of the Scots chronicles
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by the Heires of George Anderson, for the Company of Stationers
Date of Publication1650
LanguageEnglish
NotesMonipennie: Abridgement or Summarie of the Scots Chronicles ESTC R223767; Aldis 1394 The only recorded holding of this Aldis item in Scotland. John Monipennie's abridgement of the Scots Chronicles was first published in 1612, and went through several editions. This edition is described on the title page as 'Newely inlarged corrected and amended', although the text does not indicate what the enlargments, corrections and amendments are. The actual Abridgement ends with Charles I: 'The Lord increase all royall vertues in his Highnesse, that he may remain a comfort to Christs Church within his own dominions' (p.174), a prayer that sits rather problematically with the 1650 publication date. Monipennie does not record what he is abridging, other than quoting lines from Boethius and Holinshed on the verso of the title page, but as well as his potted guide to Scottish history, this volume includes a list of the Kings and Queens of Scotland, a 'true description and division of the whole realme', and a 'memoriall of the most rare and wonderfull things in Scotland' (title page). Besides describing rare animals and holy wells, these few pages tell the reader that Loch Ness never freezes, 'signifying unto us, that there is a Mine of Brimstone under it, and that 'in the North seas of Scotland are great Clogs of Timber found, in the which are marveilously ingendered a sort of Geese, called Clayk Geese' (pp.285, 287). Later owners have left their mark: C.A. Martin, December 1842 and Vernon Holt, 1880. Finally there is the bookplate of the Bristol collector James Stevens-Cox (1910-1997). This book is one of three the NLS has purchased from the sale of his library, a collection considered worthy of its own location in the Short Title Catalogue of English books before 1640. As was a common practice of his, Stevens-Cox has left a brief pencil bibliographical note (on the verso of the front free endpaper).
ShelfmarkRB.s.2320
Reference SourcesESTC, sales catalogue
Acquired on17/12/03
AuthorHume, David.
TitleAbriss des gegenwartigen naturlichen und politischen Zustandes von Grossbritannien.
ImprintCopenhagen : Johann Gottlob Rothe
Date of Publication1767
LanguageGerman
NotesThis book is a rare first edition of translated extracts from David Hume's 'History of England and Essays and treatises on several subjects'. The translator, the German poet and critic Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737-1823) translated Hume rather freely and wrote his own summaries of the Scottish philosopher's views. The work covers the constitution of the British Isles, the social order, as well as the legal, commercial and banking systems. The British way of ruling themselves would have been of some interest to Central Europeans, most of whom had no direct experience of living under a constitutional monarchy. There are no copies of this work in the UK and only one in North America.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2699
Acquired on17/12/07
AuthorTopham, E.
TitleAbyssinian traveller
ImprintLondon: M. Darly,
Date of Publication1775
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis 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'.
ShelfmarkRB.m.505
Reference SourcesDNB 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
Acquired on20/03/03
Author[Anon]
TitleAccount of a most melancholy and dreadful accident! Loss of the Comet steam-boat. 70 persons drowned.
Imprint[London] : Printed for J. Catnach,
Date of Publication[1825]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis broadside ballad combines a prose account of a maritime disaster with a poem commemorating the event, it also contains an appropriately melodramatic woodcut illustration of the sinking of the steam boat Comet. The Comet was the second steam boat owned by Henry Bell of Helensburgh to bear this name, the original Comet paddle steamer having been used in the first commercially successful steam boat service from 1812 onwards. When the original Comet was shipwrecked in 1820, Comet II took over the service, operating routes on the River Clyde and the west of Scotland. On 21 October 1825 she collided with the steamer Ayr off Kempock Point, near Gourock, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers. News of the disaster was spread not only by the newspapers but also by contemporary street literature, namely the popular ballads printed in major British cities. The printer/publisher of this broadside was James "Jemmy" Catnach, the most prolific producer of street literature in London, who was based in the Seven Dials area, the centre of street ballad publishing at the time. Catnach, the son of a Scottish printer, employed a number of hack balladeers to compose poems relating to disasters such as these. In contrast to the rather sober prose account (which states incorrectly that 70 people had died) the author of the ballad wastes no opportunity in wringing out every last drop of pathos from the sinking; from a newly-married couple dying in each other's arms and small children being parted from the desperate grasp of their mothers, the awfulness of the event is conveyed to a public eager for the latest sensation.
ShelfmarkAP.el.212.01
Acquired on23/03/12
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