October 2001

Among new acquisitions shown to the Library's Trustees in October 2001 was a rare broadside, giving a graphic, if biased, account of one of the flashpoints of the 'Clearances': Dreadful fray, which took place at Culrain near Gladsfield in Ross-shire. [Edinburgh?], 1820, shelfmark APS.5.201.11 It comprises letters printed in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Courier. The unrest described arose from the decision of Hugh Munro, the Laird of Novar, to evict 600 tenants from his Culrain estates in order to begin sheep-farming. Sheriff Donald Macleod, backed by the militia, on arriving to execute the eviction notice was set upon by a 'determined body of females' (also described as 'amazons') and was forced to retreat. Although the injuries of the authorities are mentioned, the authors neglect to record the mortal wounding of a local woman. Faced with the stern disapproval of the local minister and the prospect of further fatalities, the tenants were forced to submit.

 

Two popular novels, commonly called 'yellow-backs': James Grant, Bothwell or the days of Mary Queen of Scots (London, [circa 1870?]) (shelfmark ABS.2.201.016), and R L Stevenson, New Arabian nights (London, 1885) (shelfmark ABS.2.201.009). These books are representative of the way in which cheap fiction was marketed in the latter half of the 19th century. It was a form of publication which developed from the late 1840s and competed with the 'penny dreadful' as a source of entertaining reading. Routledges, with their 'Railway Library', were the first of many publishers to target an expanding reading public with such distinctive and graphically illustrated covers.

 

A catalogue that never was. Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) was Louis XIV's principal minister, an acknowledged financial wizard and an ardent book collector. At some date late in his career, he had made up for himself a volume of some 300 folio sheets of blank paper, watermarked with his own arms and bound in a striking red morocco armorial binding, showing a version of the Colbert arms. It was then purchased by Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton, sometime in the early decades of the 19th century. His intention for the volume seems clear, since there is a manuscript title leaf in pen and ink, 'Catalogue des objets d'art & de curiosité au Palais d'Hamilton 1838', shelfmark Bdg.l.42, and there are manuscript headings for various rooms of the Palace such as 'Salle Appartenante a La Bibliothèque'. However, these headings end half way through the volume, as the Duke, like Colbert before him, grew bored or forgot this fine volume.

 

View some of our wheel and herringbone bindings in the Digital Library

Red wheelbinding

In August 2001 a new section - Scottish Decorative Bookbindings - was added to the Digital Gallery. On display are wheel and herringbone bindings mainly from the 18th century. It is intended to add further images from the Library's collections in order to build up a comprehensive visual record of the evolution in binding styles down through the ages. Additions will include the creations of contemporary binders who feature in the National Library's annual Elizabeth A Soutar Bookbinding Competition.

 

Scottish Book Trade Index (SBTI) doubled in size

In late July 2001 a new version of the Scottish Book Trade Index (SBTI) became available: it is twice the size of the version placed on this website in 1998. The work of John Morris, a former member of staff who has continued to devote much energy to it in his retirement, SBTI lists, with biographical details, all persons who can be traced from the central areas of the book trade, viz. papermaking, printing, bookselling, engraving and bookbinding. While all parts of SBTI have benefited, the revision has particularly strengthened the coverage of the period 1801-1850.

 

Foreign Books Retroconversion Records added to main catalogue

During May 2001, 45,848 retroconversion records were added to the main catalogue for books printed abroad between 1501 and 1800. These books, which include books by Scots and other books relating to Scotland published overseas, as well as whole collections of foreign books, such as the Astorga Collection, have previously been accessible only through the microfiche catalogue or, for 1501-1600, through the published Short-Title Catalogue of Foreign Books printed up to 1600 (HMSO, 1970). These records have been created by keyboarding the old card entries (some of them dating back to the 19th century) forming the microfiche catalogue, and are marked as 'temporary' records. Work will first be carried out to harmonise the author headings with those already in the main catalogue and to check that the records accurately represent the cards. Thereafter we will be looking for resources to upgrade these records. We would be interested to hear from anybody with research projects that could particularly benefit from their use.

 

Early book on Freemasonry

The Constitutions of the Freemasons

Among recent acquisitions shown to the Library's Trustees in March 2001 was a very fine copy of the second book on Freemasonry published in England, written by a Scotsman: The Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, &c. of that most ancient and right worshipful fraternity. For the use of Lodges (London, 1723) [shelfmark RB.m.446]. The author, James Anderson (1680-1739), was born and educated in Aberdeen. In 1710 he was appointed minister of the Presbyterian Church in Swallow Street, London. He was also Grand Warden of the Lodge of England, and it was in this capacity that he was asked to produce an authoritative digest of the constitutions of the 'fraternity'. In pristine condition, from the Library of the Marquis of Linlithgow with his armorial bookplate on the front pastedown, this copy also has the rare half-title.

The first book on Freemasonry was The Old Constitutions published in pamphlet form the year before. According to Lionel Vibert (The Rare Books of Freemasonry, 1923) there had been only 15 printed references to Freemasonry before 1722. The Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717 and the Constitutions was published six years later, going through 24 editions between 1723 and 1897. It quickly became the standard work of history and reference on the subject well into the late 19th century.

 

The Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation

'The Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation'

One of the important books and manuscripts from the collections of St Benedict's Abbey, Fort Augustus, recently acquired with the help of a generous grant of £329,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Patrick Abercromby's The Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation, vol.1 (Edinburgh, 1711), is one of 54 printed books to have come from the German Benedictine Abbey of Ratisbon. It was donated there by the author in the year of publication. The title page has inscriptions 'Monasterij S Jacobi Scotorum Ratisbonae 1711' and 'Reverendissimo Placido Flaminio Abbati dignissimo exempti Monasterij S Jacobi Scotorum Ratisbonae dono dedit author libri Patricius Abercromby'.

 

Consortium of European Research Libraries file

The National Library is a member of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) which is responsible for the Hand Press Book (HPB) file containing details of pre-1831 books in Consortium libraries. The file has now been made available free-of-charge on the RLIN facilities provided in the North Reading Room. For further details of the file, see the CERL website.

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