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Events | exhibitions


Meet 'Mary' and 'Darnley' at anniversary event

Illustration of Mary Queen of Scots
An illustration of Mary, just
before she married Darnley.
From the Forman Armorial.

Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley will be receiving visitors at the National Library of Scotland on 29 July. 

That date is the 450th anniversary of Mary's ill-starred marriage to Darnley at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Provided by Edinburgh tour company Mercat Tours, the royal characters will help visitors find out about the marriage and about life at the palace in 1565. They may even throw some light on Darnley's murder in 1567.

On display from the Library's collections will be original documents from the time, including a letter signed by Mary and by Darnley as Henry, King Consort.

The free family event runs from 14.00-16.00 in the Boardroom in the George IV Bridge building. 

Read more in the Mary Queen of Scots event media release.

28 July 2015


Archive footage showcased by Britain on Film

Film still from 'Impressions of Skye'
'Impressions of Skye':
one of the archive's films
included in the project.

Films from the National Library of Scotland are now part of a major project by the British Film Institute.

Britain on Film showcases footage from around the UK, including films from the Library's Scottish Screen Archive. Material capturing England, Wales and Northern Ireland is also included, offering a unique picture of Britain through the 20th century.

Visitors to Britain on Film can explore an interactive map to search through film history by area. Scottish highlights include home videos, information films, travelogues and documentary footage.

By 2017, more than 10,000 non-fiction and feature films will be digitised for the project, dating from the 1890s onwards.

14 July 2015


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 Irvine 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

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