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 301 to 315 of 899:

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TitleThe coppy of a letter sent from the Earle of Traquere in Ireland the third of October 1641
ImprintLondon: [s.n.]
Date of Publication1641
NotesThis is a rare pamphlet (5 other copies recorded in ESTC), printed in late 1641 as political and civil unrest were increasing in England and the rest of the British Isles as a prelude to the Civil War that broke out the following year. It is an attack on two prominent Scots of the period, John Stewart, first earl of Traquair (b. 1599-1659) and "Old Father Philips", Robert Philip(s), a Scottish Catholic priest based in King Charles's court in London. The pamphlet reproduces a letter, dated 3 October, 1641, supposedly written by Traquair from Dublin to Philip, which had been intercepted and the contents subsequently disclosed. By the beginning of October 1641, plans were well underway for armed uprising led by the Irish Catholic gentry against the English administration in Ireland. Armed revolt broke out later that month in various places in Ireland, resulting in the killing and expulsion of Protestant settlers in the north. In the letter Traquair reports on the plans for the uprising to Philip, the latter being described as "a loyall and constant friend to Rome". There is no evidence that Traquair was in Ireland at that time or had any role in the uprising. The printing of the pamphlet appears to be connected to the unpopularity of Traquair and Philip in Scotland and England. The former, as King Charles's man in Scotland, had found himself in the impossible role of trying to reconcile covenanters to their monarch's autocratic rule while trying to implement his episcopalian policies. In 1641 the Scottish parliament forced the king to remove him as lord high treasurer of Scotland, subsequently denouncing him as one of five principal 'incendiaries' in the country. Traquair, although a Protestant, was also thought to have Catholic sympathies, which would later, in 1644, lead the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to declare him an 'enemy to religion'. Robert Philip (c.15801647) was a prominent member of King Charles's royal household, acting as chaplain and confessor to the queen and as informal head of a group of Scottish Catholic nobles at the court. In 1640 he was accused by the English parliament of leading a popish conspiracy at court and influencing young Prince Charles towards popery. The House of Lords also wanted him to answer charges of inciting rebellion in Ireland. He was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London for a year which left him easy prey for attacks such as this pamphlet. As with Traquair, there is no evidence that Philip was involved in fomenting discord in Ireland.
Reference SourcesOxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on24/05/13
TitleBiographical sketch of Mr. Morison, the hygeist.
Imprint[London]: G. Taylor
Date of Publication[1837?]
NotesThis 8-page pamphlet is about James Morison (1770-1840), pill manufacturer, originally Bognie, Aberdeenshire. Morison claimed to have suffered incessant poor health until his fifties, which doctors were unable to cure and which eventually led him to develop his "Universal Vegetable Pill" in the 1820s. He sold his pills through a network of agents and local retailers throughout Europe and the USA. After a series of sudden deaths attributed to his pills, Morison having advocated taking his pills in large doses, he moved to Paris in 1834. Despite this setback affecting sales of his pills he continued to market his product aggressively, this being one of a series of pamphlets he produced, which includes a portrait of the man himself.
Acquired on29/01/16
TitleThe business man's note-book for the year 1856.
ImprintEdinburgh: James Hogg
Date of Publication1855
NotesA proof copy of an elaborate forerunner of the 'Filofax', printed for the publisher James Hogg (1806-1888), the son of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. It contains folding coloured maps and metal volvelle on the inside board which is a perpetual calendar. The proof copy was probably produced to attract orders and as a form of advertising. Hogg jnr. in his preface states that "the aim of this work is to produce in one volume at once a kalender [sic], diary, and commercial directory, specially adapted to the wants of business men." Only one copy of the final version for 1856 is recorded, in the 1874 Advocates Library catalogue, but that is now recorded as missing. This particular copy is described as 'incomplete' at the head of the title page, as it has blank space left for advertisements and two fewer maps than listed in the contents. Moreover, the concluding paragraph mentions that an additional 60 pages were planned as a continuation of the statistical notices of the governments of the world; as a fellow of the Statistical Society of London, this was no doubt a subject close to Hogg's heart. A notebook for 1857 was published but in 1858 Hogg closed his Edinburgh firm down and re-located to London and the "Business man's note-book" was not revived by him there.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on25/09/15
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
TitleThe wandering piper.
