Important acquisitions

Caberfeigh

Author Mackenzie, Isobel
Title Caberfeigh
Imprint [Gollanfield House, Invernessshire]
Date of Publication 1874
Language English
Notes This is an extraordinary example of private printing. Isobel Mackenzie (1852-1880) was given a Berri's People's Printing Press by her parents - illustrated in the frontispiece sketch. She used it to print six issues of Caberfeigh: A Magazine of Polite Literature, while suffering from tuberculosis at Gollanfield House. Despite the subtitle, however, this is not a typical example of Victorian family literature; it is actually very entertaining and full of satirical humour. 'Cabear fidh' is the Gaelic for 'deer antler' and it is the war cry of the Clan Mackenzie. Isobel was evidently determined to cheer herself and her family with stories, jokes, poems and quizzes. She describes visits to England with witty and precise language. The standard of the printing is good for a private family press. Additional interest is supplied by the fact that Isobel was the niece of the writer Robert Michael Ballantyne (1825-1924), best known today for his swashbuckling yarn The Coral Island (1858). He contributed two articles to Caberfeigh ("From our African correspondent" in issue 1 and "Buncle's experiences on the Continent" in issue 6). For this copy, he also supplied the water-colour volume title-page and two highly dramatic pen and ink drawings for Isobel's own story "R-R-R Remorse! A Tale of Love! Murder! and Death!!!" in issue 5. This bound set of the magazine was presented to Isobel as a Christmas present for 1874. As well as the Ballantyne illustrations, and another colour illustration of Isobel's cat Nixie, there are 14 tipped-in albumen photographs, mainly of family and friends; there are photographs of Isobel and her uncle Robert ('Bob'), as well as an image of Gollanfield House. In this copy there are manuscript additions, probably in Isobel's hand, which identify the writers of various anonymous articles (e.g. on p. 13 of issue 1, a poem is ascribed to 'Mamma'). This copy comes from the library of the Ballantyne bibliographer Eric Quayle, sold at auction in March 2006. There are a couple of imperfections; pp. 7-8 of issue 6 are missing, and pp. 16-18 may also be missing (although this may just be a numbering error  another copy also lacks pages 16-18). Two other sets of this magazine are currently known, one in private hands, one at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. This is, apparently, the only copy of Caberfeigh in public ownership in Scotland.
Shelfmark RB.s.2669
Reference Sources Eric Quayle, R. M. Ballantyne: a bibliography of first editions, London: 1968, p. 122.
Acquired on 19/06/07
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