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 749 of the most important items we have acquired since 2000. We update it regularly as new material comes in. The description gives information about why it was chosen and what makes it particularly interesting. You can order the list by date of acquisition, author or title.
Please let us know what you think of this resource, if you have information to add about an acquisition, or if you have rare Scottish books that you would like to donate or sell. Email us at email@example.com
Important Acquisitions 91 to 105 of 749:
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|Title||Above 1200 volumes of books to be sold by auction, in the town-hall, Alnwick, on Tuesday the 2d, March|
|Imprint||Alnwick: J. Catnach|
|Date of Publication||1802|
|Notes||This 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.|
|Reference Sources||C. Hindley "History of the Catnach Press" London, 1886.|
|Title||Abridgement or summarie of the Scots chronicles|
|Imprint||Edinburgh: Printed by the Heires of George Anderson, for the Company of Stationers|
|Date of Publication||1650|
|Notes||Monipennie: 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).|
|Reference Sources||ESTC, sales catalogue|
|Title||Abriss des gegenwartigen naturlichen und politischen Zustandes von Grossbritannien.|
|Imprint||Copenhagen : Johann Gottlob Rothe|
|Date of Publication||1767|
|Notes||This 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. |
|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|
|Title||Account 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|||
|Notes||This 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.
|Author||Sir William Hamilton|
|Title||Account of the discoveries at Pompeii, communicated to the Society of Antiquaries of London by the Hon. Sir William Hamilton.|
|Imprint||London : W. Bowyer and J. Nichols,|
|Date of Publication||1777|
|Notes||This a rare work by Sir William Hamilton (1730/31-1803), diplomatist and art collector, who was appointed to the post of envoy-extraordinary to the Spanish court of King of Naples in 1764. Hamilton had already began to collect art and antiquities, mainly pictures, bronzes, and terracottas, before he left London for Naples. His arrival in Naples increased his interest in the ancient world and his passion for collecting ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, many of which had been unearthed in recent years at various sites in Italy. Excavation of the site of Pompeii began in 1748. During the first phase, the excavation was carried out essentially in order to find art objects, many of which ended up in the private collection of the Bourbon king Charles III of Naples. Hamilton was ideally placed to visit the site and write reports which were read at meetings of the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1775. This book gives the text of his reports and is illustrated with 13 handsome engraved plates. The book was the first in a long line of works dedicated to the lost city of Pompeii published in the 18th century.|
|Reference Sources||Oxford Dictionary of National Biography|
|Title||Account of the life and writings of Adam Smith, LL.D. From the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh|
|Imprint||[Edinburgh?] Privately Printed|
|Date of Publication||1794?|
|Notes||In his bibliography of David Hume and other Scottish philosphers, T. E. Jessop rightly states that the first printing of Dugald Stewart's famous Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D was in The Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh vol 3/1, pp.55-137. Stewart read his paper to the Society in two separate sessions (21 Jan and 18 March 1793) and soon after it was printed in the Transactions. Shortly thereafter it was re-set and repaginated from the Transactions for a limited private edition, which was most probably printed in Edinburgh. It is this rarity that the Library has acquired.
This copy is inscribed 'To Sir Wm Miller Bart. / From the Author'. Sir William Miller (1755-1846) was appointed a Lord of Session and took the title Lord Glenlee in 1795. According to DNB he was 'a very able man, and had a profound knowledge of jurisprudence, mathematics, and literature'.
This item is not recorded in ESTC, though there is a copy in the Vanderblue Collection at Harvard.|
|Title||Account of the trial of Thomas Muir.|
|Date of Publication||1794|
|Notes||This is the only known copy in Britain of the first American edition of a book describing the trial of Thomas Muir for sedition in 1793. It is one of very few eighteenth-century American publications of Australian interest. Two other editions were published by Samuel Campbell and another by W. Durrell, also in New York, which is indicative of a high level of interest in the case in the United States. The book is a detailed account of the trial, published with the approval of Muir. It also contains an appendix with copies of documents used as evidence against the accused during the trial.
Thomas Muir, born in Glasgow in 1765, was a lawyer inspired by the French Revolution and by Thomas Paine's 'The rights of man'. He was one of the prime movers in the Society of the Friends of the People, which advocated moderate parliamentary reforms. For his involvement with this organization and for his associations with the authorities in France and the United Irishmen in Ireland, Muir was arrested in August 1793. Following his trial he was sentenced with four of his compatriots (who later became known as the Scottish Martyrs) to 14 years transportation to New South Wales. In effect, they were the first 'political prisoners' sent to the colony. Muir managed to escape in 1796 and made his way across the Pacific via Mexico and eventually to France, where he died in 1799.|
|Title||Act of council, regulating the manner of carrying chairs.|
|Date of Publication||1749|
|Notes||In modern times, local government concerns itself with seemingly banal regulations concerning parking, litter or public lighting. There is nothing new in this - perceived 'over regulation' was alive and well in Edinburgh over 250 years ago, as this broadside demonstrates. The city authorities were forced into action to ask 'chairmen' - those who carried sedan chairs and their occupants around the city - to ensure their chairs had 'a light fixed upon one of the fore-poles of the chair'. This apparently followed a number of incidents resulting in 'many hurts and inconveniences that have happened to the inhabitants & by the chairmen carrying or resting their chairs without lights under cloud of night'. Furthermore all chairs had to be numbered. If these regulations were not followed, chairmen faced being fined a shilling, imprisonment, loss of hire and the chair impounded!