ImprintNewcastle: Douglas and Kent
Date of Publication1833
NotesThis is an unrecorded, illustrated broadside, printed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1833, which gives details of the 'Wandering Piper', who roamed throughout Britain and Ireland in the 1820 and 1830s. There are several contemporary accounts of the piper in provincial newspapers, one of which, from the Bury & Norwich Post, for November 21, 1832, describes him as follows: "He is a tall figure, and his air and carriage evidently indicate a rank superior to his occupation, in spite of the disguise of a carroty wig, a pair of green spectacles, and a shabby Highland costume. He has now piped in every market-town in the three kingdoms, except a few in Suffolk, Lincoln, York, Durham and Northumberland, all of which he must visit before next February. During his ramble he has given upwards of 700 l. [] to different charities." Some newspaper accounts speak of him as a former Scottish army officer who served in the Napoleonic Wars, who in 1825 accepted a bet with a Frenchman with whom he had been to school with in Scotland, to see how much money he could raise through busking in every town in Britain and Ireland. Other newspapers dismiss the story of the wager as bogus. Whatever his motivation, there seems to have been no attempt by the piper to profit personally from his playing. As the Newcastle broadside states, "when playing in the streets he endeavours to observe the strictest disguise; he never stands nor solicits money, but receives any sum that is given him." All the money he received was distributed to local charities once he covered his own board and lodgings. The piper's travels only began in earnest in 1828, with the intention being that he would travel for three years and total up how much money he had raised. However, a stage coach accident in Ireland left him incapacitated for over 15 months, which meant that by early 1833 he still had not finished his epic journey. The broadside reports his arrival in Newcastle on January 21, 1833 and notes that he only has six more towns to play in, with Glasgow being his final destination. Along with the broadside this copy also contains a handwritten note from the piper himself, dated January 3, 1833. Addressed to the mayor of Durham, the piper requests permission to play his pipes through the streets of Durham, and stresses that he does not solicit money and that any money he receives goes to charity. The note is signed 'The Wandering Piper/Address Captain Stuart'. The identity of 'Captain Stuart' and why he went to the lengths of wearing a forerunner of a wig and tinted spectacles to disguise himself, remain a mystery to this day. He may have worn Highland costume but in the portrait of the piper on the broadside he appears to be playing Lowland, bellows-blown, pipes rather than the Highland pipes traditionally played by pipe bands in Scotland and throughout the world today. Although the broadside states that the piper was "heartily tired of his frolic", no sooner had he finished his British and Irish travels than he was off to the USA and Canada, where he continued to travel and raise money. He returned to Britain in 1837 and continued to play. A Dublin newspaper records a 'Graham Stuart' dying in Dublin on February 17, 1839, worn out by his travels.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on20/11/15
TitleNotes sur la lettre de Monsieur de Voltaire a Monsieur Hume + Reflexions posthumes sur le grand procees de Jean-Jacques, avec David.
ImprintParis?: s.n.
Date of Publication1766
NotesTwo anonymous, rare pieces on the Hume Rousseau dispute that gripped Enlightenment Europe. In the first pamphlet comes the assertion that Voltaire did not write the "La letter au Docteur Pansophe", which helped inflame the dispute. In 1766 David Hume helped the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who no longer felt safe in his place of exile, his native Switzerland, to find refuge in England. Once there Rousseau soon fell out with Hume. Rousseau began to question Hume's motives in offering him shelter in England. When anonymous poems poking fun at Rousseau were published, he immediately and wrongly assumed they had been written by Hume. Rousseau retaliated by writing letters to his French associates denouncing Hume for his treacherous behaviour. When Hume eventually learnt of Rousseau's accusations he was shocked, and then angered that the fine reputation he had acquired when living in Paris was now being dragged through the mud. The two men became estranged from each other and Rousseau returned to France in 1767. In less than a year, the relationship between Hume and Rousseau had gone from love to mockery by way of fear and loathing, and much of the dispute was played out in letters and in print to the scandal and delight of literary salons in England and France.
