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Beatrix Potter and Innerpeffray

Beatrix Potter at Innerpeffray

As it is the 155th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth on the 28th July 2021, we are celebrating by exploring some of the links between Beatrix Potter and the Library of Innerpeffray.

Helen Beatrix Potter Heelis (1866-1943) is remembered today as a respected mycology expert, one of the most popular children’s authors of the Victorian period, and the creator of unforgettable fictional characters including Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Squirrel Nutkin, and many more. Perhaps her most well-known book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was first conceived of while Beatrix was staying near Dunkeld in 1893. Writing a letter to the son of one of her former governesses, she came up with a story about “four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.” Little did she know then that Peter Rabbit would one day become a household name!

Beatrix Potter Letter to Noel Moore 1893 c. National Trust

It is a well-known fact that Beatrix Potter and her family spent many summer holidays in Perthshire, with her father, Rupert Potter, renting Dalguise House near Dunkeld every summer between 1871 and 1881.[1] Interested in the sport and freedom of Scotland, with its plentiful shooting, fishing and beautiful opportunities for walking and photography, the extended Potter family often travelled away from London between May and October.[2] Before becoming regular guests at Dalguise, we know that the Potters stayed with Edmund Potter near Alness in Easter Ross, and in Tulliemet House in 1870.[3] Excitingly, we now have evidence from the Innerpeffray Library visitors’ books that the Potters also stayed in Scotland in 1868 and 1869.

On the 26th August 1868, a month after Beatrix’s second birthday, the following signatures were entered into the visitors’ book:

Innerpeffray Visitor Books Vol 1, f15r

Rupert Potter and Mrs. R Potter, Kippen, and Mrs. Leech and daughter, London.

Rupert Potter (1832-1914), Beatrix’s father, was a barrister and successful amateur photographer who married Beatrix’s mother, Helen Leech (1839-1932) on the 8th August 1863. The Potters were visiting with Helen’s mother, Beatrix’s maternal grandmother, Jane Ashton (1806-1884) and one of her daughters, Beatrix’s aunt – most likely the eldest daughter of Mrs Leech, Jane (1833-1876), who never married and remained close to home. Although Mrs Leech and her daughter write their location as London, Rupert and Helen write that they were staying at Kippen Estate while visiting Scotland, rather than their usual London address. Although there is a village called Kippen in Stirlingshire, as below where the Potters wrote ‘Garvock’ to refer to Garvock House in Dunning, it seems more likely that they were referring to Kippen House, also in Dunning, which was built in the 1840s.

Postcard showing Kippen House, Dunning

The following year, on the 13th August 1869, we find the Potters returning to Innerpeffray for a second time, this time accompanied by Reverend William Gaskell as well as Mrs and Miss Leech:

Innerpeffray Visitor Book Vol 1, f.16v

Mrs and Miss Leech, London; Revd. W. Gaskell, Manchester; and Mr and Mrs Rupert Potter, Garvock and London.

In the summer of 1869, the Potter family was again holidaying with Beatrix’s maternal grandmother and aunt, as well as Unitarian minister and close friend of the family William Gaskell (1805-1884). It was common for the Victorian middle classes to “invite friends to join them on holiday,” and the Potters frequently invited friends and family to join them in Scotland – “especially those who liked to fish and who would endure Rupert’s endless photography sessions.”[4] Gaskell was a close friend and teacher of Rupert Potter’s, having known Rupert’s father Edmund since his university days. Indeed, Jenny Uglow, biographer of William’s wife Elizabeth, states that William often joined the Potters on their annual summer holidays but never invited his wife to accompany him – she emphasizes that he “needed escape, less, one sometimes feels, from the city than from his growing family.”[5] It appears that he preferred spending his leisure time with the Potters rather than his own family.

Photograph of Reverend William Gaskell and Beatrix Potter, taken during one of “Rupert’s endless photography sessions” in the grounds of Dalguise House

On this visit to Innerpeffray, the Potters recorded their location as both Garvock and London, indicating that their long-term residence was in London but at the present time they were staying in Garvock House while in Scotland.

Postcard showing Garvock House Dunning

The following month, the Potters visit Innerpeffray Library for the third time on the 6th September 1869. Their entries in the visitors’ book reveal that although the Leeches were not present, the Potters were joined by Beatrix’s paternal grandfather, Edmund Potter (1802-1883), who writes his place of residence as his Hertfordshire home, Camfield Place:

Innerpeffray Visitor Book Vol 1, f17r

Mr Edmund Potter M.P., Camfield, Hatfield, Herts; Mr. and Miss Potter, also from Camfield; and Mr and Mrs R Potter, Garvock.

It is clear from their three separate visits that Rupert and Helen Potter enjoyed their trips to Innerpeffray – dedicating time from two summer holidays to visit and on each occasion bringing a different visitor to see the library. Innerpeffray was an accessible tourist destination from both Garvock and Kippen by carriage, train or even bicycle – it would take around three hours to walk or one hour to cycle to the library from either location on modern roads. Although Innerpeffray was still easily accessible by train from Dalguise House, they must have considered it too long a journey, as the Potters do not appear again in the visitors’ books.

