Image from 'Newes from Scotland'.
A new resource looking at witches in Scottish literature is now available on the Learning Zone section of the National Library of Scotland website. The Learning Zone is a dedicated area of the NLS website where teachers and learners can find learning resources, web features, images, and collections material relating to curriculum topics.
The Witches in Scottish literature feature looks at seven sources from the collections featuring Scottish witches. The sources illustrate differing treatments of witchcraft in various genres of literature from the last 400 years. Works by James VI, Shakespeare, Burns, James Hogg, John Buchan, Edwin Morgan, and Rona Munro are discussed alongside some historical background on the fascinating history of the witch-hunts in Scotland.
If you would like to learn more why not visit the website or watch a video of Julian Goodare, Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh, talking about the historical context of witch-hunting in Scotland.
World Book Night is coming up on 23 April, and it is good to see that one of the classics of Scottish literature has made it to the list – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I’ve been re-reading Stevenson’s adventure for the first time in years, and while the famous elements and characters are as familiar and vivid as ever, I was reminded of the author’s clever way with a plot and atmosphere. I am sure we all remember Jim Hawkins working at the Admiral Benbow inn and the various salty characters who turn up there – and we definitely remember Long John Silver, complete with leg and parrot, a figure who has lingered in the popular imagination far beyond the pages of the book.
Stevenson started Treasure Island during a wet August holiday in Braemar, ostensibly as an entertainment for his step-son, and the first chapters were published before the novel was finished. It has remained a favourite ever since in a variety of forms– so many famous illustrated editions, so many adaptations, so many sequels.
World Book Night gives us another opportunity to read Stevenson’s peerless adventure, and there’s a chance to hear more about the book and its author at our Treasure Island event, here at the National Library of Scotland, on 23 April.
Image credit: Dell publishing.
Romantic fiction has chosen many historical settings over the years – Cornwall, Regency Bath, and the court of Mary Queen of Scots have often provided memorable settings.
“Highlander” novels are a mainstay of popular fiction today, offering up a heady mix of dramatic landscape, feuding clans, and strangely cosy castle bed chambers.
Authors – often based in North America – have created a wild Celtic world of spirited heroines and brooding warriors, drawing perhaps on memories of the ballads, Sir Walter Scott, the Brontes, old Hollywood, fantasy computer games, and Braveheart.
Perhaps it is not a Scotland we at home recognise, but it is a world which enthrals and entertains millions round the world.
We have created a small but colourful display showcasing some examples of romantic fiction set in Scotland from our collections. The display is located on the upper floor of the General Reading Room at the National Library of Scotland. On entering the Reading Room proceed straight up the stairs to the wall opposite the door and you will find the display case. The display will run until the end of April 2013.
A huge variety of books were added to the modern Scottish collections at the National Library of Scotland this week, including Arthur’s Seat: journeys and evocations by Stuart McHardy and Donald Smith. Published by Luath Press, this book is a fascinating look at the history and folklore of Edinburgh’s most distinctive natural landmark.
From one fascinating Scottish hill to another – Fraser Hunter and Kenneth Painter examine the hoard of silver discovered on East Lothian’s Traprain Law in Late Roman silver: the Traprain treasure in context. Full of wonderful photographs, this Society of Antiquaries of Scotland publication looks at the late Roman economy, society and at the use of silver in the Roman world.
Other recent additions include several children’s books in Scottish Gaelic. Spùinneadairean Dubh Na h-Oidhche is a tale of pirates by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, and An Coileach Cadalach by Nuala Nic Con Iomaire and Donough O’Malley is the entertaining story of a sleepy farmyard cockerel. Both books are published by Acair.
And finally, for those of you looking for a new knitting project, why not Knit your own Scotland? Jackie Holt and Ruth Bailey’s book provides patterns to allow you to knit your own Andy Murray, Billy Connolly, Scotch pie, Tunnock’s teacake and much more. Knit your own Scotland is published by Black and White.
With Christmas rapidly approaching you may be interested to hear about our small display of Christmas cards and festive catalogues from the early twentieth century.
The display contains Christmas and New Year greeting cards which were circulated in Scotland between 1910 and 1952. The cards, which are a fascinating contrast to those we send today, are from the Dewar Collection.
The display also includes a couple of beautifully illustrated Macfarlane Lang & Co Christmas catalogues dating from the 1930s. The history of this Scottish bakery is fascinating. James Lang established a bakery in Glasgow in 1817. After Lang’s death his nephew, John Macfarlane, took over the business. The company expanded throughout the nineteenth century, opening the mechanised Victoria Biscuit Works in the Calton area of Glasgow in 1880. In 1948 Macfarlane Lang merged with another Scottish biscuit manufacturer – McVitie & Price – to form United Biscuits.
