Important acquisitions

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Rare Book Collections works to build up the national collections through purchases (through dealers or at auction) and donations. This directory gives details of 899 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.

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Important Acquisitions 106 to 120 of 899:

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AuthorMonipennie, John
TitleAbridgement or summarie of the Scots chronicles
ImprintEdinburgh: Printed by the Heires of George Anderson, for the Company of Stationers
Date of Publication1650
NotesMonipennie: Abridgement or Summarie of the Scots Chronicles ESTC R223767; Aldis 1394 The only recorded holding of this Aldis item in Scotland. John Monipennie's abridgement of the Scots Chronicles was first published in 1612, and went through several editions. This edition is described on the title page as 'Newely inlarged corrected and amended', although the text does not indicate what the enlargments, corrections and amendments are. The actual Abridgement ends with Charles I: 'The Lord increase all royall vertues in his Highnesse, that he may remain a comfort to Christs Church within his own dominions' (p.174), a prayer that sits rather problematically with the 1650 publication date. Monipennie does not record what he is abridging, other than quoting lines from Boethius and Holinshed on the verso of the title page, but as well as his potted guide to Scottish history, this volume includes a list of the Kings and Queens of Scotland, a 'true description and division of the whole realme', and a 'memoriall of the most rare and wonderfull things in Scotland' (title page). Besides describing rare animals and holy wells, these few pages tell the reader that Loch Ness never freezes, 'signifying unto us, that there is a Mine of Brimstone under it, and that 'in the North seas of Scotland are great Clogs of Timber found, in the which are marveilously ingendered a sort of Geese, called Clayk Geese' (pp.285, 287). Later owners have left their mark: C.A. Martin, December 1842 and Vernon Holt, 1880. Finally there is the bookplate of the Bristol collector James Stevens-Cox (1910-1997). This book is one of three the NLS has purchased from the sale of his library, a collection considered worthy of its own location in the Short Title Catalogue of English books before 1640. As was a common practice of his, Stevens-Cox has left a brief pencil bibliographical note (on the verso of the front free endpaper).
Reference SourcesESTC, sales catalogue
Acquired on17/12/03
AuthorHume, David.
TitleAbriss des gegenwartigen naturlichen und politischen Zustandes von Grossbritannien.
ImprintCopenhagen : Johann Gottlob Rothe
Date of Publication1767
NotesThis book is a rare first edition of translated extracts from David Hume's 'History of England and Essays and treatises on several subjects'. The translator, the German poet and critic Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737-1823) translated Hume rather freely and wrote his own summaries of the Scottish philosopher's views. The work covers the constitution of the British Isles, the social order, as well as the legal, commercial and banking systems. The British way of ruling themselves would have been of some interest to Central Europeans, most of whom had no direct experience of living under a constitutional monarchy. There are no copies of this work in the UK and only one in North America.
Acquired on17/12/07
AuthorTopham, E.
TitleAbyssinian traveller
ImprintLondon: M. Darly,
Date of Publication1775
NotesThis is a rare print of an engraving of the explorer James Bruce, 1730-1794. It was drawn by the caricaturist Edward Topham (1751-1820) who worked for the engraver and printseller Matthew Darly of the Strand, London in the 1770s. Darly's printshop was known as 'The Macaroni Print shop' as he was the printer par excellence of prints of macaronies (fops) very much in vogue from 1771 to 1773. This print of Bruce was first sold as an individual print but later published as part of a series of caricatures published by Darly in 1776. The only other known copy of the print is held in the Department of Prints at the British Museum. A giant of a man for the time at 6 ft. 4, James Bruce was born in Kinnaird, Stirlingshire and educated at Harrow. After studying law, he developed an interest in archaeology and ancient languages. He served as the British consul in Algiers from 1763-1765 after which he explored the Roman ruins in North Africa (known then as Barbary). Further adventures followed during which he was shipwrecked and attacked by the Arabs. Bruce made his name as the explorer of Abyssinia and the Nile between 1769 and 1772. He is credited with the discovery of the source of the Blue Nile, though he himself thought he had discovered the White Nile ('the Nile of the ancients'). Feted on his return to Britain in 1775 - at the time this print was produced - his popularity rapidly waned. This was due to his very candid description of some of the customs of the Abyssinians including cutting meat from a live animal and eating it - which he admitted to indulging in! He retired to his ancestral home in Scotland and his account of his travels was eventually published in 5 vols in 1790 as 'Travels to discover the source of the Nile'.
