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.

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 rarebooks@nls.uk

      

Important Acquisitions 91 to 105 of 763:

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TitleThe last speech, confession and dying declaration of Robert Watt, wine merchant in Edinburgh ...; A full true and particular account of the most dreadful apparition. Of Robert Watt wine-merchant in Edinr, who appeared to James Macdonald plaisterer in Lieth-walk [sic] ...
ImprintEdinburgh
Date of Publication1794
LanguageEnglish
NotesThese broadsides relate to Robert Watt who was executed in Edinburgh in October 1794 for high treason. Watt was a local wine merchant who, along with his associate David Downie (later reprieved), was tried for being a member of a seditious organisation - The Friends of the People - and for forming 'a distinct and deliberate plan to overturn the existing government of the country'. This organisation, inspired in part by recent events in France, had been formed in London in 1792 to campaign for parliamentary reform. Watt, Downie and their fellow conspirators had put together quite detailed plans to take over public offices, storm Edinburgh Castle and seize the judiciary. The plotters also planned to send an address to King George III, commanding him to put an end to the war with France. Over 40 pikes had been made, though none were distributed. These alarming projects were discussed by seven obscure individuals in Edinburgh of whom Watt, acting as a spy, was the leader, and David Downie, a mechanic, the treasurer. Two of the seven soon got 'cold feet' and four became witnesses for the crown. One broadside contains Watt's last speech. Like many such works, it is unlikely to have been written by the criminal himself. It follows the usual pattern of pious expressions of repentance and appeals for forgiveness. Watt describes himself as 'uncommonly wicked as a boy', stating that he continued on the road to perdition when he went to London to attend plays and 'other places of virtuous amusement'. At the end of the work the publisher A. Robertson advertises that he will be publishing an account of the trial of Watt for three pence. The second work, of which no other copy has been traced, is somewhat more intriguing. James MacDonald, a plasterer, was coming back from Leith to Edinburgh when he encountered a ghostly figure with his head under his arm and accompanied by a black dog. This apparently was Watt. The incident took place just a few weeks after his execution. Watt is also supposed to have appeared to his co-conspirator David Downie.
ShelfmarkS.Sh.S.1.205.08; S.Sh.S.1.205.09
Reference SourcesYoung, Alex F. The encyclopaedia of Scottish executions 1750 to 1963. (1998)
Acquired on05/09/05
TitleDescriptive sketch of the print of the death of Gen. Sir Ralph Abercrombie.
ImprintLondon: John P. Thompson
Date of Publication1804
LanguageEnglish and French
NotesThis broadside is a guide to a print depicting the death of General Sir Ralph Abercromby in Egypt in 1801. The death of Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria was recorded by a number of painters including James Northcote, Philip de Loutherburg and Samuel James Arnold. It is likely that the print was based on the work of one of these painters. Abercromby was born in Menstrie, Clackmannanshire, in 1734. He was educated in Alloa and Rugby before studying law at the universities of Edinburgh and Leipzig. His military career began in 1758 during the Seven Years War. For a number of years in the 1770s he sat in Parliament as an MP for Clackmannanshire. The French Revolutionary Wars revived Abercromby's military career - he fought in Flanders and the West Indies, then served briefly in Ireland before the rebellion of 1798. In 1800 Abercromby was appointed as commander of the British forces in the Mediterranean. In the process of routing the French at Abu Qir Bay, near Alexandria in March 1801, he was fatally wounded. He was later buried on Malta. Abercromby was a popular figure in the British army and his death elevated him to hero-status among the general public. Curiously, although the imprint gives the date as 1804, the paper has a watermark dated 1809! The publisher was John Peter Thompson, who worked as an engraver, printer and printerseller in Great Newport Street, London from 1792 to 1813.
ShelfmarkRB.l.232
Reference SourcesDNB
Acquired on31/07/06
TitleThe Holy Bible containing the Old Testament and the new &
ImprintCambridge: Printed by John Archdeacon &
Date of Publication1769
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis two volume set of the Holy Bible, printed in Cambridge in 1769, has been bound in red morocco, probably in imitation of the Edinburgh binder James Scott, who was active during the 1770s and 1780s. Also bound in with the New Testament are the Psalms of David in metre printed in Edinburgh in 1770 by Alexander Kincaid. The Psalms were also printed as part of a Holy Bible published by Kincaid in the same year.This binding is probably contemporary, and given the presence of the Psalms printed in Edinburgh, may have been bound in Scotland. Several of the ornaments used, particularly the scrolls and flourishes (Sc.7.1773 and Sc.13.1774 in Loudon), resemble those used by James Scott, though other prominent ornaments such as the fox and Cupid were not used by Scott. These bindings were part of the collection of Bibles belonging to Lord Wardington (1924-2005).