The first sedan chairs for public hire were introduced into Edinburgh in 1687. Horse drawn coaches were often unsuited to the narrow closes and steep hills of Edinburgh's Old Town. In 1687 there were only 6 chairs available but by 1779 there were 180 hackney-chairs and 50 private chairs in Edinburgh. The table of fairs introduced in the regulation dated 1738, referred to in this broadside, specified 6d a trip within the city, 4s for a whole day's rental, and 1s 6d for a journey of half a mile outside town. The majority of the chairmen were Highlanders and this was reflected in the use of tartan for their uniforms.
|Title||Adam Fergusons ausfuehrliche Darstellung der Gruende der Moral und Politik v.1 [Principles of Moral and Political Science].|
|Imprint||Zurich: Orell, Gessner, Fuessli, |
|Date of Publication||1796|
|Notes||This is the rare first German edition of Adam Ferguson's 'Principles of Moral and Political Science', first published as a two-volume work in Edinburgh in 1792, which encompassed Ferguson's lectures on moral and political philosophy at Edinburgh University. Ferguson had effectively retired from teaching in 1785 and this was to be his last major work to be published, although he remained very active in academic circles for the last three decades of his life, right up to his death in 1816. The translation and notes for this German edition were done by Karl Gottfried Schreiter (d. 1809), professor of philosophy at Leipzig. As with the first French edition, only volume one was translated, perhaps indicating that despite the great respect Ferguson commanded on the Continent, this particular work was regarded as being less important than his other works. This particular copy has the 20th-century bookplate of "Paul Ad. Leemann", presumably the book historian Paul Leemann-Van Elck.|
|Reference Sources||Oxford Dictionary of National Biography|
|Author||Joersson, S. A.|
|Title||Adam Smith auteur des recherches sur la richesse des nations & Thomas Payne|
|Date of Publication||1796|
|Notes||This book sets Smith against Paine, arguing that Paine's teaching in 'The decline and fall of the English system of finance' threatens disastrous war and political disorder. This work, presented to the French government, offers Smith's philosophy as the sensible alternative. The author quotes from the 1781 Yverdon edition of Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'.
The work seems to have been published simultaneously in English, French and German. NLS currently has only a copy of the English version, at shelfmark NG.1300.b.16. Despite being published in multiple languages, it seems to be an uncommon book, and it clearly did not have the effect its author was seeking. The appeal to France to seek peace rather than further destructive conflict evidently did not prevent the Napoleonic wars.
This is a very nice copy in gilt red morocco, with marbled endpapers.|
|Author||Shelley, Percy Bysshe|
|Imprint||Pisa: printed with the types of Didot|
|Date of Publication||1821|
|Notes||This is the rare first printing of Percy Bysshe Shelley's elegy on the death of fellow-poet John Keats. In 1818 Shelley (1792-1822) had moved to Italy due to his growing financial and health problems; he was never to return to England. During these final four years of his life he wrote some of finest poetry, despite enduring a series of personal tragedies. In February 1821 Keats had died in Rome of tuberculosis; Shelley subscribed to the view that the final stage of Keats's fatal illness had been brought on by a bad review of 'Endymion' in the "Quarterly Review" in 1818. He resolved to a write an elegy on Keats which would defend the dead man's reputation and emphasise the significance of poets and poetry in society. On June 8 1821 Shelley wrote to his London publisher, Charles Ollier, asking him to announce for publication a new poem, which was "a lament on the death of poor Keats, with some interposed stabs on the assassins of his peace and his fame". The poet decided in the end to have the poem printed locally in Pisa, rather than send a manuscript copy to London. Printing the work in Pisa meant that he could personally supervise the printing to ensure that there were no errors in the text, and also prevent any of the "interposed stabs" from being censored. A slim quarto of the 55-stanza poem was produced, Shelley sending a copy to the poet John Gisborne on 13 July. Other copies were sent to Charles Ollier to be distributed. Ollier offered them for sale at the modest price of 3s 6d but decided not to republish the work, making the Pisa printing one of the scarcest and most highly sought after original editions of Shelley's works. Ollier's reluctance to have the poem printed is no doubt due to his strained relations with Shelley. Between 1820 and his death in July 1822 Shelley frequently complained in his correspondence that Ollier was ignoring his many requests and commissions, including his request for a reprint of 'Adonais', which he himself regarded as "the least imperfect of my compositions". In this case Ollier probably had no wish to become embroiled in Shelley's attack on the "Quarterly Review", which he knew would be met with derision by most of the London critics. In the preface to 'Adonais', Shelley stresses his credentials as an impartial judge of Keats's work, noting that his "repugnance" for some of the latter's earlier compositions was well known. However, he pulls no punches in his attack on John Wilson Croker, the reviewer of 'Endymion'; whilst Croker is