Acquired on01/07/16
TitleThe song of Solomon
ImprintLondon: Guild of Women Binders
Date of Publication1897
NotesThis book is bound in a modelled goatskin medieval-style binding popularised by Scottish women binders of the late 19th century. The technique was developed by Annie MacDonald (d. 1924) who along with a few other women in Edinburgh had begun binding books in the 1890s. Walter Biggar Blaikie (whose collection of Jacobite-related books and manuscripts is now in NLS) of the publishers A. & J. Constable let them use his workshops after hours. From 1895 two of Constable's workmen, a finisher and a forwarder, taught the group of women in premises owned by Edinburgh Social Union. MacDonald tried various types of leather for modelled bindings but found that natural goatskin, before any curing processes, could be moulded as she wanted. The modelling was done after the book itself was covered in the goatskin. It involved neither cutting nor raising the leather to relief. The design was traced onto the dampened leather and worked with one small tool called a 'Dresden', which was used to carefully press the background and mould the relief design. Using glue rather than paste to cover the books, the leather was a pale ivory when completed which developed into a richer brown once aged. The work of MacDonald and the other Edinburgh-based women inspired London bookseller Frank Karslake to found of the Guild of Women Binders in 1898 as an outlet for the sale of work by women binders who lived outside London, including the Edinburgh women. Karslake advertised a series of books specially printed for the Guild on Japanese vellum and bound by Guild members, including 'The Song of Solomon', which was one of 100 numbered copies (this particular copy being number 31). A pencil note on the front free endpaper, "worker Mrs MacDonald", would seem to indicate that it was done by Annie MacDonald herself. However, the 1900 Sotheby's catalogue of bindings done by the Guild of Women binders reveals that there were at least two separate "embossed mediaeval morocco" bindings of the Japanese vellum printing of the 'Song of Solomon'. One was done by Annie MacDonald, "the design adapted from the cover-design", and one by a "Miss Pagan", "the designs adapted from the illustrations". An Annie MacDonald binding for the 'Song of the Solomon' which is now held in Duke University Library, is reproduced in Marianne Tidcombe's "Women bookbinders 1880-1920" p. 98. The Duke University binding is a likely match for the one described in the Sotheby's catalogue as having done by Annie MacDonald, given that it resembles the cover of the regular 1897 edition of the 'Song of Solomon' published by Chapman and Hall. It is possible that she did more than one binding of this particular edition; but the design for this particular binding is adapted from the illustrations within the book, not the cover of the regular edition, and would seem to correspond to Miss Pagan's binding. The design on the front board is based on the art-nouveau style illustrations in the book by Herbert Granville Fell (1872-1951), along with a quote from the Song of Solomon as a decorative border : "Many waters cannot quench love neither can the floods drown it. Love is strong as death". The back board contains the ownership initials "H.F.C. 1898". "Miss Pagan" may be Jean Pagin, who was one of the women binders associated with Edinburgh Social Union, the main amateur arts and crafts organisation in the city (Tidcombe also mentions in an appendix to her book the existence of a binder called Jeannie E. Pagan but this may be same person as Jean Pagin). The turn-in on the front board simply records in gilt lettering that this binding is by the Guild of Women Binders. What is notable is that this copy has normal paper endpapers, where in other modelled bindings silk endpapers were used because the goatskin tended to stain both paper and vellum - as has happened in this copy. Inserted in this copy is a printed advertisement slip for the Guild of Women Binders describing this style of binding as a "revival of the mediaeval monastic binding".