ShelfmarkBdg.s.916
Reference SourcesJ.H. Loudon, James and William Scott bookbinders. (London, 1980)
Acquired on31/07/06
TitleSailm Dhaibhidh a meadar dhana Gaoidheilg
ImprintDun Edin [Edinburgh]: Aindra Ainderson
Date of Publication1707
LanguageGaelic
NotesThis is a fine copy of the very rare fifth edition of the Psalms in Gaelic. Only one other copy in recorded in public collections and Donald Maclean in 'Typographia Scoto-Gadelica' described this edition as 'excessively rare'. The Psalms were first translated into Gaelic by the Synod of Argyle in 1659. Also printed as part of the book was an edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism 'Foirceadul aithghear cheasnuighe'. This book formed part of the library of the Earls of Macclesfield at Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire. The first Earl of Macclesfield, Thomas Parker (1666-1732) was deeply interested in theological works and it is likely that he purchased this item in the early 18th century. The Macclesfield bookplate is on the front pastedown with a library label dating from 1860 on the front free endpaper.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2619
Reference SourcesScottish Gaelic Union Catalogue (Edinburgh, 1984) Maclean, Donald. Typographia Scoto-Gadelica (Edinburgh, 1915)
Acquired on26/06/06
TitleSlave trade.
ImprintHaddington: G. Miller and Son, printers.
Date of Publication1814
LanguageEnglish
NotesAn abolitionist broadside printed in Haddington, East Lothian indicating that the residents of Dunbar are petitioning Parliament for the universal abolition of the slave trade. Beneath the title is a woodcut of a slave being whipped by a white man, followed by an abolitionist poem and a call to the residents of Dunbar to sign the petition: 'It is requested that every well wisher to the melioration of the poor Africans, and those who, from motives of humanity, are inclined to give their dissenting vote to the revival of the bloody traffic, will come forward without delay.'
ShelfmarkRB.m.702
Acquired on06/07/10
TitleCaledonian Mercury [15 issues for September - October 1737]
ImprintEdinburgh: Thomas and Walter Ruddiman
Date of Publication1737
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe 'Caledonian Mercury' was one of Scotland's earliest newspapers, being published three times a week from 1720 onwards, and lasting until the 1860s. In 1729, Thomas Ruddiman (1674-1757), future keeper of the Advocates Library, and his brother Walter, bought the paper. Ruddiman had already been printing the paper since 1724 at his printing house in the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh, and the death of the previous owner William Rolland gave him an opportunity to own a newspaper. As well reporting the main European news through rehashing the contents of the London newspapers, the 'Caledonian Mercury' also reported on Scottish events, becoming a forum for Ruddiman's own brand of moderate Jacobitism. Thomas Ruddiman passed on his half of the printing business to his son in 1739 and devoted himself to his work at the Advocates Library and scholarly publications. The paper remained in the Ruddiman family until 1772. NLS has an incomplete run of this important title, lacking all issues for the years 1737 and 1738. Early issues of the paper rarely come on the market, so this was a welcome opportunity to fill some of the gaps in the Library's holdings.
ShelfmarkRB.m.758
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography; G. Chalmers, 'The life of Thomas Ruddiman' (London, 1794)
Acquired on29/08/14
TitleThe case of the Bishop of Ross, resident of the Queen of Scots, who was seized and committed to the Tower by Queen Elizabeth, for traiterous practices, and endevouring to raise a rebellion against her.
ImprintLondon: Printed for Edward Symon...sold by J. Roberts...
Date of Publication1717
LanguageEnglish
NotesA rare work attempting to construct a case against Count Karl Gyllenborg’s treasonable communications with Jacobites, by drawing on the case of John Leslie, Bishop of Ross’s support for Mary Queen of Scots' right of succession to the throne of England. The text revolves around the retelling of the events of 1584 with emphasis on pinpointing a legal parallel between the two cases of treason. Gyllenborg was imprisoned until the threatened rebellion blew over, more as a guaranteed safe custody or protection than as a punishment.
ShelfmarkRB.m.618
Acquired on11/04/05
TitleRider's British Merlin for the year of Our Lord God 1804.
