Important acquisitions

List All

Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 901 of the most important items we have acquired since 2000. We update it regularly as new material comes in. The description gives information about why it was chosen and what makes it particularly interesting. You can order the list by date of acquisition, author or title.

Please let us know what you think of this resource, if you have information to add about an acquisition, or if you have rare Scottish books that you would like to donate or sell. Email us at



Important Acquisitions 1 to 15 of 901:

Ordered by date acquired
Order by author | Order by title
AuthorHarper, William
TitleThe advice of a friend, to the army and people of Scotland.
ImprintAberdeen: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1745
NotesA rare pro-Jacobite pamphlet by the Episcopalian clergyman William Harper writing under the pseudonym Philalethes and dated 15 October 1745. ESTC records five issues printed in Edinburgh 1745 but this is the only Aberdeen printing of that year and includes A letter to the Archbishop of York: humbly offering to his Grace's solution some doubts and scruples suggested by his late speech to the grand meeting of the County of York, called to subscribe an association for supporting the German Government in England. Harper, of Boharm, Banffshire, was chaplain to the Earl of Huntly and appointed minister of Old St. Paul's, Edinburgh on 9 March 1735. His assistant was Robert Forbes, later Bishop Forbes, author of the Lyon in Mourning.
Reference SourcesIngram, Mary E. A Jacobite stronghold of the church. Being the story of Old St. Paul's, Edinburgh. Edinburgh, 1907. ESTC T21053
Acquired on20/04/18
AuthorGrange, James Erskine, Lord
TitleA key for filling up the blanks in a pamphlet lately published, intitled, The fatal consequences of ministerial influence, &c.
ImprintLondon: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1736
NotesBound, as it often is, with The fatal consequences of ministerial influence, this pamphlet provides the names to complete the blanks in that work. Lord Grange (1769-1754) was the younger brother of the Earl of Mar, leader of the Jacobites during the 1715 rising. Though Grange took no part in the '15 he was never able to dispel the suspicions raised by his brother's prominent role and this, along with his turbulent personal life, hampered his political career. After defecting from the Argethalian party in 1733 he stood for Stirling burghs at the general election of 1734 but failed to be elected. This pamphlet is part of the opposition response to what was seen as the corrupt influence of Islay's policy of lay patronage, of which Grange was at the forefront.
Reference SourcesODNB
Acquired on20/04/18
Author[David Hume, Samuel Johnson et al.]
TitleMelanges de la litterature angloise, traduits par Madame B****.
ImprintA la Haye: Prault Fils
Date of Publication1759
NotesA very rare anthology of English literature, translated into French, which includes the first recorded French translations of the first three of David Hume's "Essays, moral and political", originally published in Edinburgh in 1741. The three essays translated are: 'Of the delicacy of taste and passion', 'Of the liberty of the press', 'Of impudence and modesty'. The translator "Madame B****" was Octavie Guichard Durey de Meinieres (1719-1804), who at the time this work was published was known as Madame Belot, being the widow of a Parisian lawyer Charles-Edme Belot. Madame Belot was an author in her own right as well as a translator of Samuel Johnson's "Rasselas", Sarah Fielding's "Ophelia", and in 1763 and 1765, of the first two parts of Hume's history of England. She appears to have been in correspondence with Hume and most likely met him when he was living in Paris in the 1760s. It is not clear why she chose to translate only three of Hume's essays for this volume. She may have been discouraged from doing more by Hume himself, or she may have felt these were the most important ones and sufficient for the anthology, which also includes translations of excerpts of works by Samuel Johnson, Matthew Prior and Edmund Burke. The Hague place of publication, given in the imprint of the Parisian bookseller Prault Fils, is probably false and was probably used to circumvent French government censorship; unsurprising given that one of the works translated concerns Hume's thoughts on freedom of the press.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on14/12/17
TitleHoly Bible + Psalms + Translations and paraphrases
ImprintCambridge: Archdeacon
Date of Publication1790
NotesA two volume-set consisting of a duodecisimo format bible printed in Cambridge in 1790, along with psalms printed by J. & M. Robertson in Glasgow in 1793 and an unrecorded Glasgow printing of "Translations and paraphrases in verse, of several passages of sacred scripture" done for James Dickson, printer to Church of Scotland 1781-1797. The set has been acquired for its binding in contemporary dark green morocco with richly gilt spine and boards. It is a Scottish, probably Edinburgh, binding. The unidentified binder appears to have been strongly inspired by the work of James and William Scott of Edinburgh. The volumes have a very attractive sunburst design with a central cluster of musical instruments, the tool being a very close copy of the tool "Mu.1" on page 297 of Loudon's bibliography of Scott bindings. Volume one, the Old Testament is in near perfect condition and seems almost unread. The set was formerly owned by the Rev. Archibald Fleming of Inchyra, Perthshire (1833-1900), with his signature, dated 1866, on the inside front free endpapers.