Map showing the locations of the Potters’ Scottish holiday residences in relation to Innerpeffray Library: Garvock, Kippen, and Dalguise House

Noticeably absent from all of these visitors’ book entries is Beatrix Potter herself! Aged two and three years old at the time of the respective visits, Beatrix may have been left at home with her nurse rather than joining her parents and grandparents at Innerpeffray Library. It is true that Beatrix often spoke of her lonely childhood, where she spent little time with her parents while in London, cared for instead by her nurses and governesses. However, Beatrix also wrote that her “happiest moments” were those spent in Scotland, where “she got extra attention from her father.”[6] Perhaps, away from the stricter rules of London society, “where every activity was carefully regimented and supervised,” the Potters brought their daughter with them while touring Scotland.[7]

Bookplate of Edmund Potter, Camfield Place.

From an early age, Beatrix was an intelligent young girl who was encouraged by friends and family to love stories and books. Reverend William Gaskell, who was a regular holiday companion and visited Innerpeffray with the Potters in August 1869, was chairman of the Portico Library in Manchester from 1849 to 1884 and was recorded as having borrowed more than 700 books between 1850 and 1859.[8] Her grandfather Edmund Potter, who accompanied the Potters to Innerpeffray in September of that same year, had “built a reading room and library which was kept well stocked with books and newspapers.”[9] Although her paternal grandmother, Jessy Crompton Potter, did not accompany her husband Edmund on his trip to Innerpeffray, Beatrix often wrote that she remembered “the stories told by her adoring grandmother” in the library of Camfield Place.[10] With these bibliophile friends and relatives knowing the importance of books on young, impressionable minds, perhaps Beatrix was indeed brought to see the Library of Innerpeffray. Without her name written in the visitors’ books, we can only guess – but I for one would like to think so.

[1] Barbara Brill and Alan Shelston, ‘Manchester: “A Behindhand Place for Books”: The Gaskells and the Portico Library’, The Gaskell Society Journal, 5 (1991), 27–36 (pp. 27–28) <>.

[2] Lear, p. 12.

[3] Lear, p. 10.

[4] Lear, p. 28.

[5] Lear, p. 29.

[6] Lear, pp. 22; 28.

[7] Jenny Uglow, Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories, (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), p. 103.

[8] Linda Lear, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2007), p. 27.

[9] ‘Beatrix Potter Exhibition Garden’, Birnam Arts Visitor Attractions <>.

[10] Lear, p. 27.

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18th and 19th Century Gardeners

Meet The Borrower – 18th and 19th Century ‘Gardners/Gardeners’

As I sit at home looking out across the garden and going through our seed box to see what is leftover from last year, and what we still need to acquire for this gardening year, my thoughts are drawn towards the many ‘Gardners’ who borrowed books from Innerpeffray. Their working lives outdoors would have been governed by the weather and they would have been busy planning and preparing for the months ahead, as well as working under cover in the greenhouses and conservatories. Weather and outdoor ground conditions permitting they would have been preparing the soil ready for sowing and planting, sorting what seeds would be required for the coming year and when to sow them, when to plant out seedlings or new plants purchased for the gardens, and pruning fruit trees and bushes.

John Rutter, The Modern Eden: or the Gardener’s Universal Guide, 1769

All of the estates around Innerpeffray would have employed a Head Gardener and a varying number of other gardeners to work under his instruction. Most of them would have been provided with accommodation, in what was referred to as the ‘gardeners bothy’. Or there may have been a “Gardener’s Lodging-Room” as noted in “The Modern Eden: or the Gardener’s Universal Guide” by John Rutter and Daniel Carter, published in 1769 (above).

John Reid, The Scots Gardner, 1683

The first ‘Gardner’ mentioned in the Borrowers Register is on the 12th May, 1753, and he was John Allan, Gardner at Innerpeffray. He borrowed “The Saints Highway To Happiness” by Thomas Taylor. His next visit was in February 1854, when he borrowed “Silva, or a discourse on forest-trees and the Propagation of Timber” by John Evelyn, 1706. He borrowed again in April 1764, in March 1766, when his choices were religious texts, and then we don’t see his name again until 28th November, 1776, when he borrows John Reid’s “The Scots Gard’ner”, 1683 (above).

Then on 25th December he borrows “Every Man His Own Gardener” by Thomas Mawe, 1771. There is no further mention of him until July 1807, when he is still recorded as ‘Gardner at Innerpeffray’, Crieff, and he borrows Daniel Hume’s “Essays”. This is the last time we see his name.

Thomas Mawe, Every Man His Own Gardner, 1771

There were two other ‘Gardner’ entries in the 18th Century, each one borrowing on only one occasion. On 18th January, 1755, John Maxton, Gardner, borrowed John Evelyn’s “Silva”, and on 7th July, 1780, James Smith, Gardner, Colquhalzie, also borrowed “Silva” and Mawe’s “Every Man his own Gardener”.

