Events at the National Library

National Library of Scotland events are free and take place in our George IV Bridge Building, unless we state otherwise.

Places are limited, so we recommend that you book in advance.

From January 2016, we are using Eventbrite for online event bookings. When you book an event you will be taken to the Eventbrite website. You can also phone 0131 623 3734.

February events | March events

List updated: 5 February.

For more information, or to join the events mailing list, email

February events

See also: Workshops and tours


Scottish footballing greats

Remembering the likes of Lawrie Reilly, John Panton and Finlay Currie

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to cancel this event, scheduled for 9 February. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.



'Herring tales – How the silver darlings shaped human taste and history'

Cover of 'Herring Tales'

Writer Donald S Murray and illustrator Doug Robertson celebrate the herring — the fish that once fed a continent. Employing humour, myth, and artistry, they conjure up the age when the herring was crowned king throughout the coastline of Northern Europe.

11 February
Free. Book 'Herring tales' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



The literary forgeries of Antique Smith

Detail of handwriting

Dr Ralph McLean, National Library Manuscripts Curator, examines the career of Alexander Howland Smith (Antique Smith). Smith rose to notoriety in the 1890s, through his forgeries of famous Scots such as Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. Using the extensive Smith collection, McLean investigates the forger's techniques, provides examples of his forgeries, and relates his eventual discovery and downfall. In partnership with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

15 February
Free. Book via the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland



Of princes and partans

Cover of 'The partan with the gowden taes'

Translator Susan Rennie discusses her most recent Scots 'Tintin' translation, 'The partan wi the gowden taes'. The book features the first appearance of Captain Haddie, and his endlessly inventive Scots oaths. Rennie contrasts this with her new translation of a very different work, the much-loved classic story 'Le petit Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

18 February
Free. Book 'Of princes and partans' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



'Dacre's war'

Cover of 'Dacre's war' by Rosemary Goring

Rosemary Goring, author and 'Herald' Literary Editor, discusses her new novel with Alan Taylor. The sequel to bestseller 'After Flodden', 'Dacre's war' is set 10 years after the battle of Flodden. It is a vivid tale of vengeance, intrigue and heartache, and a portrait of the turbulent border between Scotland and England in the 16th century.

23 February
Free. Book 'Dacre's war' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Awards

Image of abstract colourful circles

Winners of the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Award are announced at this award ceremony, and all entries are on display. The Awards aim to encourage the practice and development of creative and craft binding skills. This international competition is open to bookbinders across Europe, and the winning entries will join the Library's collection of fine bindings.

25 February
Free. Book the Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Awards on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


March events

See also: Workshops and tours


Terrorists in long dresses – the Scottish suffragettes

Cover of 'A petrol scented spring' by Ajay Close

Fanny Parker planted a bomb at Rabbie Burns's cottage in Alloway. Arabella Scott tried to burn down Kelso's racecourse stand. Frances Gordon set fire to a Rutherglen mansion. Maude Edwards stuck a hatchet in the King's portrait in Edinburgh. These suffragettes were force-fed in jail while on hunger strike. With BBC Arts producer Serena Field, Ajay Close discusses the real people behind her novel, 'A petrol scented spring'.

1 March
Free. Book 'Terrorists in long dresses' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



'Notes of a newsman': What events have moulded Scotland in the last 30 years?

Photo of John MacKay

STV news anchor John MacKay revisits some of Scotland's most captivating times in the last 30 years. He shares candid anecdotes from his latest book, 'Notes of a newsman: Witness to a changing Scotland'. MacKay looks back on his career, and muses on the future of broadcasting in Scotland.

2 March
Free. Book 'Notes of a newsman' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Cara Ellison: 'Embed with games: A year on the couch with game developers'

Cover of 'Embed with games' by Cara Ellison

In 2014, computer games critic Cara Ellison pledged to travel the globe to live with and write about some of the world's most interesting game developers. Ellison originally blogged about her travels, writing about the way game creators express the culture around them. In this event, Ellison discusses the finished article, 'Embed with games'.

3 March
Free. Book 'Embed with games' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.




Photo of Karen Jillings

The most evocative of pre-modern epidemic diseases, plague conjures images of rats scurrying along filthy streets littered with festering corpses, and dwellings daubed with red crosses. But is this really an accurate picture? Karen Jillings sorts the myth from reality, discussing the plague between 1350 and 1650, and its impact on communities in Scotland and elsewhere.