Reference SourcesJ.H. Loudon, James Scott and William Scott, bookbinders, London, 1980.
Acquired on01/12/17
AuthorJames VI
TitleAne Fruitfull Meditatioun contening ane plane and facile expositioun of ye 7.8.9 and 10 versis of the 20 Chap. of the Revelatioun in forme of ane sermone
ImprintEdinburgh: Henrie Charteris
Date of Publication1588
NotesBound with John Napier of Merchiston's A Plaine Discovery of the whole Revelation of Saint Iohn: set downe in two treatises (Edinburgh: Robert Walde-grave, 1593). This volume contains two examples of 16th-century Scottish printing bound together in one volume. Both works concern the apocalyptic passages in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, commonly attributed to John the apostle. Best known for his work as a mathematician, John Napier's most widely published work was this theological work, the "Plaine Discovery". Napier adopts a strongly anti-Catholic attitude and urges his king James VI to purge the court of papists, atheists and "newtrals". In his dedication to King James, Napier refers to James's earlier "Ane fruitfull meditatioun", written in the summer of 1588 while England and Scotland prepared for the much-heralded arrival of the Spanish Armada. Although Scotland was officially neutral, for James a Spanish victory in England would have meant at best a forced public conversion to Catholicism and submission to King Philip of Spain, and at worst deposition or assassination by the powerful Scottish Catholic lords. However, the young king prevaricated on offering support to England and only wrote to Queen Elizabeth at the last minute to offer military aid. Instead he devoted himself to a writing a meditation on some selected passages of the Revelation, which is preceded by a translation in Scots of these passages. Although James only indirectly refers to the Armada, he concentrates his attack on papal authority by demonising Philip's supporter, the Pope, as an instrument of Satan, and emphasises his own position as a key opponent of national (and international) importance who can counter Satan?s ability to deceive "the nations universall". His second published work only appeared at the beginning of October as the last remnants of the Spanish fleet struggled to find their way home around the north coast of Scotland and Ireland. Although both works were written primarily for a Scottish readership, the volume has a provenance which goes back to 17th-century England. It been heavily annotated in two or three neat early 17th-century hands. Three early owners have been identified: a Robert Langley; Richard Lodge, wealthy Leeds woollen cloth merchant, builder of Red Hall, Winmoor, Shadwell, near Leeds; Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S. (1658-1725) antiquary, of Leeds, with his ink inscription "ex Libris Rad Thoresby pr 16d" at the foot of A3r of the Napier. Thoresby includes the present volume in ?A Catalogue of the Various Editions of the Bible in this Musaeum? appended to his "Ducatus Leodiensis: or, the Topography of the Ancient and Populous Town and Parish of Leedes" (London, 1715), pp. 501-14). Although the Napier edition is widely held in UK libraries (although this copy does include the first leaf which is blank apart from the printed letter 'A' and which is missing from all the National Library's existing copies), there are only four copies of "Ane Fruitfull Meditatioun", recorded in ESTC (S101073) and none of them are in Scotland. Acquired with the assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on24/11/17
Author[John Marjoribanks]
TitleNewcastle, Friday, 6 o'clock P. M. June 23, 1815 ... accounts of the greatest victory ever obtained.
ImprintNewcastle: Walker
Date of Publication1815
NotesA small handbill, probably intended to be handed out to the public, which prints the contents of a brief letter from Sir John Marjoribanks (1763-1833), Lord Provost of Edinburgh to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Henry Cramlington). Marjoribanks' letter is dated London, half-past one [in the] morning 22nd June, 1815 and it announces the decisive victory over the French at the battle of Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington and the allied forces on 18th June. The letter evidently reached Newcastle the following day (23rd) and Cramlington presumably arranged a quick printing of its contents that same evening before it would appear in the local newspapers the following day. News of the victory at Waterloo was slow in reaching in Britain. On 19 June, the day after the battle, Wellington sent his aide-de-camp, Major Henry Percy, with a message for George the Prince Regent. Percy arrived in London around 11 pm on the 21st June, delivering his message to the Cabinet and Prince Regent. The news was printed in "The Times" and "London Gazette" the following day. Marjoribanks was presumably in London at the time and dashed off his quick letter to the Mayor of Newcastle. News of the battle appears to have reached Edinburgh on the 23rd with the local newspapers printing brief accounts of it the following day.
Acquired on10/11/17
AuthorDonall Caimbeul [Daniel Campbell]
TitleSmuaintin cudthromach, mu bhas agus fhulangas ar Slanui'-fhir.
