Special and Named Printed Collections


This collection of 759 printed volumes (including three incunables) was purchased - along with 13 manuscript items - in 2000, with the co-operation of the Trustees of St Benedict's Abbey and the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It represents the most significant part of the collection - itself a selection - of some 6,900 mainly pre-1801 volumes (including 23 incunables) deposited by the Abbey in the National Library in 1992 and following years and which the Trustees offered for sale in 1999. The Cassidy Collection, which was part of that 1992 deposit, remains in the National Library on long-term deposit and forms a separate collection: see Cassidy Collection. The remainder of the books deposited in the Library in 1992 and the substantial quantity of mainly post-1800 books that remained at St Benedict's Abbey were dispersed in 2000 and 2001, partly at public auction and partly by private sale. St Benedict's Abbey, founded in 1876 at Fort Augustus, at the southern end of Loch Ness, was a re-foundation of the Irish, and later (after 1515) Scots, monastery of St James at Ratisbon (Regensburg) in Bavaria, which was suppressed in 1862. One of the most tangible tokens of this link between Fort Augustus and Ratisbon was the collection of books and manuscripts which tradition says was transported to Scotland in the early 1860s by one of the last two remaining monks at St James's, Father Anselm Robertson. Eventually, in the late 1870s, these books and manuscripts became the historic core of the library in the new monastery at Fort Augustus. Beginning from the time of the foundation, the Benedictine monks were able to make significant additions to that first collection, attracting gifts from a variety of sources including the neighbourhood and prominent Catholics elsewhere, and most notably they became custodians of a collection brought together in Dublin in the 19th century by an Irish Franciscan, Thomas Cassidy. The purchased printed collection is strong in theology, church history, devotional and liturgical works, but also includes volumes of English and French literature and history, travel, architectural works and finely illustrated books. There are 54 printed books known from their inscriptions to have come from Ratisbon, including a copy of Patrick Abercromby's The Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation, vol.1 (Edinburgh, 1711), donated by the author in the year of publication; it is also inscribed by the Order of St Benedict at Westthorn Mills, a Roman Catholic Reformatory near Glasgow where the books from Ratisbon had a temporary resting place. Other rare Scottish books include an edition of Castellion's Dialogorum sacrorum libri IV, a collection of Bible stories in dialogue form for schoolchildren and often used as a Latin reader, printed in Edinburgh in 1709. Also of Scottish interest is Afbeeldingen en beschryvingen van Alle Geestelyke en wereldlyke ordens, zedert haare stichting tot op onzen tyd (Amsterdam, 1791). This book, of which no other copy has been traced, includes a section on the dress and regalia of the Order of the Thistle. 37 items from the library of William Urquhart (1734-96) of Craigston found their way to Fort Augustus: mostly fine 18th-century books such as Charles Cordiner's Remarkable Ruins, and Romantic prospects, of North Britain, vol.1 (London, 1788) and an English version of part of Buffon's Histoire naturelle (The Natural History of the Horse) ( London, 1762). Of slightly different origin is a Greek menology (a liturgical book with lives of the saints arranged by months); a label, fortunately preserved with the book, reveals that it was presented to the Abbey by one Sergeant Grant, presumably a soldier from the district. The purchased manuscripts include a volume of patristic texts written in 1080 by the Irish Benedictine monk Marianus, the founder of the Community at Ratisbon. This contains, in Marianus's hand, the earliest written Gaelic words to be found in any work currently held in Scotland. Another manuscript book originally from Ratisbon is a translation into Scots, made in 1596 by Father James Dalrymple, of the Latin text of John Leslie's De origine, moribus et rebus gestis Scotorum libri decem (Rome, 1578), important as a Scots language text. The manuscripts acquired at a later date by the Abbey at Fort Augustus include a 15th-century Book of Hours that belonged to Mary of Guise, Queen Consort of James V. This Book of Hours was given by Lord Ralph Kerr, third son of the 7th Marquess of Lothian, who also presented six printed books. Another early benefactor was Brother Basil Weld, a member of a prominent English Catholic family, whose gifts included a volume of late 16th- and early 17th-century engravings which has the additional distinction of having being owned by the architect Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79), the foremost exponent of the Gothic revival in France and restorer of Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle.

Selected images from the Fort Augustus collection are available.

Sir D. Hunter Blair, A Medley of Memories: Fifty Years' Recollections of a Benedictine Monk (London, 1919) M. Dilworth, The Scots in Franconia: a Century of Monastic Life (Edinburgh, 1974).


Shelfmark: SBA.; some volumes acquired separately from the HLF-funded purchase are shelved as SBA.Add.

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