John Evelyn, Silva, A discourse of Forest Trees, 1706

There may have been other gardeners borrowing but no more were recorded as such until 25th July, 1859, when we find John Barnet, Gardner, Inchbrakie. From that year onwards the numbers increase, with some only borrowing once or twice, whilst others visited the library more frequently.
A succession of gardeners came from the Millearn, Abercairney, Dollarie, Colquhalzie and Inchbrakie Estates. Millearn Estate seems almost to have encouraged their staff to come to the library and ‘Duncan Connacker, Gardner, Millearn’, borrows on numerous occasions between December 1859 and January 1861. ‘Fraser McFarlan, Gardner, Millearn’, often comes on the same day as Duncan, and there are other ‘Gardners’ from Millearn – Dugald Taylor, Robert Ferguson, John Drummond and James McInnes – whose names appear occasionally alongside the other two.

Neither Duncan nor Fraser borrowed books on gardening! Duncan obviously enjoyed reading Robert Burns “Life and Works”, which he borrowed three times, and the novels of Sir Walter Scott. He also borrowed The Scots Magazine and his final book, returned on 3rd February, 1861, was “Five years of a hunter’s life in the far interior of South Africa” by Roualeyn Gordon-Cumming, 1850. Robert Ferguson was the only one of these Millearn ‘Gardners’ who borrowed anything relating to his work and the book was “Rudiments of Vegetable Physiology” by William Chambers, 1844.
On the 1861 Census, living in the Gardeners Bothy, Millearn, are Duncan (18), Dugald (23) and Robert (14), all recorded as ‘Journeyman Gard’ner’, and George Anderson (55), ‘Gardner’, his wife and children. Duncan appears to have left Millearn in the 1860s and moved to Rannoch Lodge, where we find him recorded in 1871 as ‘Gamekeeper’. By 1881 he is both ‘Gardener and Gamekeeper’ at Glenalmond House but then continues to move around Perthshire, employed as a mix of ‘Gardener, Coachman and Gamekeeper’.
There were many other ‘gardener’ borrowers in the 19th century, including Donald McOmish, Charles Campbell, John Robertson, George Stewart, George Durward, James Drummond, James McNab and David Smeaton, to name just a few.
However, in this ‘Meet the Borrower’, I want to concentrate on Donald McOmish. Donald was born in 1835, to parents Donald McOmish, a Sawyer by trade, and Elizabeth (McEwan). We first find him on the 1841 Census, living with his mother and siblings John, 9, and Margaret, 8, on High Street, Crieff. There is no trace of him on the 1851 Census, but by then he would have been serving his apprenticeship and may have been missed when information was gathered. Information discovered, suggests that he may have served most of his apprenticeship under Roderick MacDonald at Drummond Castle, and he may also have spent time at Cromlix. His name first appears in the Borrowers Register on 17th November, 1857, and indicates that he was working at Dollarie. Two of the first books he borrowed were about lives of Nelson and the Wellington, indicating an interest in history.
By March 1859, his borrowing record shows that he is at Shearerston, Innerpeffray. On the three occasions he visits the library that year he borrows volumes of “Travels in the East” by Alphonse de Lamartine, 1850. The next entry for him is in March 1861, when he is recorded as “Gardener, Inchbrakie”, and he borrows Philip Miller’s “The Gardeners Dictionary”, 1768.

Philip Miller, The Gardeners Dictionary, 1768

However, by the 1861 Census, taken on 7th April, he is living with his mother at Belview, Crieff, although his occupation is still listed as ‘Gardener’. He borrows again in 1862, “The Wisdome of the Ancients” by Francis Bacon,1681, and Thomas May’s “The history of the Parliament of England”, 1647. Then in February 1863, he borrows “The Scots Gard’ner” by John Reid, and “The Modern Gardener – selected from the Diary Manuscript of the late Thomas Hitt, by James Meade. In November 1863, he borrows the “Plays of William Shakespeare”. This was the last time he borrowed until 1897.

On the 1st November 1864, in Crieff, Donald married Ann Graham. By 1865 he had established his first Nursery, at Currachreen, Perth Road, Crieff. On the 1871 Census, we see that he and Ann have a daughter, Jessie, 5, and a son, Donald, 3, and are living on Perth Road. Donald is recorded as a “Nursery and Seedsman”. His mother has moved to East High Street, Crieff, and is recorded as an “Outdoor Worker” and so was almost certainly helping her son at his Nursery. After the death of Robert Faikney, Nurseryman at Laiker Farm, Crieff, it would seem that Donald took over the tenancy of that land and may well have purchased the whole stock of “Forest Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs and other plants” which were advertised for sale in the Perth Advertiser “ one lot by Private Bargain”. The Nursery went from strength to strength and in the December of 1878 he is advertising The Crieff Nurseries in the Strathearn Herald:

“50,000 Larch.
All sorts of Forest, Fruit and Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.”

