Although Scotland is a small nation, it has produced a significantly high number of inventors throughout the centuries. Some of these inventors are world-renowned but others are shrouded in obscurity. The library has numerous books in its collections that tell the stories of these inventors. A selection of recent titles include ‘Scottish Firsts: a celebration of innovation and achievement’ by Elspeth Wills, Edinburgh, 2002, ‘Invented in Scotland: Scottish ingenuity and invention through the ages’ by Allan Burnett, Edinburgh, 2010 and ‘Caledonia Dreaming: 100 Scots who changed the world not always for the better!’ by John K V Eunson, London, 2010.
Some of the best known scientific inventors in Scotland have also been celebrated in the library’s online Scottish Science Hall of Fame.
The library has digitised a large amount of material from our Gaelic collections, which can be viewed for free on our Digital Gallery.
If you need to refresh your Gaelic or are just starting to learn and need some help, then there are a few books that might help. These include Angus Watson’s ‘The Essential Gaelic-English, English-Gaelic Dictionary’, Edinburgh, 2012, Michael Bauer’s ‘Blas na Gaidhlig: the practical guide to Scottish Gaelic pronunciation’, Glasgow, 2011 and George McLennan’s ‘Gaelic Alphabet: a guide to the pronunciation of Gaelic letters and words’, Glendaruel, 2009.
If you are looking for some reading material in Gaelic, then the ‘Scottish Gaelic Union Catalogue: a list of books printed in Scottish Gaelic from 1567 to 1973′ by Mary Ferguson and Ann Matheson, Edinburgh, 1984, can provide you with an extensive reading list.
Have you ever wondered what the symbols on old gravestones mean? Or why different styles of burial monuments look the way they do? The library has a number of books in its collections which provide more information on this topic. A general book, which covers graveyards over the whole of the UK, is Trevor Yorke’s ‘Gravestones, Tombs & Memorials’, Newbury, 2010, which discusses the history of burials and the different types of monument that were built.
If you want to know more about Scottish graveyards and their tombstones, then ‘Understanding Scottish Graveyards’ by Betty Willsher, Edinburgh, 2005 and ‘Researching Scottish Graveyards’ by Bruce B. Bishop, Elgin, 2010, can help further your research.
Dane Love’s ‘Scottish Kirkyards’, Stroud, 2010, provides an explanation of the role of the kirkyard within the Scottish community as well as detailing burial customs of Scotland. Hamish Brown’s ‘A Scottish Graveyard Miscellany: Exploring the Folk Art of Scotland’s Gravestones’, Edinburgh, 2008, discusses examples of graveyard art from all over Scotland.
The National Library of Scotland has just released digital copies of British military lists from the First and Second World Wars. They list all the officers who served in the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force from 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. They can be viewed for free on the library website.
If you are interested in the history of crime in Scotland or the stories of those involved in criminal activities, then there are a few recent publications that might help with your research. Sheila Livingstone’s ‘Confess and be Hanged: Scottish Crime and Punishment through the Ages’, Edinburgh, 2000, discusses a wide range of ‘crimes’ including adultery, fornication, smuggling, treason and witchcraft. It covers a wide timeframe and helps to show how definitions of crime have changed over time.
Books on the subject, which are specific to particular geographical areas, include Geoff Holder’s ‘Perthshire Murders’, Stroud, 2010, Malcolm Archibald’s ‘A Sink of Atrocity: Crime in 19th Century Dundee’, Edinburgh, 2012 and Jessie Sword’s ‘They Did Wrong: Public Hangings in the Angus Area 1785 to 1868′, Dundee, 2005. This latter title includes background information on the people who were hanged, as well as details of their trials and executions.
‘The Vagabond Book of Stirling: 1752-1787′ by Marie Brammeld, Stirling, 2010, was a book kept by the local authorities in Stirling. It recorded misdemeanours such as theft, breach of the peace and assualt and a list of the punishments given out to the offenders by the Magistrates of the Burgh.