Reference SourcesDNB Dictionary of 19th century British book illustrators British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings: catalogue of political and personal satires vol V 1771-1783, no.5317
Acquired on20/03/03
TitleAccount of a most melancholy and dreadful accident! Loss of the Comet steam-boat. 70 persons drowned.
Imprint[London] : Printed for J. Catnach,
Date of Publication[1825]
NotesThis broadside ballad combines a prose account of a maritime disaster with a poem commemorating the event, it also contains an appropriately melodramatic woodcut illustration of the sinking of the steam boat Comet. The Comet was the second steam boat owned by Henry Bell of Helensburgh to bear this name, the original Comet paddle steamer having been used in the first commercially successful steam boat service from 1812 onwards. When the original Comet was shipwrecked in 1820, Comet II took over the service, operating routes on the River Clyde and the west of Scotland. On 21 October 1825 she collided with the steamer Ayr off Kempock Point, near Gourock, and sank with the loss of 62 of the 80 passengers. News of the disaster was spread not only by the newspapers but also by contemporary street literature, namely the popular ballads printed in major British cities. The printer/publisher of this broadside was James "Jemmy" Catnach, the most prolific producer of street literature in London, who was based in the Seven Dials area, the centre of street ballad publishing at the time. Catnach, the son of a Scottish printer, employed a number of hack balladeers to compose poems relating to disasters such as these. In contrast to the rather sober prose account (which states incorrectly that 70 people had died) the author of the ballad wastes no opportunity in wringing out every last drop of pathos from the sinking; from a newly-married couple dying in each other's arms and small children being parted from the desperate grasp of their mothers, the awfulness of the event is conveyed to a public eager for the latest sensation.
Acquired on23/03/12
AuthorSir William Hamilton
TitleAccount of the discoveries at Pompeii, communicated to the Society of Antiquaries of London by the Hon. Sir William Hamilton.
ImprintLondon : W. Bowyer and J. Nichols,
Date of Publication1777
NotesThis a rare work by Sir William Hamilton (1730/31-1803), diplomatist and art collector, who was appointed to the post of envoy-extraordinary to the Spanish court of King of Naples in 1764. Hamilton had already began to collect art and antiquities, mainly pictures, bronzes, and terracottas, before he left London for Naples. His arrival in Naples increased his interest in the ancient world and his passion for collecting ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, many of which had been unearthed in recent years at various sites in Italy. Excavation of the site of Pompeii began in 1748. During the first phase, the excavation was carried out essentially in order to find art objects, many of which ended up in the private collection of the Bourbon king Charles III of Naples. Hamilton was ideally placed to visit the site and write reports which were read at meetings of the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1775. This book gives the text of his reports and is illustrated with 13 handsome engraved plates. The book was the first in a long line of works, dedicated to the lost city of Pompeii, which were published in the 18th century.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on16/05/14
AuthorStewart, Dugald.
TitleAccount of the life and writings of Adam Smith, LL.D. From the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Imprint[Edinburgh?] Privately Printed
Date of Publication1794?
NotesIn his bibliography of David Hume and other Scottish philosphers, T. E. Jessop rightly states that the first printing of Dugald Stewart's famous Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D was in The Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh vol 3/1, pp.55-137. Stewart read his paper to the Society in two separate sessions (21 Jan and 18 March 1793) and soon after it was printed in the Transactions. Shortly thereafter it was re-set and repaginated from the Transactions for a limited private edition, which was most probably printed in Edinburgh. It is this rarity that the Library has acquired. This copy is inscribed 'To Sir Wm Miller Bart. / From the Author'. Sir William Miller (1755-1846) was appointed a Lord of Session and took the title Lord Glenlee in 1795. According to DNB he was 'a very able man, and had a profound knowledge of jurisprudence, mathematics, and literature'. This item is not recorded in ESTC, though there is a copy in the Vanderblue Collection at Harvard.