During his lifetime he specialised in the growing of timber and was responsible for planting Larches at various estates in Upper Strathearn.
By 1881, Donald was working nine and a half acres and employing three men, three women and a boy. The family had grown with the births of John, Malcolm, Elizabeth, Margaret and very new baby, Robert. Another son, George, would be born in 1883, but sadly, daughter Jessie died the same year, aged just seventeen. At one point, Donald’s nurseries covered ninety acres, at Currochreen and Laiker Farm, at Croftnappoch and Milnab. Once his sons left school they all worked with their father as Nurserymen. Son Donald died in September 1897, having been ill for over a year. It is interesting that it was in October 1897, when the family were now living at Croftnappock House, Ramsay Street, Crieff, that Donald senior, after a gap of thirty four years, returned to Innerpeffray to borrow a book.
Another son, Robert, borrowed a book for the first time in November 1897, “Ferns: British and Foreign” by John Smith, 1879, and then visited again in January 1898, when George also borrowed a book on the same day. Robert worked in the nurseries and then he served in the First World War, having first joined for duty in March 1916, when he was 35 years old. He was injured twice, from gun shot wounds, and survived to be discharged from the Royal Artillery in 1919.
Whether he ever returned to live in Crieff we are not sure, but by 1924 he is living in Hertford, England, and is listed in the local trades directory as a fruiterer. Perhaps he had his own small nursery growing fruit, because when he married, aged 47, in 1927, his occupation is recorded as Nurseryman.
Another of Donald’s sons, Malcolm, also a nurseryman, borrowed from Innerpeffray for the first time in March 1898, and the book was “Oceana, Or England and Her Colonies” by James Anthony Froude, 1886. Perhaps reading this book gave him the idea of emigrating to Australia, for that is what he did in the early 1900s. He went to Queensland, where he had a sugar plantation, before moving to Melbourne. He became a Missioner and an Evangelist Open Air Campaigner, often described as a ‘virile speaker’, and his ‘gospel motorcar’ became well known. His son, Donald, retired as the Chief Inspector of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and was also heavily involved with the Salvation Army. Jokingly, or otherwise, Donald described himself as “… as a hard drinker of whisky – half a bottle of Glenturret a day!” At some point Malcolm was joined in Australia by his sister Margaret, who was living with him in Queensland when he died in 1949. Margaret was staying with her nephew, Donald, in Melbourne, when she died in 1967, aged 90. Donald’s Nurseries had gone from strength to strength, supplying trees and plants all over the country, and further afield, and were visited by many. He died in 1905 and for fifteen years following his death the estate was administered by Trustees. Daughter Elizabeth married Arthur Grimwood in 1907.
On 7th December 1907, D. McOmish, The Nurseries Crieff, were advertising in the Strathearn Herald:

ROSES for all types.
6,000 Roses have been sent from my Nurseries
during the past three weeks to all parts of Great Britain.

Roses were the speciality of son John and plants were exported all over the world. On 17th October 1908, again in the Strathearn Herald:

First Annual
Sale of Nursery Stock
At D. McOmish’s Currachreen Nurseries, Crieff.
Fruit trees, Gooseberry, Shrubs, Hedging, Conifers, Flowering Shrubs, Laurels.
1,000,000 Transplanted Forest Trees – Scots Fir, Larch, Spruce & Douglas Fir
200,000 2yr seedling Larch
100,000 seedling Scots Fir.

At the onset of the First World War, the land use had to be changed to food production and the family uprooted and burnt half a million young trees, for which they could not claim any compensation. In 1920 the business was divided into separate firms under the ownership of two of Donald’s sons, John and George. Both brothers would go on to make a name for themselves in their specialist areas of horticulture.
John, the only one of Donald’s sons who is not recorded as a borrower, became the proprietor of D. McOmish, Currachreen Nurseries, which occupied a site of twenty acres on the Perth Road. The site easily attracted passing customers who stopped to admire the colourful displays and even King George V is supposed to have visited and ordered specimen scented Poplars for Balmoral.
Under John’s ownership the nursery became noted for Roses, Phloxes, Herbaceous Plants and Dahlias. It produced over five thousand Phloxes annually from cuttings, as well as propagating numerous new varieties, such as ‘Gleneagles Glory’ which became popular throughout Europe. It was later grown extensively in the Netherlands. Over the years the Nurseries won numerous awards, nine gold medals and a silver cup for their plants and flowers, as well as the National Sweetpea Society’s supreme award for their display of Sweetpeas.
On the 16th September 1933, John advertised in the Strathearn Herald:

Come and See the
Dahlias, Roses etc.
only address
D. McOmish, Currachreen Nursery, Crieff