ImprintLondon: Printed for the Company of Stationers
Date of Publication1804
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis almanac, in a splendid decorative binding, is perhaps most interesting for its annotations: there is no ownership inscription, but it would be possible to reconstruct much about the owner from the copious notes on blank pages throughout the text. There are accounts (five shillings for a yard of lace, nineteen for 'stuff for petticoats', sixpence for a 'poor woman', for instance), recipes, notes on sermons and devotional topics, and poetry - most clearly attributed to authors such as Cowper, but some perhaps original. From the accounts and recipes, it seems likely that this almanac had a female owner; from the other content, one with a particularly spiritual and poetical turn of mind.
ShelfmarkBdg.s.937
Acquired on06/04/09
TitleThe complete pocket book or, gentleman and trademan's daily journal, for the year of our Lord 1764.
ImprintLondon: Printed for J. Johnson
Date of Publication1763
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis work, of which only one copy is recorded in the UK, contains a fascinating record of accounts and appointments of a relative or employee of James Duff, the second Earl of Fife (1729-1809). This unnamed individual seems to have been based in London sorting out the business affairs of Lord and Lady Fife. He records his correspondence with them and the payments he makes on their behalf. The Earl of Fife was MP for Banff between 1754 and 1780. He married Lady Dorothea Sinclair (Lady Fife) in 1759. In 1763, the year in which this volume was published, he succeeded his father in the title and estates, mainly in Aberdeen and Moray. The Earl devoted himself to the improvement of the property, which he greatly increased by the purchase of land in the north of Scotland. Most of the entries, however, concern the expenses of the Earl's man in London. For example, he was a frequent visitor to the Smyrna Coffee House in Pall Mall, a popular meeting place for Whigs during this period. He also went regularly to the theatre and the opera - both Drury Lane and Covent Garden are mentioned throughout. This was a man who was also concerned with his appearance: nosegays, shaving powder and toothpicks as well as payments to his hairdresser are recorded. He hired coaches and chairs, the 18th-century equivalents of black cabs. He also bought snuff, gloves, sealing-wax, fruit, woodcocks, teal and turkey and gave money to charity almost on a weekly basis.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2633
Acquired on16/10/06
TitleBhagavad-Gita
ImprintGlasgow: David Bryce and Sons
Date of Publication[1900?]
LanguageSanskrit
NotesThis is a miniature copy of the Bhagavad-Gita, printed in gold and produced by David Bryce of Glasgow, the pre-eminent 19th century Scottish maker of miniature books. Regular copies of this publication are extremely rare and this copy printed in gold type is most probably unique. The provenance is significant in that it was originally part of David Bryce's personal collection. It was then owned by Bryce's grand-daughter and later acquired by Louis W. Bondy (1910-1993), the author of the classic one-volume reference source entitled: Miniature Books: their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day. The book measures 3 x 4 cm. The text is printed upon the thinnest white tissue paper and it is bound in gold and purple grapevine patterned stiff paper. On the front board a curlicue-patterned paper is pasted on, at the center of which is the title. The same pattern is repeated on two separate pasted papers on the spine. The book is accompanied by a lidded silver box measuring 4.5 x 6.5 cm. The top lid is engraved with a pattern resembling a tartan which incorporates a shield device. Engraved in script in the center of the shield is Bryce's name, and "Jedburgh" below.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2747
Reference SourcesBondy
Acquired on21/04/09
TitleThe history of the life, bloody reign and death of Queen Mary, eldest daughter to Hen. 8. ...
ImprintLondon: Printed for D. Brown, at the Black Swan without Temple-barr, and T. Benskin in St. Brides Church-yard, Fleetstreet.
Date of Publication1682
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is an unrecorded edition of this title. The two other 1682 editions listed in ESTC have different paginations and signatures. Together, there are only a total of five copies of all the editions located in the UK with this copy being the only one located in Scotland.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2753
Acquired on22/05/09
TitleAllies Bible in khaki.
ImprintGlasgow: David Bryce and Son ; London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press Warehouse
Date of Publication[Between 1901 and 1914?]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis is one of the most rare miniature Bibles produced by David Bryce and Son of Glasgow. Known as the 'Allies Bible', it is bound in brown khaki and is preceded by 15 pages of text which includes four national anthems (God Save the King, The Marseillaise Hymn, La Brabanconne, and Russian national anthem -- all in English without music) and also 'Recessional' by Rudyard Kipling and 'Evening Prayer of a People' by Neil Munro. It measures only 45 mm. in height and is accompanied by its original dust-jacket which features pictures of the Belgian, British, French and Russian flags in colour.
ShelfmarkFB.s.959
Reference SourcesBondy: page 110
Acquired on29/06/09
TitleFrancis Garden Lord Gardenstone
Imprint[Edinburgh? : s.n.]
