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Events | exhibitions


Paintings celebrate archive's publishing history

The latest display at the National Library of Scotland showcases new paintings and celebrates the rich literary history of the John Murray Archive.

Renowned Scottish artist Hugh Buchanan spent a year working with the archive — one of the world's greatest literary and publishing collections.

'Hugh Buchanan paints the John Murray Archive' exhibits 19 watercolours that represent nine writers published by Murray, including:

  • Jane Austen
  • Lord Byron
  • Sir Arthur Conan Coyle
  • Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Accompanied by comments from the artist, the paintings highlight the beauty and depth of the archive. Alongside them is a selection of the manuscripts and books which inspired the watercolours.

The free display is open daily until 6 September. Afterwards it will transfer to the John Martin Gallery in Albemarle Street, London, only yards from the archive's original home.

Read more in our Hugh Buchanan display media release.

25 June 2015


Book from Napoleon's carriage at Waterloo on display

Book with red leather and gold binding

A book taken from Napoleon Bonaparte's carriage after the Battle of Waterloo goes on display today at the National Library of Scotland.

Visitors to the Library can see the copy of 'Memoires de Madame la marquise de la Rochejaquelein', presented by its author to King Louis XVIII of France.

Napoleon acquired the book when he re-occupied the Tuileries Palace in Paris in 1815 and sent Louis into exile.

As the French retreated after their failed assault at Waterloo on 18 June 1815, Prussian soldiers caught up with Napeoleon's carriage. Among the contents they removed was the book, which was presented to the British liaison officer.

It came to the National Library in 1951, as part of the library collection from Newbattle Abbey, home of the Lothian family.

Detail from handwritten inscription
The inscription tells of the book's
connection with Napoleon.

Viewing times for the book are:

  • Wednesday 17 June: 16.00-20.30
  • Thursday 18 June: 09.30-12.00

The display in our George IV Bridge Building is free. Read more in our special display media release.


Napoleonic chapbooks online

Napoleonic battle scene
Woodcut from 'Battles of Quatre
Bras & Waterloo'
, one of
the Napoleonic chapbooks.

Also marking the Waterloo anniversary at the Library is the online release of items of street literature relating to conflicts with Napoleon.

'Street literature about Napoleon's wars' is a collection of 78 chapbooks – small cheap-print booklets that were sold on the streets.

Printed in Scotland, these chapbooks mostly contain ballads that tell of military conflicts with the French leader.

They cover events from the 1790s to the Battle of Waterloo, but also give insights into contemporary views of Bonaparte, Josephine de Beauharnais, Horatio Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

17 June 2015


Scotland's culinary past uncovered in Library exhibition

Menu card with skaters illustration
Edinburgh Skating Club
menu card, 1895.

A fascinating insight into the Scots diet over the past 400 years is presented in the National Library of Scotland's summer exhibition.

'Lifting the lid' looks at our changing relationship with food.

The exhibition tells the story of Scotland's food and drink by using the Library's rich collections of recipe books, together with household accounts and inventories, tradesmen's bills, menus, adverts and film.

It contrasts the frugal, yet healthy, diet of the 17th century with the calorie-laden foods of today which have given rise to obesity problems.

Visitors will be able to see what has been called Scotland's first published recipe book — 'The Scots Gard'ner', published in 1683 — and discover that curry powder was on sale in Edinburgh as early as 1798.

'Lifting the lid' exhibition graphic

There are separate sections on soups, oatmeal and bread, fish, meat, vegetables, desserts and baking, jams and preserves. Exotic recipes, strange combinations and unusual weights and measures all tell of a very different culinary past from what we know today.

Read more in our food history exhibition media release.

12 June 2015


Scots language residency opportunity at the National Library

Detail from William Dunbar ballad
This poem by William Dunbar is
  one example of early written Scots in
the Library's collections.

Applications are invited for a two-year residency to support the use of the Scots language across Scotland.

Based at the National Library of Scotland, the successful candidate for the role of Scots Scriever will produce creative work while raising awareness and appreciation of Scots.

The residency is the result of a joint initiative between the National Library and Creative Scotland. It was launched today at the Library by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. 

During the residency the Scriever will work closely with the Library's Scots collections, which range from some of the earliest examples of written Scots to modern works by the likes of Irving Welsh. National Librarian Dr John Scally said:

'We are delighted to be working with Creative Scotland in offering this exciting new writing role, as part of our continuing commitment to the Scots language.'

The deadline for applications for the Scots Scriever residency is 24 June.

Read more in our Scots Scriever media release.

3 June 2015


Double win for Mariscat Press

Jim Carruth, Hamish Whyte and Darryl Meade
Jim Carruth, Hamish Whyte, and
Darryl Mead, Deputy National Librarian.

Mariscat Press has won both prizes in the pamphlet poetry publishing competition held annually at the National Library of Scotland.

The winning pamphlet in the 2015 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award is 'Prodigal' by Jim Carruth, who is the Glasgow Makar (poet laureate). 'A witch among the gooseberries' by Ian McDonough is runner-up.

As the pamphlets' publishers, Mariscat Press receives £800 for the first prize and £400 for second prize.

The author of the winning pamphlet is eligible for a two-week residency in Greece in July as the Michael Marks Poet in Residence at Harvard University's Center for Hellenic Studies.

Established in 1982 and run by Hamish Whyte, Mariscat Press is one of the oldest small publishing houses in Scotland. It previously won the award in 2011.

Read more in our publishing award media release.

15 May 2015


Historic political papers to be made available online

The spines of volumes of House of Lords papers

Access is being opened up to valuable House of Lords papers that go to the heart of 19th century British political history.

A project to digitise the papers will give free online access to National Library of Scotland registered readers with a Scottish address. At present they can only consult this parliamentary material by visiting the Library in person.


Few surviving collections

The National Library has one of the very few surviving collections of House of Lords papers.

Although the influence of the Lords diminished in the 19th century, more British Prime Ministers served in the Lords in this period than in the House of Commons. The papers provide an insight into areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy.


Commitment to access

Dr John Scally, Scotland’s National Librarian, said the project is part of the Library’s commitment to open up its collections to as many people as possible.

Led by the Library and the global technology company ProQuest, the project is expected to be completed later this year.

The papers will be added to the Library's licensed digital collections, which includes e-books, e-journals, and reference works.

Read more in our House of Lords papers media release.

14 May 2015


View more films of Scotland

Over 100 more films are available to watch via the National Library of Scotland's Scottish Screen Archive catalogue.

Launched with the films is a new video player which suits a wider range of devices, such as iPad and iPhone.

The newly digitised footage spans around seven decades, dating from as early as 1918, and includes amateur and professional productions. It includes:

Explore the screen archive catalogue to view more than 1,700 film clips and full-length films online.

14 May 2015

 News archive

Past news stories since September 2002 are available in our news archive.

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