Book on NLS collections is a bestseller
A book showcasing highlights from the National Library of Scotland's vast collections has proven to be a bestseller in the NLS shop.
The richly illustrated volume shows much more than an assortment of classic 'treasures' - it aims to highlight the unusual, the beautiful, the quirky and the 'downright odd' from the Library's holdings.
Entitled 'Rax me that buik', it is an authoritative guide featuring some 180 items with fascinating stories, from printed books and manuscripts to maps and musical scores.
Since it went on sale in the Library's shop [in the Visitor Centre] at the end of last year, almost 200 copies have been snapped up - meaning the book has outsold all other NLS titles during this period, including 'A swing through time' and 'Scottish printed books'.
'Rax me that buik' was a labour of love by a great authority on much the National Library of Scotland has to offer - Dr Iain Gordon Brown, Principal Curator in Manuscript and Map Collections. He has worked at the Library for 34 years and admits he was both excited and daunted by the prospect of having to choose 'favourites' and convey their significance in a memorable way.
He said: 'It was a seemingly impossible task to choose less than 200 items from the millions upon millions which make up the national collection. The challenge of planning this volume - particularly selecting and describing items to represent whole classes of material in the Library, or themes and traditions in the history of our collecting - was to prove one of the greatest, but most satisfying I have faced in my long career.
'Providing access to knowledge is the Library's business and this book is yet another way for us to spread the word about our world-class collections, while highlighting the distinctive "Scottishness" of our holdings.'
Items featured in the book include:
- Manuscript notes written by Walter Scott in 1800 while practising as counsel for the defence in the trial of a horse-dealer charged with forging guinea banknotes. The page includes a doodled drawing of a hanged man - testimony to his client's fate or lack of confidence in his own advocacy?
- A moving account of the battle of Culloden written on playing cards by Captain Felix O'Neill, an Irish officer in attendance on Prince Charles Edward. It was written, following the defeat of his army, on all he had in his pocket at the time.
- A letter written by a 10-year-old schoolboy to the great John Murray publishing house in 1898, politely pointing out a mistake in Murray's 'Principia Latina'. Evidently entertained, the publisher sent the youngster a copy of Aesop's 'Fables'.
Borrowed for the book's title, the phrase 'Rax me that buik' (meaning 'Fetch me that book') was the motto of the former Scottish Central Library for Students (subsumed into the National Library in 1974). The words are carved above the door of that institution's former building in the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, which is now home to National Library of Scotland's administrative HQ.
'Rax me that buik: Highlights from the Collections of the National Library of Scotland', by Iain Gordon Brown, is the lead new title in Scala Publishers' growing series on the 'Great Libraries of the World'. It can be purchased at the Library's shop on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, and from leading bookshops, and is available online from Amazon.
17 June 2011