8 March
Free. Book 'Plagues' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



'Bodysnatchers to lifesavers: Three centuries of medicine in Edinburgh'

Cover of 'Bodysnatchers to lifesavers'

From dissecting bodies 'donated' by murderers to developing lifesaving treatments, the Edinburgh medical community has always been innovative and challenged entrenched medical ideas. Tara Womersley and Dorothy Crawford are in conversation about the new edition of their book 'Bodysnatchers to lifesavers: Three centuries of medicine in Edinburgh'.

9 March
Free. Book 'Bodysnatchers to lifesavers' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Putting the popular into Scottish history: What we should have learned from Tranter, Prebble and Dunnett

Photo of Dr Catriona MacDonald

Historical novelists John Prebble, Nigel Tranter and Dorothy Dunnett are appreciated for fostering public historical sensitivity in Scotland. With the Prebble archive now at the National Library, Dr Catriona Macdonald looks at the rise of scholarship beyond universities, and the development of history as central to the very life of the nation.

10 March
Free. Book 'Putting the popular into Scottish history' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Disabled Access Day: Welcome to the Library

Logo for Disabled Access Day

Drop in for tea, coffee and biscuits and learn more about the Library, our collections, exhibitions and events programme. Library staff will answer questions and welcome feedback on how we can improve access. Learn about our exhibition, 'Plague!', which tells the story of how Scotland coped with outbreaks of infectious diseases over the past 600 years.

To mark Disabled Access Day, on 12 March there is a 15% discount for all Library shop purchases.

12 March
Free. No booking required.

See also: Disabled Access Day — British Sign Language signed behind-the-scenes tour



Walking and weeding in a shrinking world: The strange case of Robert Louis Stevenson

Photo of Robert Louis Stevenson

Louis Kirk McAuley explores how both walking and weeding contributed to Robert Louis Stevenson's writing, and to his increasing awareness of what contemporary economists (and ecologists) call our 'shrinking world.' McAuley is Associate Professor of English at Washington State University, and the author of 'Print technology in Scotland and America, 1740-1800'. He is also the Library's first Fulbright Scholar

14 March
Free. Book 'Walking and weeding' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Knitting our way through history

Detail from a knitting pattern

Wendy Turner, Museum Curator at Glasgow Women's Library, takes us through a brief history of knitting and the people involved. Using the collections of Glasgow Women's Library and elsewhere, Turner discusses regional knitting differences, wartime knitting, current research, and 21st century knitting industry developments.

16 March
Free. Book 'Knitting our way through history' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Andrew Tannahill lecture 2016: Scottish literature and power

Photo of Neal Ascherson

Distinguished journalist and author Neal Ascherson explores the sometimes contorted attitudes of Scottish writers — past and present — to authority, patronage, class, and the 'establishment'. He examines how those attitudes have played out in both the authors' work and their working lives.

17 March
Free. Book the Andrew Tannahill lecture on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



'A fractured union: The crisis that could break Britain'

Cover of 'A fractured union' by Tam Dalyell

Tam Dalyell — Scottish Labour Party politician and former Father of the House of Commons — discusses why the UK is on the brink of the most serious constitutional crisis in its history. In the wake of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and the 2015 General Election, Dalyell suggests ways forward, which will inform debate as the UK moves into a new political era.

22 March
Free. Book 'A fractured union' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Girnins frae Blethertoun: An appraisal of Scots, written and spoken

Photo of Hamish MacDonald

With readings from anarchic childrens' rhymes in 'Blethertoun Braes', meeting with teenage angst in 'The Girnin Gates', to the hard-hitting play 'Factor 9', Hamish MacDonald explores what it means to write in Scots for stage and publication. As the National Library of Scotland's Scots Scriever, Hamish gives some insight into his recent research in the Library collections and discusses the condition of the Scots language, past and present.

Wi readins frae anarchic bairns' verse in 'Blethertoun Braes', meetin wi teenage angst in 'The Girnin Gates,' tae the haurd-hittin play 'Factor 9', Hamish MacDonald explores whit it means tae scrieve in Scots fur stage an publication. Appyntit Scots Scriever fur the National Library o Scotland, Hamish will gie sicht o his reengin intae the collections at the National Library, whiles communin oan the past and present fettill o the Scots leid.

23 March
Free. Book 'Girnins frae Blethertoun' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.

See also:

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