Currachreen Nurseries continued to advertise throughout the 1940s and into the early 1950s They grew a huge variety of flowering and vegetable plants and were posting these all over the country. Mail Order is nothing new! John died in 1955.
The Croft Nurseries, established by his father in 1869, was taken over by son George and in 1920 became known as George McOmish Ltd.. He also owned a shop on West High Street, Crieff, where the seed department was based. George’s lifelong interest was landscape gardening and he specialised in Alpines. A keen member of the Scottish Alpine Club (for those interested in Alpine flora rather than mountaineering!), plants would regularly arrive at his nursery from France, Switzerland, Bavaria and even the Himalaya. The nursery maintained a stock of over twenty thousand Alpine plants and one of the main attractions was the Rock Garden, where the plants could be grown and displayed in more ‘natural’ surroundings.
In 1934 George was advertising in the Perthshire Advertiser:

Croft Nurseries, Crieff
Rock garden plants.
Alpine, Himalayan, Chinese & all from nearly every country
Dwarf shrubs for rock landscape.
On 26th May 1937 in the Perthshire Advertiser:
Croft Nurseries, Pitenzie Road, Crieff
Seed Dept. 10 West High Street

Largest & most select stock for years.

Another of George’s special collections was that of his Scotch ‘Carnation Pinks’, which he
cultivated to be more suitable for growing in a northern climate. His nursery also grew flowering and ornamental shrubs, more than a hundred varieties of heather and a collection of Hybrid Primulas. Croft Nursery was still advertising

“…alpines and rock garden dwarf shrubs, dwarf
rockery, rhododendrons , azaleas and conifers” and “….weeping cherries, Clematis, Camellias, Magnolias..”

and other choice plants and flowering trees and shrubs, right up until 1972. George died in 1974.


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A Library In Lockdown

Looking back over a year of lockdown, our Keeper of Books shares thoughts on libraries’ ability to adapt.

The Library of Innerpeffray was Scotland’s first free, public lending library, founded in 1680 by local nobleman and landowner David Drummond, third Lord Madertie.  The library is located in Perthshire in central Scotland where the Lowlands and the Highlands meet in a fertile river valley or strath called Strathearn.  This is not perhaps the first place you would expect to find such a landmark institution: the Library’s location is a source of constant wonder to visitors today, explained by the proximity of the founder’s home and its original site in the Chapel of St Mary of Innerpeffray.  After the Reformation of the Scottish church, Innerpeffray Chapel was a convenient empty building – and perhaps one that inspired a suitable level of awe and respect – beside a busy crossing place of the River Earn.

The Library moved slightly (5 metres to the west) 82 years later and now is housed in an elegant neoclassical two-storey building, purpose-built at the instruction of Robert Hay Drummond.  Hay Drummond inherited the Innerpeffray estate in 1739 and was keen to bring it up to date, buying new books and commissioning the architect Charles Freebairn.  Hay Drummond went on to become Archbishop of York, but this busy and influential man still took the time to care for a small, local institution on his family estate in Scotland.

Madertie’s Will, written in 1680, and revised in 1694, states the purpose of the Library to be for the benefit of young students and he charges his successors to maintain a stock of books ‘for time coming’ and to be ‘provided with a Keeper’.  The Library is still run by the Innerpeffray Mortification, a charitable trust set up in 1696 after his death, and today combines the role of museum, reference library and visitor experience, caring for a significant collection and sharing the story of this very small but special national treasure.  I am the thirty-second person to hold the post of Keeper of Books in Innerpeffray’s 340 year history.

Innerpeffray opens for the visitor season on 1st March; and last year it was a scant four weeks later that, faced with growing anxiety from our volunteer team and a torrent of confusing media messages, our Trustees closed the doors again: lockdown in Scotland had begun.

The question that faced us here at Innerpeffray was – when your purpose is to be open, what do you do when you close? It helps when your Library is in the middle of nowhere.  For many libraries, closed is closed: no staff, no services, no behind the scenes catch-up with cataloguing, but at Innerpeffray the Keeper lives on site and going in every day was not just possible but desirable. Checking a historic building is just one function of this role; unlike many colleagues I was able to visit regularly, ensuring the conditions were suitable for our rare books collection and that there was no damage from wind and weather.

Initially, it felt busier than ever.  With a flurry of telephone calls and learning the new video conferencing options our Trustees confirmed the Keeper should stay working.  Email brought a series of cancellations.  We had spent years building up regular stops from tour operators, guides and cultivating visits from tourists to the area and interest group outings; recognised last year with a Visit Scotland Thistle Award for Best Regional Heritage Experience.  One by one these disappeared from our calendar.  The tourism sector in Scotland is worth £10 million to the Scottish economy and there are committed individuals and organisations in the industry who were galvanised into extremely positive action and advocacy.  Locally and nationally we started receiving updates on support schemes and advice from the heritage and museums sector, from the visitor attraction community and from colleagues in public and special collection libraries.

The next phase of lockdown was sifting through the advice to determine what suited our particular case, applying for funding that was available and, for the Trustees, looking at the financial position.  At least half of our income comes from visitors – tickets for entry, donations on site and a series of fundraising events, like concerts, all of which looked more and more doubtful as the month of April progressed. Reading the guidance, which changed on a weekly basis, became a trial.