Acquired on09/03/00
AuthorCoxe, William, 1747-1828
TitleAccount of the Russian discoveries between Asia and America
ImprintLondon : Cadell & Davies, 1804.
Date of Publication1804
NotesThis is the best version of the 4th edition as it is one of only 60 special copies printed on large paper in a royal quarto format. The standard version of the 4th edition was an octavo, with the title-page dated 1803. Earlier editions of this work appeared in 1780 and 1787. They commenced with the voyages made by merchants subsequent to Beering's expedition in 1740, and terminated with that of Krenitzin and Levashef in 1769. The 4th edition expands on these earlier accounts to present a complete series of voyages from 1711 to 1792, comprising all that is known on the subject. The text offers the first English language descriptions of Beering's fatal expedition from Kamtchatka to the coast of America; the account of Shelekof's voyage and settlement in Kadiak and an abstract of Tschitschagof's voyage towards the North Pole. The 4th edition includes an additional chart, showing the Russian and English discoveries in the North Pacific Ocean.
Reference SourcesLada-Mocarski p.117; Streeter 3501
Acquired on07/04/03
TitleAccount of the trial of Thomas Muir.
ImprintNew York
Date of Publication1794
NotesThis is the only known copy in Britain of the first American edition of a book describing the trial of Thomas Muir for sedition in 1793. It is one of very few eighteenth-century American publications of Australian interest. Two other editions were published by Samuel Campbell and another by W. Durrell, also in New York, which is indicative of a high level of interest in the case in the United States. The book is a detailed account of the trial, published with the approval of Muir. It also contains an appendix with copies of documents used as evidence against the accused during the trial. Thomas Muir, born in Glasgow in 1765, was a lawyer inspired by the French Revolution and by Thomas Paine's 'The rights of man'. He was one of the prime movers in the Society of the Friends of the People, which advocated moderate parliamentary reforms. For his involvement with this organization and for his associations with the authorities in France and the United Irishmen in Ireland, Muir was arrested in August 1793. Following his trial he was sentenced with four of his compatriots (who later became known as the Scottish Martyrs) to 14 years transportation to New South Wales. In effect, they were the first 'political prisoners' sent to the colony. Muir managed to escape in 1796 and made his way across the Pacific via Mexico and eventually to France, where he died in 1799.
Acquired on04/01/01
TitleAct of council, regulating the manner of carrying chairs.
Date of Publication1749
NotesIn modern times, local government concerns itself with seemingly banal regulations concerning parking, litter or public lighting. There is nothing new in this - perceived 'over regulation' was alive and well in Edinburgh over 250 years ago, as this broadside demonstrates. The city authorities were forced into action to ask 'chairmen' - those who carried sedan chairs and their occupants around the city - to ensure their chairs had 'a light fixed upon one of the fore-poles of the chair'. This apparently followed a number of incidents resulting in 'many hurts and inconveniences that have happened to the inhabitants & by the chairmen carrying or resting their chairs without lights under cloud of night'. Furthermore all chairs had to be numbered. If these regulations were not followed, chairmen faced being fined a shilling, imprisonment, loss of hire and the chair impounded! The first sedan chairs for public hire were introduced into Edinburgh in 1687. Horse drawn coaches were often unsuited to the narrow closes and steep hills of Edinburgh's Old Town. In 1687 there were only 6 chairs available but by 1779 there were 180 hackney-chairs and 50 private chairs in Edinburgh. The table of fairs introduced in the regulation dated 1738, referred to in this broadside, specified 6d a trip within the city, 4s for a whole day's rental, and 1s 6d for a journey of half a mile outside town. The majority of the chairmen were Highlanders and this was reflected in the use of tartan for their uniforms.
Acquired on14/07/08
AuthorFerguson, Adam.
TitleAdam Fergusons ausfuehrliche Darstellung der Gruende der Moral und Politik v.1 [Principles of Moral and Political Science].