Reference SourcesM. Tidcombe, 'Women bookbinders 1880-1920', London, 1996.
Acquired on28/03/14
TitleA Scottish penny wedding
ImprintBelfast: Simms and M'Intyre
Date of Publication1840?
NotesThis Belfast-printed broadside contains a large wood engraving printed from nine individual blocks. It shows a lively wedding scene in a barn with bride and groom dancing to fiddle music and guests eating and drinking. There were three sorts of wedding in Scotland in the early half of the 19th-century: the free wedding, where only a few select friends were invited and the guests were not to be the cause of any expense; the dinner wedding, where a dinner was provided by the marriage party; and the penny wedding (also known as the penny bridal), where each guest contributed financially or by way of food towards the dinner and then paid for their own drink, and which by the end of the festivities (which could go on for several days) could bring in a tidy profit for the newly-weds. This latter type of wedding was particularly common across rural Scotland, despite the disapproval of the Kirk. The three-column poem printed beneath the illustration is 'Twas on the morn of sweet May-day' also known as 'Jockey to the fair', a wedding-themed song often appearing in 18th- and 19th-century chapbooks.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on28/02/14
TitleEpistle to the deil by Holy Willie of Prussia. Second edition.
ImprintGlasgow: J. Biggar & Co.
Date of Publication[1871]
NotesAnonymous satirical poem in Scots supposedly by "Holy Willie of Prussia" (German Emperor Wilhelm I)addressed to the devil "dear Nickie-ben". It refers to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, which led to the defeat of France and the proclamation of King Wilhelm of Prussia as the first German emperor. The poem is written in the style of Robert Burns, and is followed by a full-page appendix "concerning Were-wolves", and a five-page glossary of Scotticisms. The author is clearly anti-Prussian as one verse runs: "Now just confess: through France I've trod O'er men, wives, weans, knee-deep, in blood; On right and justice trampl'd rough-shod, Until they're dead; And when I've blamed a' this on God, Are you no paid?" The author also gets a dig in at Thomas Carlyle, "the psalmist dour of Prussia's course", who was an admirer of German culture and who had written a history of Frederick the Great of Prussia. A contemporary manuscript note at end of poem (p.26) records one reader's dislike of the poem: "one of those thousand jingling dilettante whose jingle dies with the moment of its birth - ". No copy of this edition is recorded on COPAC, and the only other copies traced are published in London.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on16/05/14
TitleThe history and love adventures of Roswal and Lillian
ImprintGlasgow: J. & M. Robertson
Date of Publication1788
NotesThis is an unrecorded Glasgow printing of a Scottish verse romance "Roswal and Lillian". The tale appears to be medieval in origin, and concerns Roswal(l) a prince of Naples who is forced into exile by his father, but who eventually finds love in his new home and marries the king's daughter Lillian. Sir Walter Scott records hearing the song sung in his youth in Edinburgh sung by an old person wandering through the streets. The first recorded printing of the work was in Edinburgh in 1663, there are then four recorded editions in the second half of the 18th century, printed in Newcastle and Edinburgh. The printers of this Glasgow edition, James and Matthew Robertson, were two of the principal printers of chapbooks in Scotland from 1782 onwards. From at least 1777 they were publishing children's books, most of which are reprints of titles published by John Newbery of London. They also imported them from England.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes, Scottish Book Trade Index
Acquired on06/03/15
TitleNoticia e Circunstancias da Felicissima hora, em que a Senhora Rainha da Grao Bretanha deu a luz o suspirado Principe de Gales, herdeiro dos Reynos de Inglaterra, Escocia, & Irlada.
ImprintLisbon: Na Officina de Miguel Manescal
Date of Publication1688
NotesThis is rare Portuguese newsletter, dated 16 August 1688, which reports the birth of James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales (the Old Pretender, 1688-1766), son of the James VII/II and his second wife Mary of Modena. The pamphlet describes events relating to the birth of the Prince, the baptism, diplomatic responses and the celebrations. 4 months after the publication of this newsletter James fled London on the approach of an army led by William of Orange, never to return to his capital.
