Highlights


The book pictured above is not presently for sale.

In assembling the collection over many years any belief that all books, when at last found, would be in perfect condition quickly vanished. Why, indeed, should any book having endured decades or centuries of use be without blemish? Why should it be imagined that every owner would be as careful in handling, as concerned that no map be torn, as worried about the state of spine and bindings, as the most attentive to preserving a form of just published or printed perfection. Fortunately in many cases worn and damaged volumes and fragile pamphlets can be passed to experienced binders for necessary repair even in fine detail - but not all.

In the collection such 'hospital' treatment has been received by valuable items, but some remain in need. Fortunately the collection's copy of Itinerarium Septentrionale: or, a Journey Thro' Most of the Counties of Scotland, And Those in the North of England. By Alexander Gordon, in spite of a detached rear board, is in all essential respects still complete, and the rear board can be put back in place as part of binding restoration. The vital illustrations, like those of two brochs near Glenelg, are intact, along with the four lines of one of 'two or three barbarous Irish [Gaelic] Rhimes' , the highlight of the whole work:

Mi Cherir mag lik fwin fin,
Gehak meer Strah in an Ghlin,
Mi Chalman mi Chonil Ceive,
Mi Tellve, mi Trodden

My Four Sons, a fair Clan,
I left on the Strath of one Glen;
My Malcomb, my lovely Chonil,
My Tellve, my Troddan.

Without these lines we would not know that there were four brochs in the glen, nor would we know their names.


Lachlan Shaw, son of Donald Shaw, a farmer in Speyside, was born about 1686. His language was Gaelic. He graduated as Master of Arts at King's College, Aberdeen, began working life as a schoolteacher in his home locality, but, like other young men of his time, turned to the church, and became minister at Kingussie, also in the Spey valley, in 1716. In 1734 he moved to Elgin, east of Inverness, as 'Minister of the Gospel', and remained in this position for the rest of his life. In his time he collected traditions, folklore and documentary material, and composed a fascinating account entitled: 'The History of the Province of Moray', which largely Highland district was unusual, 'Extending, from the Mouth of the River Spey' on the east coast, 'to the Borders of Lochaber in Length' not far short of the west, 'and from the Moray-Frith, to the Grampian Hills in Breadth'.

The area was unusually varied, 'Including, a part of the Shire of Banff to the East; The whole Shires of Moray and Nairn; and the greatest part of the Shire of Inverness. – All which was Anciently called The Province of Moray, before there was a Division into Counties.' The first edition of the book, with four plates in black and white, was published in 1775, about two years before the author's death in February 1777.

A second edition came out in 1827, this time described as 'Brought Down to the Year 1826' and ornamented with fifteen plates. The two plates shown here, those of Castle Urquhart beside Loch Ness and the Priory of Pluscarden, in a valley only a short distance from Elgin, are from a rare copy of this edition in the collection with all the plates in colour.

Daniel Defoe, who lived through the early years of the eighteenth century, is, probably, best known as the author of 'Robinson Crusoe', if that is indeed what he was. His name appears on the spine of a number of pro-governmental works prior to or during the Jacobite Rising of 1715-1716, but whether or not he was the true composer of them remains uncertain. The collection has a few of such mostly slim and well bound pamphlets, as for instance the second edition of 'A Journal of the Earl of Marr's Proceedings, From His First Arrival in Scotland, To His Embarkation for France', but as in others of this kind Defoe's name and the date of printing or of publication are missing from the title page.

A more convincing work in the collection is 'The History of the Union between England and Scotland', together with 'original papers relating thereto' and stated to be 'By Daniel De Foe'. The frontispiece portrait, a 'Life' of the author by George Chalmers, and the fine, weighty appearance of the work, printed by Stockdale, London, in 1786, lend added authority and authenticity.

In 1772 a scientist, Joseph Banks, made an exploratory visit to Iceland, and thus stirred up a considerable interest in that far northern island, about which at that time little was known by anybody living south of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Just over thirty years later, another and much younger person, Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, who owned the estate of Coul in Ross-shire and who had similar scientific interests to those of Banks, made the same journey in 1810 and the following year wrote and had published an expensive and splendid-looking volume entitled 'Travels in the Island of Iceland, During the Summer of the Year 1810'. Mackenzie's studies were widespread in range, beginning perhaps with the more domestic discoveries which he made at first, including buildings and their occupants – illustrated here with a bright, colourful and cheerful row of men, women and a child in 'Icelandic Costume'.
When members of the British royal family stay at Balmoral in Dee-side, Aberdeenshire, they usually attend services at the church of Crathie. A long-serving minister there, John Stirton, wrote several books, one of which was entitled 'Crathie and Braemar – A History of the United Parish', which must be the widest volume of its size on the shelves of the collection. It was printed and published in 1925, and was much admired as a work of 'a vast amount of labour'. The author's own copy is in the collection and is distinguished by his practice of including under the covers letters of approval received, one of which was from the Prime Minister at the time, Ramsay MacDonald.