There are two new additions to our Digital Gallery, both of which are free to use. The first is the ‘Biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen’, published in three volumes in 1875. The books contain biographies and engraved portraits of Scots men (and some women) mainly during the 16th to 19th centuries. The biographies discuss individuals who were prominent in the fields of medicine, religion, art and literature, politics, philosophy and the natural sciences.
The second is a collection of 20 volumes of ‘Gazetteers of Scotland, 1803-1901′. These provide a comprehensive geographical encyclopedia of Scotland during in the 19th century. They include information on parishes, towns and counties in Scotland, as well as historical and geographical details on each location.
The fire service has an illustrious history in Scotland. The library has a number of books in its collections which provide detailed histories of various brigades. These include: ‘150 years of firefighting in Tayside, 1835-1985′, Liverpool, 1985; ‘The History of the Lothian & Borders Fire Brigade’, Edinburgh, 1985; and ‘Ready, aye ready: Dundee Fire Brigade, 1835-1939′, Glasgow, 1939.
Alexander Reid has written ‘Aye ready! the history of Edinburgh Fire Brigade, the oldest municipal brigade in Britain’, Edinburgh, 1974, while Alan Forbes has more recently published ‘Everyday Heroes: the 30 year story of Strathclyde Fire Brigade’, Edinburgh, 2005.
If you are interested in the Scottish Fire Services training facility in Gullane, East Lothian then Beryl Robinson’s ‘From Golfers to Firefighters…where hope is unbroken: the story of Gullane’s Marine Hotel transformed to the Scottish Fire Services College’, Gullane, 2005, may provide further information. If you want to find out more about the creator of the British Fire Service then the book to read is Brian Henham’s ‘True Hero: the life and times of James Braidwood, father of the British Fire Service’, Romford, 2000.
Finally, the amusingly named ‘Scooshers’ by Andrew F Anderson, Gloucester, 1993, tells the story of Glasgow Fire Service.
Ahoy me hearties! Are you interested in the history of Scottish pirates? The library has a number of books in our collections that can provide more information on the subject. These include Eric J Graham’s ‘Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots’, Edinburgh, 2005 and ‘Skull & Saltire: Stories of Scottish Piracy – Ancient & Modern’ by Jim Hewitson, Edinburgh, 2005.
David Ditchburn has contributed an article on ‘Piracy and War at Sea in Late Medieval Scotland’ to T.C. Smout’s ‘Scotland and the Sea’, Edinburgh, 1992, pages 35-58.
John Gow was one of Scotland’s most famous pirates and Stromness Museum in Orkney has produced a facsimile edition of ‘An Account of the Conduct and Proceedings of the Late John Gow’ as ‘The Pirate Gow by Daniel Defoe, 1725′. This tells the tale of an Orkney lad who ran away to sea, came home the master of a ship, romanced a local girl and when his piratical past was revealed, he went raiding in Orkney. After being run aground he was captured and sent to London in chains, where he was executed ten months later.
The library’s Word on the Street collection of online broadsides contains news reports on the activities of pirates as well as descriptions of the executions of those convicted of piracy.
If you are researching the police in Scotland then you may be interested in the following titles in the library collections. Lothian and Borders is covered in ‘A History of the Lothian and Borders Police’ by Tom W Archibald, 1990, while if your interest is further north, ‘The History of the Perthshire & Kinross-shire Constabularies’ by Willie MacFarlane, 2010 may help with your research.
If you have some old police badges or other items of memorabilia, you may be able to find out more about them from ‘Scottish Insignia as used by old Police Forces’, by John C Green, 2008. This book provides a brief history of the old Scottish police forces and lists and photographs of identifiable items associated with them.
If you have an ancestor who was in the Edinburgh police in the early nineteenth century, then ‘The Edinburgh Police Register 1815-1859′, edited by Peter Ruthven-Murray, 1991, may provide more details. It includes information such as warrant numbers, date of joining, age at joining, height, facial characteristics, marital status, trade or occupation before joining and reason for leaving, amongst other details.