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on19/12/14
TitleThe distillery of Scotland a national benefit; and the importation and use of foreign spirits, a national detriment.
ImprintAberdeen: J. Chalmers, R. Farquhar
Date of Publication1755
NotesThis pamphlet, by an anonymous author, discusses the economics of Scottish production of spirits in the form of two letters to a friend, dated the 3rd and 22nd May. The author, who informs his friend that he was lately in Edinburgh, takes as his cue the topical theme: Whether the distillery of Scotland was a national profit or loss? He discusses the production of whisky in Scotland in relation to its annual use of 50,000 bolls of bear (i.e. barley). He also looks at the production other alcoholic spirits in England, Europe and the colonies, analysing the costs of the ingredients and profit margins of exports and imports. His argument is that cheap imports of foreign spirits are harming the production of locally-produced whisky, which was suffering from high levels of taxation, in particular after the Act of Union and the imposition of an English malt tax in 1725. The author's concerns were no doubt motivated by the fact that in Scotland there were very few licensed distilleries, prepared to pay the taxes, but hundreds of illicit stills supplying the domestic market. Only two other copies of the is pamphlet are recorded by ESTC (at the British library and Harvard).
Acquired on09/01/15
TitleAn ode made on the welcome news of the safe arrival and kind reception of the Scottish collony [sic] at Darien in America.
ImprintEdinburgh: James Watson
Date of Publication1699
NotesThis is an extremely rare broadside (ESTC records only one other copy at Brown University library in the USA) which reproduces an anonymous poem of thanksgiving for the safe arrival of the first Scottish expedition to the Bay of Darien in late 1698. The proposed Scottish colony in Darien was the brainchild of the Scottish banker William Paterson. His idea was for Scotland to gain control of the Isthmus of Darien, the narrow neck of land linking Central and South America, now part of Panama. Scotland would thus have a key role in controlling the trade of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Patersons incredibly ambitious plan was conceived as a way for Scotland to alleviate the financial crisis that had gripped the country. It had never really recovered from the civil wars of the 17th century and their aftermath; moreover, a succession of poor harvests in the 1690s had led to famine, and trade had been seriously affected by England's continual wars against Scotland's main trading partners, France and the Netherlands. In 1695 the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies was established to further the scheme. The Company initially attracted interest from the English as well as the Scots. However, the East India Company saw the scheme as a threat to their monopoly on trade, so the English Parliament quickly turned against it, forcing potential English investors to take their money elsewhere. Attempts to raise money in the Netherlands and Hamburg in 1696 and 1697 came to nothing when local investors became aware of the English Government's opposition to the scheme. The financial shortfall was made up by the Scottish people; a wide cross-section - from the nobility to merchants to town burghs pooled their resources. As a result 400,000 sterling, a significant part of the national capital, was invested in the scheme. Hundreds of people volunteered to settle the land, eager to escape the impoverishment of their native Scotland and to get a share of what they imagined would be the treasures of the New World. An expedition set sail from Leith in July 1698, with five ships carrying around 1,200 people, including William Paterson and his family. They arrived in the Bay of Darien in late October of that year. The Scots set foot on the mainland a few days later  the ode gives the date as 4 November, although modern histories now suggest 2 November. They immediately set about creating a fort (Fort St Andrew) to secure the area which was to be called New Caledonia. Plans were also made to build a settlement called New Edinburgh. On December 29, Alexander Hamilton, the accountant-general of the colony, along with other representatives from the expedition, sailed for Scotland via Jamaica on a visiting English sloop in order to bring news of the safe arrival in Darien. Hamilton finally arrived back in Edinburgh on March 25 1699, carrying sealed letters and despatches from the colony, as well as some small pieces of gold sent home by the colonists. His appearance was marked with rejoicing in the capital: gun salutes, bell-ringing and bonfires were organised in Edinburgh. The ode, presumably composed shortly after Hamilton' return, captures the feeling of wild optimism in Scotland on