With the immediate crisis stabilised, our thoughts turned to what we could do to keep in touch with our audience and our all-important volunteer team.  We are fortunate to have a wide circle of Friends of the Library and past visitors.  We felt it was important to let them know the Library was still here, even if they couldn’t visit, and also to try to engage new visitors for the future.  I wrestled with the conflicting ideas that a hands-on visit at Innerpeffray was the most special part of the experience versus the need to communicate digitally. Thus Tours with the Keeper were born.  I wrote and filmed a trial piece where I took books in the Library on a theme and gave the virtual equivalent of a guided tour.  A steep learning curve around the technology coupled with the practical difficulties of making a quality product single-handed certainly kept the Keeper busy, but it was also a joy to be working with the collection again, and doing what we do best, opening the books and sharing them.

We were missing our volunteer team: crucial to the running of the Library today, we have an enthusiastic and committed group of people who give up their time to help us share the collection as guides.  Mainly of retired age, the team is therefore made up of those who are more vulnerable and included people who were shielding.  There was a slow realisation that the sudden and dramatic disruption of the pandemic was not just a short-term issue, the longer-term operation was in jeopardy.  During the lockdown, and making use of the Zoom platform, we instituted a virtual elevenses (bring your own tea or coffee), to keep in touch, allowing me to update the team and most importantly to maintain a social contact amongst the group. Professional bodies and umbrella groups began to offer seminars and social gatherings on virtual platforms as well and I felt extremely fortunate that I was not one of those furloughed from their jobs, isolated from their institutions and collections and unable to work.  Maintaining contact with my team also meant that when restrictions were lifted enough to permit re-opening most of the staff were relatively informed.  Some of our team will not be back this year, but we have been staying in touch.  We developed a new protocol for visitors by the simple expedient of walking the customer journey ourselves, several times, with different people, risk assessment in hand.  By a series of reviews and tests we added all the hygiene and distancing measures, including creating an external ‘waiting room’ in a gazebo outside our front door.  We instituted visits by appointment, using an online calendar but also wanted to be flexible, giving the option to telephone; and because we know many people find Innerpeffray by accident, offering slots to those who just drop by.

As I write this, the Library has re-opened and been welcoming visitors again for the past three weeks.  We have had to restrict the number of visitors, which has the bonus of having our lovely little library all to yourself for a private visit; and restrict access to our books, which we are finding harder to accept as this is such an integral part of our identity.  Our exhibitions for the year: Extreme Weather; Scottish Royalty and a new display on Plague and Pestilence have all been popular, however we have had less than a quarter of our usual visitors.  Reduced visitors means less income, though this has been mitigated somewhat by an Appeal that attracted many generous donations and the success of our new online shop.  The shop was a new venture for us, started in March to assist with event ticketing: with all events cancelled or postponed the merchandise side flourished, and our Keeper of Books badges caused a minor sensation on Twitter. 

As Innerpeffray looks to the future it is reassuring to feel that we have a library that moves with the times; whether that is the dawn of the 18th century or the 21st.  A change in operations is nothing new: our business model will adapt, we will find a new approach to raising funds for the future  and the digital development provides new pathways for us to connect with a global audience.  And still the books remain on the shelves inspiring us to pass on their stories, to share them and their wonders.  Which puts me in mind of the words of Czech poet Czeslaw Milosz:

“Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.”     

This article originally appears in Alexandria, a journal of national and international library issues.  1. Haggerty L. Libraries in lockdown. Alexandria. January 2021. doi:10.1177/0955749020985161

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Tour of the Tops – Episode 6 “A Shameless Catch-Penny Jobb”

Welcome to the sixth, and last for 2020, in this series of blogs that have been appearing every now and then to pique the interest of the wonderful followers of the life of Innerpeffray Library. For those of you lucky enough to have visited the Library, you will have noticed that the shelves really do go from floor to ceiling and, as a result, there are some shelves that really do not get the attention that they perhaps deserve. This series aims to remedy this injustice by dragging out the ladder and going for a quick Tour of the Tops to see what gems there are awaiting true recognition! Unusually for the series, this ‘Episode’ sticks rigidly to one type of book, but, despite this limitation, I can still offer a variety of books! Interest piqued? Well, this ‘Episode’ looks at a selection of late 18th Century book reviews, so we shall read contemporary reviews of books in the Library collection, dive into the cut-and-thrust literary debate around the American War of Independence and have a good chuckle at some of the shorter book reviews presented (whence the inspiration for the title of this ‘Episode’ came!).

Before I begin, I know I normally include the frontispiece of the books that I am looking at, but as I was dipping in and out of a number of different books for this, I thought it would get somewhat boring to be looking at multiple very similar frontispieces, so instead, here is a photo of the Library’s large selection of “Monthly Reviews” and “Critical Reviews”.