ImprintZurich: Orell, Gessner, Fuessli,
Date of Publication1796
NotesThis is the rare first German edition of Adam Ferguson's 'Principles of Moral and Political Science', first published as a two-volume work in Edinburgh in 1792, which encompassed Ferguson's lectures on moral and political philosophy at Edinburgh University. Ferguson had effectively retired from teaching in 1785 and this was to be his last major work to be published, although he remained very active in academic circles for the last three decades of his life, right up to his death in 1816. The translation and notes for this German edition were done by Karl Gottfried Schreiter (d. 1809), professor of philosophy at Leipzig. As with the first French edition, only volume one was translated, perhaps indicating that despite the great respect Ferguson commanded on the Continent, this particular work was regarded as being less important than his other works. This particular copy has the 20th-century bookplate of "Paul Ad. Leemann", presumably the book historian Paul Leemann-Van Elck.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on07/09/09
AuthorJoersson, S. A.
TitleAdam Smith auteur des recherches sur la richesse des nations & Thomas Payne
Date of Publication1796
NotesThis book sets Smith against Paine, arguing that Paine's teaching in 'The decline and fall of the English system of finance' threatens disastrous war and political disorder. This work, presented to the French government, offers Smith's philosophy as the sensible alternative. The author quotes from the 1781 Yverdon edition of Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'. The work seems to have been published simultaneously in English, French and German. NLS currently has only a copy of the English version, at shelfmark NG.1300.b.16. Despite being published in multiple languages, it seems to be an uncommon book, and it clearly did not have the effect its author was seeking. The appeal to France to seek peace rather than further destructive conflict evidently did not prevent the Napoleonic wars. This is a very nice copy in gilt red morocco, with marbled endpapers.
Acquired on08/04/03
TitleAddress by the principal native gentlemen and other inhabitants of Bombay to Sir Charles Forbes, Baronet, on the occasion of erecting a statue of him at Bombay.
ImprintLondon: James Madden
Date of Publication1840?
NotesSir Charles Forbes (1773-1849) was a Scottish politician who had worked in his youth in India in the family firm of Forbes & Co. in Bombay, ending up as head of the firm. On returning Britain he continued to take an interest in India as a member of Parliament. He sponsored charitable work in India, especially improving the Bengal water supply. A statue of him was placed in the town hall of Bombay in 1839, paid for by public subscription. This work commemorates his services to the commercial development of the country and the improvement in the living standards of the local people. Bound with the work is an unrecorded Gaelic pamphlet by Donald Macpherson, "Marb-Rann air Sir Tearlach Foirbeis Jar-Bharan" London, [1849] [An elegy on the death of Sir Charles Forbes, Baronet, paraphrased from the Gaelic, by the author].
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on26/06/15
AuthorShelley, Percy Bysshe
ImprintPisa: printed with the types of Didot
Date of Publication1821
NotesThis is the rare first printing of Percy Bysshe Shelley's elegy on the death of fellow-poet John Keats. In 1818 Shelley (1792-1822) had moved to Italy due to his growing financial and health problems; he was never to return to England. During these final four years of his life he wrote some of finest poetry, despite enduring a series of personal tragedies. In February 1821 Keats had died in Rome of tuberculosis; Shelley subscribed to the view that the final stage of Keats's fatal illness had been brought on by a bad review of 'Endymion' in the "Quarterly Review" in 1818. He resolved to a write an elegy on Keats which would defend the dead man's reputation and emphasise the significance of poets and poetry in society. On June 8 1821 Shelley wrote to his London publisher, Charles Ollier, asking him to announce for publication a new poem, which was "a lament on the death of poor Keats, with some interposed stabs on the assassins of his peace and his fame". The poet decided in the end to have the poem printed locally in Pisa, rather than send a manuscript copy to London. Printing the work in Pisa meant that he could personally supervise the printing to ensure that there were no errors in the text, and also prevent any of the "interposed stabs" from being censored. A slim quarto of the 55-stanza poem was produced, Shelley sending a copy to the poet John Gisborne on 13 July. Other copies were sent to Charles Ollier to be distributed. Ollier offered them for sale at the modest price of 3s 6d