not named in the preface, he is referred to as "Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God". The text of 'Adonais' was reprinted in "The Literary Chronicle and Weekly Review" of December 1 1821 but a separate edition was not reprinted in England until 1829 in Cambridge. A further separate edition was printed for private circulation in London in 1876. This particular copy of the first Pisa printing is from the library of Sir John Skelton (1831-1897), a Scottish author, literary critic and advocate. It was bequeathed to the Library (along with first editions of Shelley's 'Rosalind and Helen' and 'Epipsychidion') by his descendant Miss Margaret Penelope Skelton (1924-2011). It is bound in a 19th-century calf binding for the booksellers Edmonston & Douglas of Edinburgh. Of particular interest is a letter to Sir John Skelton pinned to the front free endpaper; it is from the poet and fellow literary reviewer Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909). The letter, dated March 10 1894, is not concerned with 'Adonais' but primarily with the 16th-century French poet and admirer of Mary Queen of Scots, Pierre de Bocosel de Chastelard. Swinburne had written plays about both Mary and Chastelard, while Skelton had published the year before "Mary Stuart", a biography defending the queen's conduct. As a postscript Swinburne notes that he has forgotten to reply to a question of Skelton's about Shelley and provides references to two articles by him on Shelley.|
|Reference Sources||Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; "Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelly, edited with a bibliographical introduction by Thomas J. Wise" 2nd ed. (London: Shelley Society, 1886)|
|Imprint||Glasgow: James Knox|
|Date of Publication||1764|
|Notes||This edition of Aesop's fables appears to be completely unrecorded. This is surprising as it is a rather attractive publication with numerous woodcuts. It is designed as an educational book: the words of the fables are broken up by hyphens, so that the beginner could read them a piece at a time. This does make the text look rather odd (for example, 'A Wea-sel run-ning in-to a bra-si-ers shop...'). Aesop's fables play an important part in Scottish culture. The fifteenth-century poet Robert Henryson did an excellent translation into Scots, and there are many other editions. This edition is particularly notable for the naive illustrations, which are more akin to those normally found in a chapbook.|
|Date of Publication||c. 1837|
|Notes||This is a rare and unrecorded edition of the ever-popular Aesop's fables. It was published in Edinburgh by William Darling who is recorded in Gray's annual directory as having an address on South Bridge in 1837. Darling published a number of children's books in a similar format of which the NLS holds four titles. A bookseller and printer of the same name was working at various addresses in Edinburgh between 1765 and 1796 but the illustrative style and typographic layout suggest a later date. The cover is printed on yellow paper with a very fine copper engraving of a family looking out of a window at an old man (presumably Aesop) writing surrounded by a group of animals. The book is composed of 12 fables, each one superbly illustrated with a half page wood-engraving with the text beneath.|
|Title||Ainmeanna cliuteach Chriosd. [Christ's famous titles].|
|Imprint||Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island|
|Date of Publication||1832|
|Notes||This is an important addition to the National Library's collection of books in Scots Gaelic printed in Canada. Only one other copy is recorded of this Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island imprint. The National Library holds eight imprints by the printer S. Haszard, all dating from the period 1890-1902. This work is a translation of William Dyer's work 'Christ's famous titles' first published in 1663 which ran through seveal editions through into the nineteenth century. Dyer, who died in 1696, was a Non-Conformist minister with Quaker sympathies, who was minister at Chesham and Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire. The text was first translated by C. Maclauruinn for a Glasgow 1817 edition. It was clearly a popular work - five Gaelic editions were also published in Edinburgh between 1845 and 1894. Maclauruinn in his English preface opines that 'it is neither a popular nor an elegant publication … but an evangelical one'.
Ownership inscriptions on the free endpapers indicate that this book belonged to one Fergus Ferguson of New Gairloch, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. The last leaf contains an advertisement for the bookseller James Dawson of Pictou, Nova Scotia, which lists 39 Gaelic titles. This is evidence of the market for books in Gaelic among the emigrant population in Nova Scotia in the mid-nineteenth century.
Scots first settled in Prince Edward Island in 1768, but the majority of the migrations, primarily from the the Western Isles, Argyll and Invernesshire, took place between 1771 and 1803. One of the largest migrations was that of 1803. It was organized by Thomas Douglas the fifh Earl of Selkirk and resulted in the arrival of 800 people from the Isle of Skye, Raasay, North Uist and Mull, most of whom were Gaelic speakers.|
|Reference Sources||Hornby, Susan. Celts and ceilidhs: a history of Scottish societies on Prince Edward Island. (Charlottetown, 1981). HP2.201.04699
Craig, David. On the crofters' trail. (London, 1990) H4.90.1632|