hearing the news that the expedition had successfully negotiated its way past English warships and braved the terrors of the Atlantic Ocean to make landfall in Central America. Thanks are given to God and "His divine pow'r" for the safe journey of the ships, for making the sea "like a level bowling plain", and for soothing the "natives savage breasts", i.e. ensuring that the local Indian peoples were not hostile to the Scots. The poet expresses the hope that Indian gold will soon alleviate Scotlands poverty, "its temporal grand disease". The ode also hints at the rising tide of resentment in Scotland against the English Parliament and King William for their decision not to allow any English American and Caribbean colonies to give any form of assistance to the colony at Darien; a decision made mainly to avoid antagonising the Spanish. The final lines express the hope that the colony would secure Scotlands "liberty from powder-plots and arbitrary tyranny". What the Scottish public did not know was that by March of 1699 the expedition had turned into a disaster. The information William Paterson had received beforehand on Darien, from the London-based former buccaneer Lionel Wafer, who had travelled extensively in the region, namely that it was a sheltered bay, with friendly Indians and rich, fertile land suitable for agriculture, proved to be utterly misleading. The area was in fact a mosquito-ridden jungle, and the Indians had little interest in the trinkets the Scots had brought with them to trade for gold; moreover, the expedition leaders were incompetent and quarrelling bitterly amongst themselves. The Spanish, who were the dominant European power in the region, were implacably hostile to the idea of a Scottish colony being established in the midst of their American territories; they would be a constant menace to the scheme. Many of the settlers, including Paterson's wife and child, were dying from disease and the extremes of the tropical climate, which led to morale further disintegrating among them. Alexander Hamilton would have been aware of some of these problems before he left Darien, but as he had been rewarded by the Company with the huge sum of 100 guineas for his safe return to Scotland, he may have felt it prudent not to dampen the excitement which was sweeping through the country. The colony was initially abandoned in June 1699, less than three months after Hamilton's return to Scotland. The delays in communication from Central America to Scotland meant that the news was only confirmed in October 1699, after a second expedition had already been sent from Scotland to aid the first one. By mid-summer 1700, even before news of the failure of the second expedition had reached Scotland, popular anger about the whole Darien scheme was at its height. The printer of the ode of thanksgiving, James Watson, found himself in trouble with the authorities for printing three works which were highly critical of the way the enterprise had been run, including George Ridpath's "Scotlands grievances relating to Darien". On May 30 Watson caused further aggravation by printing what was in effect a condensed form of Ridpath's pamphlet, a broadside titled "The people of Scotlands groans and lamentable complaints". This broadside, which does not have an imprint, stated bluntly that the political leaders of Scotland had for the last 100 years been little more than servants of England and treated their own people as enemies, never more so than now, by failing to properly support the expeditions or to stand up to the English Parliament. Watson's Jacobite sympathies were well known to the authorities and these publications, printed without license from the Privy Council, were regarded as a step too far. In June 1700 he was imprisoned in Edinburgh's Tolbooth to await trial before the Privy Council. He was briefly released from prison later that month, when news reached Edinburgh of the settlers of the second expedition launching a successful surprise attack on nearby Spanish forces at Toubacanti. The attack, which had taken place in February of that year, was wrongly thought to be a decisive victory, when in fact it only offered temporary respite from the Spanish operations to besiege the colony. The colony was abandoned for good in March, the remaining settlers having surrendered to Spanish, and the survivors were already on their way home. A triumphant mob rioted through Edinburgh on 20 June, forcing the Tolbooth gaol to be opened and the prisoners to be released. Watsons reprieve was only temporary; once order had been restored to the city he was, on 25 June, found guilty of printing libellous material and banished from Edinburgh for a year and a day. He did return to Edinburgh in 1701 and eventually established himself as Scotlands leading printer of the early 18th century, becoming one of the Kings Printers for Scotland.