but decided not to republish the work, making the Pisa printing one of the scarcest and most highly sought after original editions of Shelley's works. Ollier's reluctance to have the poem printed is no doubt due to his strained relations with Shelley. Between 1820 and his death in July 1822 Shelley frequently complained in his correspondence that Ollier was ignoring his many requests and commissions, including his request for a reprint of 'Adonais', which he himself regarded as "the least imperfect of my compositions". In this case Ollier probably had no wish to become embroiled in Shelley's attack on the "Quarterly Review", which he knew would be met with derision by most of the London critics. In the preface to 'Adonais', Shelley stresses his credentials as an impartial judge of Keats's work, noting that his "repugnance" for some of the latter's earlier compositions was well known. However, he pulls no punches in his attack on John Wilson Croker, the reviewer of 'Endymion'; whilst Croker is not named in the preface, he is referred to as "Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God". The text of 'Adonais' was reprinted in "The Literary Chronicle and Weekly Review" of December 1 1821 but a separate edition was not reprinted in England until 1829 in Cambridge. A further separate edition was printed for private circulation in London in 1876. This particular copy of the first Pisa printing is from the library of Sir John Skelton (1831-1897), a Scottish author, literary critic and advocate. It was bequeathed to the Library (along with first editions of Shelley's 'Rosalind and Helen' and 'Epipsychidion') by his descendant Miss Margaret Penelope Skelton (1924-2011). It is bound in a 19th-century calf binding for the booksellers Edmonston & Douglas of Edinburgh. Of particular interest is a letter to Sir John Skelton pinned to the front free endpaper; it is from the poet and fellow literary reviewer Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909). The letter, dated March 10 1894, is not concerned with 'Adonais' but primarily with the 16th-century French poet and admirer of Mary Queen of Scots, Pierre de Bocosel de Chastelard. Swinburne had written plays about both Mary and Chastelard, while Skelton had published the year before "Mary Stuart", a biography defending the queen's conduct. As a postscript Swinburne notes that he has forgotten to reply to a question of Skelton's about Shelley and provides references to two articles by him on Shelley.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography; "Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelly, edited with a bibliographical introduction by Thomas J. Wise" 2nd ed. (London: Shelley Society, 1886)
Acquired on13/09/13
Author[John Adair]
TitleAdvertisement, anent the surveying of all the Shires of Scotland, and making new mapps of it.
ImprintEdinburgh: John Swintoun
Date of Publication1681
NotesOnly two other copies of this Scottish broadside are recorded. It advertises the fact that John Adair (1660-1718) had been granted on 4 May 1681 a licence by the Scottish Privy Council "to take a Survey of the whole Shires in the Kingdom [ Scotland ], and to make up Mapps thereof, describing each Shire, Royal Burgh, and other Towns considerable." In the broadside Adair asks for assistance from the "Nobility, and Gentry, the Magistrates of Royal Burghs ... to give me all the best information they can ... and in so doing, they shall not only do that good service to their Countrey ? they shall have honourable mention made of them in the proper places of Work." Adair's mapping work was important because it represented the first survey-based mapping of Scotland since Timothy Pont's work of the late sixteenth century. His first known work, a map of Clackmannanshire, dates from 1681, the same year as this advertisement. In 1686, by act of parliament, Adair's mapping was funded from an annual tonnage levy on native ships and foreign ships, to be paid annually for five years.
Acquired on30/09/16
TitleAesop's fables
ImprintGlasgow: James Knox
Date of Publication1764
NotesThis edition of Aesop's fables appears to be completely unrecorded. This is surprising as it is a rather attractive publication with numerous woodcuts. It is designed as an educational book: the words of the fables are broken up by hyphens, so that the beginner could read them a piece at a time. This does make the text look rather odd (for example, 'A Wea-sel run-ning in-to a bra-si-ers shop...'). Aesop's fables play an important part in Scottish culture. The fifteenth-century poet Robert Henryson did an excellent translation into Scots, and there are many other editions. This edition is particularly notable for the naive illustrations, which are more akin to those normally found in a chapbook.
Acquired on27/06/05
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