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Precious books thrill film director Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam looking at books at the Library
Terry Gilliam with some of
the Library's collections.

Film director Terry Gilliam had what he described as a 'thrilling' time today (12 February), viewing rare and inspirational books at the National Library of Scotland.

The animator, actor, writer and founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy team paid a special visit to the Library in Edinburgh. He saw some early editions of Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' — a book first published in 1605, which he has been trying to turn into a film for the past 25 years.

Gilliam was shown early Spanish editions of the novel from 1610, the first English translations from around 1620, and illustrated copies in a number of different languages.

Terry Gilliam holding a rare edition of 'Don Quixote'
Terry Gilliam
with 'Don Quixote'.

'Don Quixote' is a book that everyone thinks they know about, Gilliam said, but few people read. Referring to the many editions he saw, he said: 'This shows how important 'Quixote' has been over many, many years. To see an early Spanish edition that was once owned by a Scottish nobleman is fascinating and shows how sought after it was.'

Spanish Inquisition censorship

He was also amused to be shown books from the 16th century that had been censored by the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition protected Catholic orthodoxy, and was widely known for intolerance and repression. It was lampooned in a series of sketches by the Monty Python team in the 1970s.

Gilliam is in Edinburgh to reveal a 10-metre long illuminated neon-effect quotation from 'Don Quixote' as part of the 'Words on the Street' art installation project being run by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust.

12 February 2016


Beautiful books inspire illustration students

A selection of woodcut printed books
A selection of woodcut printed books


Original woodcut print books by Edinburgh students — inspired by the Library's 'Book beautiful' display — are on show at the National Library of Scotland.

Edinburgh College of Art's first-year illustration students visited the Library to see a selection of treasures, and met with James Mitchell, Curator of Rare Books and Music.

Inspired by the Library's display, the students produced their own printed books, illustrating Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales'. Using woodcut relief printing, each piece was folded to produce a simple book form, with a single sheet of paper.

The resulting artwork is on display in the main hall of the Library's George IV Building from 11-23 February.

This is the third collaboration between the Library's Learning Team and Edinburgh College of Art.

11 February 2016


World-famous stars support Library archive

Glasgow Kelvin Hall building with impression of exterior addition
An impression of the Kelvin Hall development.

Plans to develop the Library's Moving Image Archive are being backed by leading Scots actors and the Hollywood film director Martin Scorsese.

They are supporting a campaign to raise the final £250,000 to fit out a new home for the archive within the revamped Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. It will make it easier for the public to view and study more than 100 years of Scottish history on film and video.

Actors Brian Cox, Alan Cumming and Bill Paterson, crime writer Ian Rankin, and broadcaster Kirsty Wark all appear in a short film about the importance of the archive in Scottish life.

Mr Scorsese is quoted in the film as saying: 'Moving image archives hold our common memory. They need to be seen, studied and enjoyed. I enthusiastically support the efforts to develop the Scottish Moving Image Archive and I urge all of you to support this vitally important initiative.'

The archive is located at Hillington outside Glasgow, but will move into the Kelvin Hall later this year.


Read more on our Kelvin Hall campaign page and in our campaign press release

1 February 2016


Handwritten Robert Burns love song on display

Robert Burns and the handwritten lovesong manuscript
Robert Burns and his
manuscript for 'Ae fond kiss'.

History comes alive at the National Library of Scotland on Monday when a handwritten love song by Robert Burns goes on special display.

The life of the poet will be celebrated around the world on Burns Day on 25 January. The Library is contributing by giving people the chance to see one of its most famous Burns manuscripts.

It is a letter written in 1791 by Burns to Nancy McLehose who was about to leave Scotland for Jamaica. In it, Burns sends Nancy some recently composed songs, including one that has since become famous around the world, 'Ae fond kiss'.

The couple had exchanged love letters over a period of four years, but the song expresses Burns despair at the end of the relationship.

The handwritten letter to Nancy will be on display in the Library's boardroom at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh from 12.30-14.00 on Monday 25 January. Entry is free.


See also our Robert Burns press release

21 January 2016


Gavin Wallace Fellowship announced

Photograph of Angus Peter Campbell
Angus Peter Campbell.

Angus Peter Campbell has been selected as the 2016 Gavin Wallace Fellow. Mr Campbell is a poet, novelist, journalist and actor, who writes in both Gaelic and English.

During his appointment, Mr Campbell will explore the theme of 'the recorded memory of Scotland' through the National Library of Scotland's collections.

He said: 'I look forward to the surprises that are in store for me as I delve into the manuscripts, tapes, books, maps, letters, audio and visual and digital recordings which the people of Scotland have left for all of us.'

The 2016 Gavin Wallace Fellowship is hosted by the Library, and provides a writer with time and support to develop their work. Inaugurated by Creative Scotland in 2013, the Fellowship was established in memory of Dr Wallace — Creative Scotland's former head of literature — who committed his entire professional life to helping writers and literature organisations in Scotland.


Read more in our 2016 Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship press release

12 January 2016

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