Date of Publication[18--]
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis broadside commemorates the eccentricities of Francis Garden, Lord Gardenstone (1721-1793). It is printed on French laid paper with the watermarks Papier a la main and Auvergne with a flower and sprouting heart. However, the quality of printing suggests that the broadside is in fact a product of the mid- to late nineteenth century. It is possible that it was printed as a deluxe version for the centenary of the erection of St. Bernard's Well at Stockbridge in 1789, which had been financed by Lord Gardenstone. Born and educated in Edinburgh, Francis Garden was admitted an advocate in 1743 and appointed a lord of session in 1764. Notwithstanding his convivial propensities during his early practice at the bar, he was characterised by A.F. Tytler as an "acute and able lawyer". As a philanthropist he is remembered fondly for buying the estate of Johnston in Kincardineshire in 1762 in order to build a new village; he also founded a library and museum there for the use of the villagers, not to mention an inn. However, Lord Gardenstone is probably best remembered for his particular taste for social hilarity and his many peculiarities, one of which was an extreme fondness of pigs. Some anecdotes are retold in the broadside; another one recalls the occasion of Garden's involvement in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion: serving under Sir John Cope, he and a companion preferred wine and oysters to watching and warding, tarried too long in a bar at Musselburgh and were captured by an enemy patrol. About to be hanged, they were released when they were seen to be completely drunk and incapable. Lord Gardenstone died in Morningside aged 72 and is buried in Greyfriars churchyard in an unmarked grave.
ShelfmarkRB.l.227
Reference SourcesOxford DNB, www.electricscotland.com
Acquired on14/06/05
TitleCabinet of curiosities (No. I-IX)
ImprintLondon : Printed for the booksellers
Date of Publication1795
LanguageEnglish
NotesThe "London Corresponding Society" was a radical society which sought political reform, inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. It was founded in January 1792 by a group of friends, including a Scottish radical, Thomas Hardy (1752-1832). In the same year the Scottish political reformer Thomas Muir (1765-1799) helped to set up the "Association of the Friends of the People in Edinburgh". The "Cabinet of curiosites" is a miscellany containing prose, and some poetry, relating to members of the above reform societies arrested on charges of high treason. ESTC identifies only one other copy in the UK of nos. I-VII. This copy includes two additional parts. No.VIII contains a verse, "The petition of the clerks and apprentices of writers to the Signet and writers in Edinburgh". No. IX contains part of a letter by Muir "Extract of a letter from Mr. Muir to a friend in London, Sidney, December 13, 1794". Muir was arrested on a charge of sedition and transported to Botany Bay along with three other radicals. Among these reformers known as the "Scottish martyrs" was Thomas Fyshe Palmer (1747-1802), whose letter to Mr. Jeremiah Joyce describing life in Australia is also published in No. IX.
ShelfmarkRB.s.2766(1)
Reference SourcesOxford DNB; bookseller's catalogue
Acquired on30/09/09
TitleThe Edinburgh Almanack and Scots Register for 1807
ImprintEdinburgh: David Ramsay & Son
Date of Publication1807
LanguageEnglish
NotesThis Edinburgh Almanack belonged to Fletcher Norton (1744-1820), second son of Fletcher Norton, first Baron Grantley, Speaker of the House of Commons. 'Fletcher Norton, Abbey Hill, Edinburgh' as he signs himself in this book, was appointed one of the Barons of the Scottish Exchequer in 1776 and set up residence in the Scottish capital. According to James Grant's book Old and New Edinburgh, Norton 'stood high in the estimation of all' as 'husband, father, friend, and master'. A founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Norton was a supporter of Scottish culture, playing a key role in ensuring the publication of Albyn's Anthology, an important collection of Scottish music. Norton gave his name to East and West Norton Place, Abbeyhill, the streets now located on the site of his old Edinburgh home. This almanac, whose blank pages were used by Norton to keep a record of his expenditure, provide an interesting insight into the daily life of a member of Edinburgh's social and cultural elite in the early 19th century, recording the 18 shillings spent on tooth powder, and the £2.9.0 spent on a chaise to London, among other notes. Our perception of movement between England and Scotland during this period is largely one of Scots emigrating - this book bears witness to an Englishman who successfully moved to Scotland and integrated himself with its cultural life.
ShelfmarkAB.1.209.016
Reference SourcesOxford DNB; James Grant, Old and New Edinburgh, vol.5 chapter 13 (http://www.oldandnewedinburgh.co.uk/volume5/page138/single)
Acquired on06/04/09
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