Celebrating an important literary partnership
A creative partnership that was responsible for collecting and preserving some of Scotland's most important 20th century literary archives is being recognised at the National Library of Scotland.
Book collectors, publishers and booksellers, Kulgin Duval and Colin Hamilton made a major contribution to Scottish life and letters over five decades. This is being marked with a special display at the Library featuring material from their extraordinary collection.
They forged friendships and collaborative partnerships with leading literary figures including Hugh MacDiarmid and George Mackay Brown. This resulted in the publication of several fine limited editions of the work of these and other writers and artists. Duval and Hamilton also commissioned designer bindings for some of their favourite books from the finest British designers and binders: some examples from their unrivalled collection feature in the display.
MacDiarmid, perhaps the greatest Scots poet of the 20th century, and his wife, Valda, were frequent visitors to Duval and Hamilton's home, Frenich, in Perthshire. This was the most significant and enduring of all their literary relationships. Some of their finest publications were of MacDiarmid's work, the best being their exquisite illustrated edition of 'A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle'. This is the work for which MacDiarmid is best-known — Professor David Daiches thought it the 'greatest long poem in Scottish literature, and one of the greatest in any literature'. Duval and Hamilton's commitment to this poet, and this poem, is evident in the display.
They also played an important role in ensuring MacDiarmid's papers were kept in Scotland, enabling the bulk of his archive to be acquired by the National Library where it is now preserved for posterity.
The display features items relating to George Mackay Brown including an unpublished short story that was written at Frenich in 1976 and presented as a gift to Duval and Hamilton. Two hand-made correspondence boxes can also be seen from the Duval and Hamilton archive. One contains 50 years' worth of cards and letters from Edwin Morgan.
Kulgin Duval died in 2016, and the Duval and Hamilton collection and archive is to be bequeathed in time to the National Library and National Galleries of Scotland.
'Kulgin Duval and Colin Hamilton made a significant and long-lasting contribution to bookselling, publishing and supporting Scottish culture through their recognition of the importance of 20th century Scottish writers,' said National Librarian Dr John Scally. 'This display can only capture a fraction of their magnificent collection but it amply illustrates the high standards they set for fine publications and immersive, scholarly catalogues.'
'Creative lives: The Duval and Hamilton partnership' is on show at the Library in George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, from August 24 until October 15. Entry is free.
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24 August 2017