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Category: Books, National Library of Scotland

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The Scottish Beekeepers' Association has deposited the Moir Rare Book Collection of 250 volumes relating to all aspects of beekeeping. It is one of the very finest collections of rare beekeeping books in the world, including items published as far back as 1525.

The foundation of the collection was due to the efforts of John William Moir (1851-1940). Inspired by the example of Scots missionary David Livingstone, Moir and his brother emigrated from Scotland in 1877 to southeast Africa, where they were initially involved in the creation of alternative transport routes to help obviate the need for slave transport. It was later, after settling in the Shire Highlands of present-day Malawi, that John Moir began beekeeping, due to the fact that his crops required pollination.

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The National Library of Scotland has the pre-eminent collection of decorative bookbindings produced in Scotland during the last five centuries. Some were transferred to the new National Library in 1925 as part of the collections of the Advocates Library, but many have been purchased since in an attempt to document the development of binding styles in Scotland. Below are displayed a representative sample of bindings from the 18th century, together with a number of decorative endpapers from these books.

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Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh’s New Town in 1850. He died 44 years later on a small Samoan island in the Pacific.

During his short life he travelled the world, defied convention, and made himself one of the most famous writers of the 19th century.

Here we tell Stevenson's story, illustrated with material held in the National Library of Scotland's collections.

You can also see the entire first English edition of Kidnapped – one of his most famous tales – published in 1886.

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Muriel Spark was identified as a promising and creative writer when her name was still Muriel Camberg and she was still at school. Some of her poems had already been published by the time she won her first poetry prize, at the age of 12.

Dame Muriel – poet, writer of fiction and literary criticism, and biographer – went on to win most of the literary awards going, was never out of print, and was at the top of her profession, internationally, for more than half a century.

Best-known as the author of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', Muriel decided in the 1940s to keep a record of her professional and personal activities, beginning a personal archive that is now one of the largest and most comprehensive held by the National Library of Scotland.

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Robert Burns was born into a farming family at Alloway in Ayrshire in 1759. He died in Dumfries at the early age of 37. Yet in that short time he had taken the Scottish literary world by storm, and had secured a place for himself in history and in legend.

This site is based on material by or relating to 'Scotland's Bard' which is held by the National Library of Scotland (except where otherwise stated).

Special features are pages giving highlights of the Library's significant resources – whether original letters or poems (see Manuscripts page) or important books (see Books page).

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The only known copies of nine of the earliest books printed in Scotland are the most precious items held by the National Library of Scotland in its role as custodian of the nation’s printed heritage.

Known as ‘The Chepman & Myllar Prints’, they were produced in or about 1508 on Scotland’s first printing press, established in Edinburgh (in what is now the Cowgate) by Walter Chepman and Androw Myllar. Chepman, an Edinburgh merchant, provided the money. Myllar, an Edinburgh bookseller who had previously been involved with printing in France, brought with him experience in the book trade.

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We can trace Scottish printing back to 4 April 1508.

On that date the earliest surviving dated book in Scotland was printed in Edinburgh.

Here you can read full texts of items printed on 33 of the first 38 printing presses set up in Scotland between 1508 and 1900. These have been digitised from the National Library of Scotland's collections.

They include that first dated printed book – see The Complaint of the Black Knight, printed by Chepman and Myllar.

You can also trace the geographical spread of printing in Scotland, from the first printing towns to the 'printing revolution' in the 19th century.

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