Reference SourcesW.J. Couper, James Watson king's printer, Glasgow, 1910 (originally published in Scottish Historical Review, April, 1910); D. Wyn Evans, James Watson of Edinburgh: a bibliography of works from his press 1695-1722, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, Volume V, pt. 2, 1982; D. Watt, The price of Scotland: Darien, union and the wealth of nations, Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2007
Acquired on31/10/14
TitleThe Highland rogue: or, the memorable actions of the celebrated Robert Mac-gregor, commonly called Rob-Roy.
ImprintLondon: J. Billingsley
Date of Publication1723
NotesThis is the earliest printed account of the life of Rob Roy, Robert MacGregor (c. 1671-1734), Scottish outlaw and folk hero. Rob's fame extended well beyond his Stirlingshire homeland; hence the publication in 1723 of this account of his colourful exploits. His double life as a cattle trader who enriched himself through cattle raiding and running protection rackets; his feud with the Marquess of Montrose who, according to him, pursued him vindictively for debts he could not pay; his involvement with the Jacobite cause which made him a fugitive; all these ingredients made him the stuff of popular legend. In 1716 he was attainted for high treason for his role in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. In 1717 the British government passed the Indemnity Act, which effectively pardoned all those who had taken part in the Rising, but the Clan Gregor and Rob were specifically excluded from the benefits of the Act. Rob remained at large, an outlaw and rebel until 1725, well after this work was published. His situation changed when General George Wade was sent to Scotland by the British government with the authority to offer remaining rebels the chance to receive a pardon after writing letters of submission. Rob in his letter argued that he had never meant to be a rebel, even though the facts spoke otherwise. He spent the rest of his life living in the Balquhidder area, acting occasionally as a spy for General Wade but also still dabbling in cattle raiding and protection rackets. This anonymous work, supposedly based on "authentick Scotch MSS" (which are no longer extant), purports in the preface to tell "not a romantic tale & but a real history: not the adventures of a Robinson Crusoe, a Colonel Jack, or a Moll Flanders." The preface is signed "E.B." which has led to the work being ascribed to the Quaker author Elias Bockett (1695-1735), but this seems unlikely in view of the nature of other works by him on religious and political controversies. Lives of notorious criminals were very popular among the English reading public of the early 18th century, and a number of authors, including Daniel Defoe, were happy to churn out biographies to meet popular demand. Inevitably, given the subject matter of the work and the mention in the preface of Robinson Crusoe, Colonel Jack and Moll Flanders - all works written by Defoe in this period  'Highland rogue' has been widely attributed to Defoe. Sir Walter Scott stated that Defoe ought to have written it, without actually confirming that he was the author. However, it is not attributed to Defoe in Furbank and Owens's 1998 critical bibliography of his works, nor in Moore's checklist of Defoe's writings (2nd ed. 1971). The book and its title may in fact have been inspired by another anonymous work, first published in London back in 1706, 'The scotch rogue: or, the life and actions of Donald Macdonald a high-land Scot', a first-person account of the (mis)deeds of a "highland robber". 'Scotch rogue' was reprinted in two parts in 1722 and 1723, at the same time as 'Highland rogue', thus roguery and Scottish highlanders were firmly linked in the minds of the English reading public of 1723. Whoever the author of 'Highland rogue' was, his account of the life of Rob Roy is, contrary to the claims of the preface, "inconsistent, badly written and fanciful" (Stevenson, "Hunt for Rob Roy", 2004). The basic outline of Rob's life is, however, "essentially accurate" (Stevenson). The work's main importance, apart from being the first biography of Rob, is that it provides a blueprint for his character in later printed works, depicting him as a charming and audacious rogue rather than a bloodthirsty villain, a man capable of towering rages but one who abhors cruelty and violence. His legendary status is matched by his physical appearance; the author notes that he has a superhero-like