The display is located on the upper floor of the General Reading Room at the National Library of Scotland. On entering the Reading Room proceed straight up the stairs to the wall opposite the door and you will find the display case. The display will run until the week beginning 7th January 2013.
November 13 was R.L.S Day, celebrating the life and work of our great writer Robert Louis Stevenson .
Stevenson has been in my mind recently as I re-read Kidnapped – still exciting – and did research on the various film versions of his books for our cinema exhibition.
I have also been thinking about the visit I made to his former home and his grave near Apia, Western Samoa many years ago. Like many tourists I climbed to the top of Mount Vaea to look at the monument for “Tusitala”, read the famous verses, and took in the view of the Pacific. It seemed a long way from Edinburgh, Heriot Row and Swanston.
Here is more information from the National Library of Scotland on our Stevenson website.
Today is National Poetry Day! To celebrate, the National Library of Scotland has produced a set of web pages featuring poems from the pamphlets shortlisted for the 2012 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. Each page includes poetry from the shortlisted pamphlet, along with biographical information about the poet.
We hope that you enjoy the quality and variety of poetry on offer at our National Poetry Day 2012 web pages. There are poems in Scots, Gaelic, and English, and the subject matter covers a variety of topics, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Museum of Anatomy at the University of Glasgow. Thank you to the poets and publishers who allowed us to use their work.
If you would like to read poetry from other years, please take a look at our previous National Poetry Day web pages.
You can find out more about the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award at the Scottish Pamphlet Poetry website and more about National Poetry Day at the official website.
BBC Alba is currently showing the fondly remembered 1960s television version of Dr Finlay’s Casebook based on the short stories of Scotland’s best-selling author of yesteryear – A.J. Cronin, 1896-1981.
Cronin may not be a household name today but from his sensational debut with Hatter’s Castle in 1931 he was prized as a master story teller, with huge international sales. He drew on his experience of small-town Scottish life, including his family dramas and religious intolerance, and his early work as a doctor. Success meant he became a full-time writer by the time he was 35.
Inevitably Cronin’s highly dramatic novels like The Citadel , The Stars Look Down, and The Keys of the Kingdom were snapped up by film studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Most of his big titles made it to the screen in major productions starring, amongst others, Robert Donat, Carole Lombard, Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Gregory Peck, and Dirk Bogarde.
Film versions of two of Cronin’s “Scottish” novels Hatter’s Castle and The Green Years feature in our current exhibition Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema. Deborah Kerr and James Mason shine from the original poster for Hatter’s Castle and there’s a US Forces edition of The Green Years, with an original leaflet promoting MGM’s film version which featured Tom Drake, the “boy next door” from Meet Me in St Louis, as … the boy next door in Victorian Scotland, who also wants to be a doctor.
Earlier in the week I had the great honour to show Peter Jewell round our current exhibition Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema.
Peter Jewell built up the fabulous cinema collection at the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture at the University of Exeter with the late great Scottish film director Bill Douglas.
It was fascinating to go round the displays with a real expert on the history of cinema, and also to listen to his personal anecdotes of
Bill Douglas, the boy from Newcraighall – the mining village near Edinburgh – who grew up to be a filmmaker and left a slim but immortal legacy on screen.
In the exhibition we show iconic clips from the Bill Douglas Trilogy and copies of pages from the script and storyboard.
This weekend sees the 120th anniversary of the birth of one of our most famous Scottish poets – widely known as Hugh MacDiarmid, the author of A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.
MacDiarmid was born as Christopher Grieve in Langholm, Dumfriesshire, on 11 August 1892, and spent much of his early career as a journalist with various Scottish newspapers. His reputation as a poet and editor of literary journals was often equalled by his iconoclastic views and opinions on politics and literature.
After a largely itinerant life and career, he settled in 1951 at Brownsbank cottage near Biggar with his second wife Valda, which is now maintained by the Biggar Museum Trust as a writer’s retreat in his memory.
In 1967 the National Library of Scotland celebrated his 75th birthday with an exhibition, and we hold an important collection of his manuscripts. He died in 1978.
Here is the poet himself, talking about his life on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1972 in the film No Fellow Traveller from our collections at the Scottish Screen Archive.
(Image from Biggar Museum Trust)