ImprintEdinburgh: D. Macphatraic
Date of Publication1786
NotesThis is a rare (only 2 other copies recorded in ESTC) Gaelic printing of Daniel Campbell's "Sacramental meditations on the sufferings and death of Christ" by Edinburgh-based printer David Paterson (D. Macphatraic). Daniel Campbell (1665-1722) was a minister of the parish of Kilmichael-Glassary, near Lochgilphead in Argyllshire; this work contains sermons by Campbell, originally delivered in Gaelic, and first published in English in 1701. 12 editions are recorded in ESTC as having been printed in the 18th century in Britain, Ireland and North America, two of them, including this one, being printed in Gaelic.
Acquired on10/11/17
AuthorIsabella Cunningham, Countess of Glencairn
TitleA letter to the Right Hon. Spencer Percival [sic].
ImprintBristol: Philip Rose
Date of Publication1812
NotesLady Isabella Erskine (1734-1824) was the second daughter of Henry, 10th Earl of Buchan. In 1770, she married William Leslie Hamilton, Attorney-General of the Leeward Islands, who died in 1780. She married secondly, in 1785, the Hon. and Rev. John Cunningham, later 15th Earl of Glencairn, who died in 1796. Having produced no heirs and having no claim to her second husband's estate, she found herself living in very reduced circumstances. The Countess therefore petitioned the Treasury for £15,000 for money spent in public service by her first husband during his time in the Leeward Islands. To back up her claim she cited the support of Horatio (Viscount) Nelson who had supported her financial claims as a widow in the 1780s, and did so again in 1805, shortly before his death at Trafalgar. After sending letters petitioning Spencer Perceval, who from 1809 onwards was serving as both Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, she was finally granted an audience with him in Downing Street in early 1812, only to have her claims dismissed. In her version of that meeting, which is published in this pamphlet, along with previous correspondence relating to her claim, the Countess claims that Perceval said that he never thought much of Nelson or his services to the nation. Perceval allegedly went on to say that his death "was the salvation of the country" as Nelson would have bankrupted the Treasury if he had lived. Perceval was astounded at the claims, writing to his political ally William Wilberforce that it was if he had "damned the King and blasphemed My Maker in the same conversation". He was assassinated in the House of Commons later that year and presumably the Countess's campaign came to nothing. She is recorded as having died in debt in Boulogne in 1824.
Reference SourcesD. Gray, Spencer Perceval: The Evangelical Prime Minister, 1762-1812, Manchester, 1963, p. 125-126.
Acquired on10/11/17
AuthorAmbrose Blacklock
TitleDescription of Heathcoat's steam plough.
ImprintDumfries: John M'Kie
Date of Publication1837
NotesA rare (only other copy recorded, in the British Library) brochure describing in detail one of the very earliest steam ploughs in Britain. The brochure has full-page woodcut of the machine in question. The identity of the machine's inventor is open to question. Woodcroft's "Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Invention, 1617-1852", identifies the inventor as George Heathcoat who was granted patent no. 6267 on 15th May 1832 for "draining and cultivating land; machinery and apparatus applicable thereto". The author, Ambrose Blacklock (1816-1873), was a Dumfries surgeon and inventor, best known for his "Treatise on sheep" (1838). In the 1830s he appears to have been conducting experiments in photographic processes. He was presumably a relation of the Dumfries-born Canadian farmer and politician of the same name. He emigrated to India and worked in Madras Medical College, first as Professor of Surgery and then as Professor of Medicine for sixteen years. At the time of his death he was Deputy Inspector-General of the Indian Medical Department. He died of enteritis in Chittoor and was buried in Madras.
Acquired on10/11/17
TitlePlan of a dispensary for the benefit of the industrious poor within the district of Jedburgh.