I don’t actually know whether the Library had a subscription to these reviews, or if they were part of a bulk donation in later years, but I find it really interesting that there were two subscription changes; firstly from the Critical Review to the Monthly Review in 1772 and then back again in 1781. Both magazines were in publication well into the 19th Century, so it’s not as if one had stopped for a time. The Monthly Review was the older, being founded in 1749, and the Critical Review was set up as a rival in 1756. Being a frugal Yorkshireman, I wonder if the prices went up for one and not the other and this prompted a subscription swap, but I have no evidence with which to back this up!

With so many reviews to explore, I decided to start by trying to find books in the Library collection that may have been reviewed in the magazines, and I was fortunate to quickly stumble upon a review of Pennant’s Tour in Scotland. Thomas Pennant was a naturalist who, well, went on a Tour of Scotland in the late 1760s and his account of the trip was very highly regarded. It was therefore very exciting to read a contemporary review of the book that highlights just how well received it was. Scotland at this time was, well, shall we say, not seen in the best light by many Englishman, and the review highlights this point with this quite fabulous pair of paragraphs…

The “acrimonious Churchill” was Charles Churchill, an 18th-Century satirist
Clearly one of the readers was Samuel Johnson, who made his own tour a few years later!

The extremely positive tone continues throughout the review. Interestingly, the review quotes extensively from the book and is as much a summary of the book’s contents as it is an actual review of the content. Given the novelty of this work, it is perhaps possible that the reviewer felt the need to give a large amount of detail as to the topics covered to his audience in order to help them better understand its purpose. As an example, see the section to the right that covers Strathearn. (NB frequent readers of the Innerpeffray blog may be wondering why I’ve not chosen the passage that covers Innerpeffray – this is because Pennant’s original tour was such a success that he went BACK a few years later and wrote a follow-up that also included the Hebrides. Innerpeffray was only visited on that second visit.)

Whilst looking in another volume of the Monthly Review for reviews of books concerning the American War of Independence, I came across a review for another of the Library’s books; Coryat’s Crudities, featured in Episode 2 of the Tour of the Tops.

Having read Coryat’s Crudities, I think this is one of the most superb reviews one could have of the book. I love the description of him as an “odd, half-witted, half learned rambling fellow” and a “well-meaning, intelligent, kind of buffoon”. If you, dear reader, have words as kind as these for me, then I would feel that I have done my job well in these tours! As this is a reprint, it is also a chance to see a bit of historiography in action – seeing the early 17th Century from the viewpoint of the late 18th. I have to agree with the querying as to whether the books were read for amusement or as serious sources of information on travel – one suspects the former overruled the latter in Coryat’s case! It is also interesting to note the reference to books of travels being more plentiful in the late 18th Century than in Coryat’s day; evidence already of the impact that Pennant’s Tour had had even within a few years of its publication.

We move on now to look at the American War of Independence. One of the most popular books in the Library is the Scots Magazine of 1776, which contains a most entertaining rebuttal of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the full text of the Declaration itself. I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of books were being published on the matter around this time, as well as seeing how they were being received in the world of the book critic. Fortunately for me, it was clear that it was as headline-dominating then as you might imagine, as there were dedicated sections to the “American Controversy” in each month of the Review (noting that the books in the Library each contain six months’ worth of book reviews). Going into each and every book would take far too long, so this is very much a curated selection to give a flavour of what was going on in late 1776.

What becomes immediately apparent on looking through each month’s section on the “American Controversy” is that a certain Dr. Price seems to be the focus of interest for a large number of books, both for and against his work. On the left is a good example of a review of one of those books that seeks to discredit Dr. Price. Intriguingly, the author of the review seems to be somewhat disparaging towards this book and only grudgingly concedes that its author makes “some remarks that seem to merit the attention”.

The impression that the reviewers are pro-American is absolutely reinforced by the approach taken to other books reviewed throughout this period. Authors who dare to disagree with Dr. Price and the cause of American liberty are often ridiculed and concessions to their ability to dismantle aspects of Dr. Price’s work are only very reluctantly conceded. Authors found in agreement are easily praised. It is fascinating to me that there was such a body happy to stand in diametric opposition to the British Government at the time on this highly critical matter. The work of the Monthly Review appears to be to act as Dr. Price’s standard bearer and to defend his work against all who opposed it. Given that the reviewers were anonymous, I almost wonder if Dr. Price was among them! Before moving on to other reviews, I want to quickly show you the original review of Dr. Price’s work. However, ‘quickly’ may be somewhat difficult, as it takes about a dozen pages across two separate months of the Monthly Review. Below is a small selection of quotes taken from the review to give you a flavour.

The thrusts of Dr. Price’s arguments appear to be twofold: Firstly, there is no justification for Great Britain to force the American colonialists to submit to their will – instead, citizens of both are “fellow-subjects”. Secondly, that Great Britain is in no position to finance and support the war that would be necessary to subjugate the colonies. The review is gushing in its praise for Dr. Price, and quotes liberally from his works to support their case. It is, therefore, perhaps no surprise that the reviewers spend such time defending a work that they praise so highly.

