Important acquisitions

Memento mori

Author
Title Memento mori
Imprint Edinburgh: Alexander Alison
Date of Publication [1738]
Language English
Notes This is an interesting piece of printed ephemera from mid-18th century Edinburgh. In Britain printed funeral invitations - called burial letters - are known from at least the late seventeenth century. Many, like this, exhort the reader to 'Memento mori' - remember that you must die. Usually printers would produce ready-printed non-specific invitations on which the name of the deceased and the time and place of the funeral would be entered by hand. Mr. Simson must have reasonably well-off to have been able to afford to have his invitations fully printed . These invitations were usually hand-delivered by servants or people specially employed for the task. In large burghs delivering such letters became a recognized occupation. Woodcut invitations such as this tended to use stock narrative or allegorical compositions. The images - the grim reaper, the skull and crossbones, the cortege - relate not only to the death of the person in question but also as reminder of one's own mortality. Little is known of David Simson apart from the fact that he was employed in the legal profession. The Library holds another example of such woodcut imagery (without letterpress but in manuscript) at APS.el.150.
Shelfmark APS.2.205.005
Reference Sources Llewellyn, Nigel, The art of death. (London, V&A, 1991) GME.1/20 Hatches, matches and despatches: catalogue of exhibition held at General Register House 1996-97. GRP.1999.2.4 Gordon, Anne. Death is for the living. (Edinburgh, 1984) H4.84.2025
Acquired on 06/09/04
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