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Events | exhibitions


Rare chance to see treasured Burns love song

Robert Burns and his letter, 'Ae Fond Kiss'
Robert Burns and his
letter to Agnes McLehose.

A handwritten love song by Robert Burns is being put on show in Glasgow by the National Library of Scotland for the first time.

The Library is contributing to the global celebration of the poet's life on 25 January by giving people the chance to see the manuscript of 'Ae Fond Kiss'.

Burns wrote the song for Agnes McLehose as she was about to depart for Jamaica. It describes his despair at the ending of their four-year relationship.

It is one of the Library's most treasured manuscripts and has only previously been seen in Edinburgh. It is fitting that it should go on show in Glasgow, the city of Agnes's birth.

'Ae Fond Kiss' is on display on 25 January from 13.30 until 15.30, in the National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow. Entry is free.

Read more in our 'Ae Fond Kiss' media release.

18 January 2017


Important Stevenson letters added to Library's collections

Two sheets of handwritten letter
Fanny Stevenson's letter.

Fanny Stevenson's signature on a letter
Fanny's signature.

A heart-rending letter describing the final hours of Robert Louis Stevenson has been acquired by the National Library of Scotland.

In the letter to a friend the day after his death, the novelist's widow, Fanny Stevenson, says that her husband died as he had lived.

'His life had been one long romance and he hoped to have a romantic end; the artist in him demanded that completeness,' she wrote on 3 December 1894.

Stevenson died suddenly from a suspected brain haemorrhage at the couple's home in Samoa at the age of only 44.

In her letter, Fanny also describes the devotion of native Samoans who cut a path through the bush to fulfil Stevenson's wish that he be buried at the summit of Mount Vaea.

The letter is one of a number that the National Library bought at auction. Included in the purchase were an unfinished essay, telegrams, photographs and newspaper cuttings. They add to the Library's existing rich collection of Stevenson material.

Read more in our Robert Louis Stevenson media release.

2 December 2016


Website offers 'windaes' into Scots language

Cover of 'Buke of the Howlat'
'The Buke of
the Howlat'.
Hamish McDonald
Hamish McDonald.

Published today is a website celebrating the Scots language and looking at how Scots has been used down the centuries.

'Wee Windaes' draws on the National Library of Scotland's rich collections to showcase examples of Scots language from the 15th century to the present.

Scots Scriever Hamish MacDonald produced the site in collaboration with Library staff, aiming to raise awareness of the richness and depth of the Scots language.

The starting point for the site is the 'The Buke of the Howlat', a performance poem from the 1440s, while the end point will have literary examples from the modern day.

Launching the website at the Library, Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney described Scots as 'an essential element of our nation's culture and heritage'.

See also our Wee Windaes media release

1 December 2016


Focus on Scots photographic pioneers

The Scott Monument under construction
The Scott Monument under construction,
from 'Sun pictures in Scotland', 1845.

The story of the early days of photography in Scotland is told in the National Library's winter treasures display.

A star attraction is William Henry Fox Talbot's 'Sun pictures in Scotland' from 1845 — one of the first books in the world to be illustrated with photographs.

'"Sun pictures" and beyond: Scotland and the photographically illustrated book, 1845-1900 highlights Scotland's leading role in the early development of photography.

It features a range of photographically-illustrated books from some of the pioneers of photography in Scotland, including:

  • George Washington Wilson
  • James Valentine
  • Thomas Annan
  • William Notman
  • John Thomson.

Globally successful businesses were founded on the booming market that developed in photographs as souvenirs for tourists. Wilson and Valentine, for instance, produced albums of prints of Scottish scenery, while Valentine of Dundee became internationally famous for producing picture postcards.

'"Sun pictures" and beyond' is on at the Library from 30 November 2016 until 26 March 2017.

Read more in the 'Sun pictures' display media release

29 November 2016


Amazing restoration of antique map

A conservator unrolls a very tattered map
The chimney map before restoration.

Detail of the map during restoration
Detail of the map during restoration.

Once it would have been the cherished possession of a wealthy family but somehow a 17th-century map came to be stuck up an Aberdeen house chimney.

This rare wall map was in a dreadful state by the time it was rescued and gifted to the National Library. Substantial sections of the paper had disintegrated after being attacked by vermin and insects.

Work in trying to save the map has been one of the most complicated projects the Library's conservation staff have ever worked on.

Through applying a series of complex treatments they have managed to repair damage and completely clean the map to make it something that can be studied and enjoyed for years to come.

The story of this amazing restoration is told in two videos available on YouTube ('The chimney map' and 'Unravelling the chimney map') and in the Library's 'Discover' magazine, issue 33.

See our chimney map media release

28 November 2016

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