ImprintKelso: Alexander Ballantyne
Date of Publication1807
NotesAt the beginning of the 19th century certain gentlemen in Jedburgh and district decided to raise a fund by subscription for the pious and charitable purpose of procuring cordials and medicines for the relief of the indigent sick of the parish. A dispensary for the "industrious poor" had already been set up in nearby Kelso as far back as 1777. A subscription list was prepared for the Jedburgh Dispensary, announcing the enterprise and setting out the regulations. This pamphlet gives details of the Dispensary's finances, a list of office holders and the regulations for the association running the Dispensary. Money appears to have been in short supply and in later years the Marquess of Lothian and Earl of Ancrum had to donate money to keep it afloat. The dispensary was situated at 4 The High Street, but in 1867 there was a forced auction, or roup, at the premises that seems to indicate that there were continuing cash flow problems. The dispensary finally closed in the 1930s. The printer, Alexander Ballantyne, was the younger brother of John and James who relocated to Edinburgh where they became renowned as the printers and editors of Walter Scott's works.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on13/10/17
TitleDe rerum natura, libri VI
ImprintParis: Jean Bienné
Date of Publication1570
NotesOne of a small group of books that are known to exist in bindings that were produced for James VI before the union of the crowns in 1603. Of the nine examples identified, two are already held by the National Library (Bdg.l.33 and Bdg.m.104), and there is only one other held in Scotland at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. The significant feature of the binding is the finely gilt stamped royal arms of Scotland which, unlike the other two examples held by the Library, is flanked by the initials I and R with a 6 above. The vellum binding is also complete in its original form: the Library?s other two examples having been rebacked with loss of the original leather. From contemporary documents we know that Edinburgh binder John Gibson was appointed bookbinder to the King on 29 July 1581 and continued in this role until his death on 26 December 1600. Among these documents is a receipt signed by the King listing 59 books bound by Gibson but none of these have been located. There follows further receipts for binding but, unfortunately, without the inclusion of the titles of the books bound. The book itself is an edition of Lucretius published in Paris in 1570. Titus Lucretius Carus was a first-century BC Roman poet and philosopher whose only known work is De rerum natura, a philosophical poem on Epicureanism: the pursuit of happiness through an understanding of the world, limiting one?s desires and living modestly.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes; 'The Library of Mary Queen of Scots, and of King James the Sixth' in The Miscellany of the Maitland Club, I, 1840
Acquired on06/10/17
AuthorLa Planche, Louis Régnier de
TitleA legendarie conteining an ample discourse of the life and behaviour of Charles Cardinal of Lorraine, and of his brethren, of the house of Guise
Date of Publication1577
NotesA translation from the French original thought to be published in Geneva in 1576. It is a Calvinist work, strongly against Mary and her family, and following the contemporary undercurrent in such literature that Catholicism replaces true devotion with a lust for power and sex. The latter influencing a passage that John D. Staines in his Tragic Histories of Mary Queen of Scots (2009) described as "the most gratuitous attack upon Mary Queen of Scots found in sixteenth century English, as well as the one with the least basis in fact." The book was bound for Thomas Wotton (1521-1587) with his gilt stamped arms on the front and back boards.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on06/10/17
AuthorC.P. Buquet
TitleEsquisses historiques de chronologie, suivies d'un cours d' astronomie.
ImprintEdinburgh : the author
Date of Publication1839
NotesAn unrecorded school book for students of the French language. C. P. Buquet was a French teacher at Edinburgh Academy in the 1820 and 1830s. This is one of three printed works produced by him, two of which were self-published. In the early 1840s both he and his wife ran private language schools in Edinburgh. This copy has a manuscript inscription on the recto of the front flyleaf by Mme. Buquet to a struggling pupil, Miss Helen Wauchope, dated 1843, telling her to keep persevering with her French studies.
Acquired on29/09/17
AuthorWilliam Harriston
TitleThe steam-boat traveller's remembrancer; containing poems descriptive of the principal watering places, &c. visited by the steam-boats from Glasgow, including intermediate places.
ImprintGlasgow: Robert Harriston,
Date of Publication1828
NotesUnrecorded edition of a poem by William Harriston, describing a steam boat voyage down the Clyde from Glasgow to Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast and then back up into Loch Long to Lochgoilhead, with a concluding poem on Loch Lomond. It was first published in 1818 as "The steam-boat miscellany". An expanded version, "The steam-boat traveller's remembrancer" was printed by W. Lang for Harriston himself in 1824, and sold at the author's house in Saracen's Lane. For this new, 1828 edition, printed by Robert Harriston (presumably a relative of the author), the poem has been considerably abridged and altered from the 1824 edition and occasionally expanded too. The jump in pagination before page 19 does not necessarily indicate missing text, as the verse moves directly on from a description of Greenock to an account of the journey from Greenock to Rothesay, as does the 1824 edition.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on25/09/17
AuthorNicholas Bohny
TitleThe new picture book: being pictorial lessons on form, comparison, and number, for children under seven years of age.
ImprintEdinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas
Date of Publication1858
NotesThe purchase of the first edition of this work compliments the Library's holdings of the 3rd (1866) and 5th (1869) from which it differs in some of the illustrations. The book teaches observation skills to children with over 100 hand-coloured illustrations depicting animals, plants, games, activities, farm life, objects found in the home, types of work with captions posing questions for readers to answer. Being a children's book it is now rare to find an example in such good condition.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on01/09/17
Important Acquisitions - page no. 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10     11     12     13     14     15     16     17     18     19     20     21     22     23     24     25     26     27     28     29     30     31     32     33     34     35     36     37     38     39     40     41     42     43     44     45     46     47     48     49     50     51     52     53     54     55     56     57     58     59     60     61