stature, "he approaches even to a gigantic size", has a foot-long beard, and of course an abundance of red hair covering his body. Moreover, the author's depiction of Rob is consistent with the widely-held belief among the common people of Scotland that Rob Roy was indeed a Robin Hood figure, a humble man who had taken to robbery to right wrongs done to him by an arrogant aristocrat. They regarded him as a man "who did not steal indiscriminately, but took what was his by right from the great while sparing poor men" (Oxford DNB). The affection he inspired can be seen by the fact that he was not betrayed in all his years as an outlaw. A slightly enlarged version of the text of 'Highland rogue', with a re-written ending taking into account Rob's death, was published in 1743 under the title of 'The highland rogue: being a general history of the highlanders, wherein is given an account of their country and manner of living, exemplified in the life of Robert Mac-Gregor, commonly called Rob-Roy'. The 1743 edition makes explicit the connection between Rob and Robin Hood, noting that he had "lived in the manner of the ancient Robin Hood of England." As mentioned earlier, Sir Walter Scott was familiar with 'Highland rogue'; one of the five other UK copies of the 1723 edition recorded in ESTC is held in his library at Abbotsford. Incidentally, he also owned two editions of 'Scotch rogue'. Scott drew on this work when writing his own celebrated version of Rob Roy's life, published in 1817, which gave the Highland outlaw international fame and inspired plays, operas, biographies and an industry in Rob Roy memorabilia. The NLS copy of 'Highland rogue' is extra-illustrated with a woodcut of a highlander with a drawn sword and shield taken from the 1723 edition of 'Scotch rogue', which has been cut out and mounted on a blank leaf as a frontispiece. The work has also been bound together with a copy of John Campbell's 'A full and particular description of the Highlands of Scotland' (London, 1752); this particular copy also contains the frontispiece plate of a highlander sitting in his study which is not present in any of the other NLS copies of the work. The volume was formerly in the private collection of the late Peter Nelson (d. 2004) who worked at Lyon and Turnbull auction house in Edinburgh. The volume also contains the loose bookplate of Robert Hay-Drummond, the 10th Earl of Kinnoull (1751 1804), which may have at one point been stuck on to the front pastedown.
Reference SourcesDavid Stevenson, 'The hunt for Rob Roy', (Edinburgh, 2004); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on04/07/14
TitleThe history of Netterville, a chance pedestrian.
ImprintLondon: J. Cundee
Date of Publication1802
NotesThis is a rare copy of a sentimental novel set in the 1770s which relates the misadventures of the young hero Lewisham Netterville. Netterville's attempts to follow his late father's precepts and lead a virtuous life while at the same time pursuing the object of his affection, the beautiful Clara Walsingham, take him on a tour of Great Britain, from Bath to Bamborough (Bamburgh) Castle, in Northumberland, and so on to Scotland, where he visits the fictitious Clanrick Hall, Edinburgh, the hill of Moncreiff, Perth, and the islands of Mull, Staffa and Iona. The anonymous female author also includes a Scottish ballad of the her own composition, 'Ellen of Irvine; or, the Maid of Kirkonnel[sic], a ballad' (vol. II, pp. 57-65). The tragic tale of Ellen Irvine had appeared in Pennant's 'A tour in Scotland', (London 1774), and both Burns and Walter Scott wrote versions of the story. In the dedication (signed "the authoress"), the author apologises for her "untutored muse", claiming that the poetry was written at a different period. She describes this novel as "a second attempt in the region of fiction" and hopes that, given that it contains nothing immoral or irreligious, it may not fail to amuse a "candid and generous few, who condescend sometimes to stray awhile, amid the bowers of Fancy". The novel met with some praise from contemporary critics: "There is some novelty in the conduct of this novel and the characters and incidents are ingeniously varied. The plot is, perhaps, a little perplexed, but the interest, amid all the episodical interruptions which it meets with, suffers but little abatement" (The Monthly Mirror, XIII, London 1802, p. 251).
Reference SourcesBookseller's notes
Acquired on27/06/14
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