On the left, we have an extract from the review of “An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress” and I include it here for interest as it epitomises the tone and approach taken by the reviewers when faced with books with which they completely disagree. One notes that, in the midst of the flurry of rhetorical questions, the main argument against the author is that he uses some nasty words for the Americans. I have to say that there are some choice phrases in this paragraph – my personal favourite being “tongue-doughty scolding-bout” – so I hope you enjoy reading through it!

The review to the right I have selected because of its direct connections to Scotland and (almost!) the same part of the country as the Library. It is about the work of Dr. John Witherspoon, a Scotsman who was one of the first Presidents of the College at New Jersey, now Princeton University, one of the USA’s foremost seats of learning. Dr. Witherspoon had a quite adventurous life, being captured by Jacobites during the 1745/6 rebellion and imprisoned in Doune Castle for a time before escaping. He had moved to Princeton in 1768 and was a firm believer in the American Independence – to the extent that he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1776. The review of his sermon is, unsurprisingly, extremely positive as a result. It is interesting that he includes a justification for why American independence would actually be a good thing for Britain, although I am not overly sure that his sums are correct in suggesting that “for every shilling gained by taxes, we should lose ten in the way of trade”! There is also a slightly prophetic note in the final point – America’s “influence in peopling and enriching that great continent”.

Having seen how the reviewers carefully write to favour one side of the “American controversy” over the other, I thought it appropriate to end with this short section. I find it somewhat ironic that such clearly biased reviewers actually had the nerve to include this sentence in a review. It is, however, something that still resonates today as we are so good at putting ourselves into little bubbles where it is all to easy to block out dissenting voices and decide how credible an account is solely based on the opinions of its author.

I want to close out the final Tour of the Tops for 2020 with something a little more light-hearted than colonial discontent, so I present a small selection of humorous book reviews that I came across. The first few are, I’m afraid, still connected to American independence, but not in such great detail as the above extracts.

We start with this review in full. I have cropped nothing. One can only imagine the effort put into the work and the dismay of the author on receiving such a curt and somewhat harsh review as reward for their efforts!

Another short review, but again cutting in its analysis of this work! A small note – there seems to have a movement at this time to associate the concept of Liberty with that of Licentiousness, hence the title. The thrust of this was that with unfettered liberty, people would inevitably end up participating in all sorts of activities. I leave the reader to come to their own conclusion as to whether this is a fair point!

This final American-Revolution-related review (I promise!) is written in such a way that just makes you imagine the author reading it out loud as they wrote it with THE most sarcastic tone of voice! I will certainly be stealing the line “so illegible that the devil himself could not make out the meaning” given the quality of some work emails I get from time to time…

It’s amazing what people write about – perhaps almost more amazing is the fact that it was considered worthy of a review! I do enjoy the slight towards poets in general, as it is a habit that we still see today whenever millionaires are praised for charity work and donations that probably barely impact their fortunes! Still, this poem was so successful, it spawned a follow-up…

It is reassuring to see that the idea of a poem called “The Duchess of Devonshire’s Cow” was as ridiculous then as it sounds now. I should also reassure my reader that I was not looking here for obscenity! For that, well…

Yes, a poem dedicated to the greatest ***** in her Majesty’s Dominions – written by a Woman of Fashion! I refuse to make a guess as to the missing word in such a place, but it does rather shock me that a piece called “The Temple of Prostitution” would merit a mention in a book review periodical. Although, having said that, they do review some other works in a similar vein…

And so we come full circle with the “shameless catch-penny jobb” that I used for the title of this Tour. I don’t think that this book stood the test of time based on this review! The disdainful tone of the reviewer is most amusing.

So ends the sixth ‘episode’ of the Tour of the Tops with amusing snippets from book reviews! I hope that you have enjoyed the range of reviews on offer from the hardest to reach shelves of Innerpeffray! As the Library has now descended into hibernation for the winter, the “Tours” will be taking a break until March. With these reviews, we have finished the first six cases of the Library and so 2021 will see us take a 90 degree turn and head along the back wall. I look forwards to sharing more finds with you then!

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Meet the Borrowers: Innerpeffray’s 18th Century Women

This edition of Meet the Borrowers differs from the usual format in that it mentions all the women whose names appear in the Borrowers’ Register between the years 1747 and 1789. There may well have been women who borrowed books from the collection in the years between the founding of the library in 1680 and the earliest written records we hold, dating from 5th June 1747, but there are no documents to tell us.

The majority of these women are recorded as a Borrower on only one date, but it indicates to us that they were reading and gives us an insight into the subject matter. Despite using the vast amount of information and records that are available, and easily accessible, to a researcher today, we have been unable to discover very much at all about some of them. What we do know is that most of them were members of ordinary families, employed by the local land owners and living on the various estates in the area, including Innerpeffray. The only exceptions to this were the Hepburn ladies, of the Colquhalzie estate, and Louisa Drummond, a member of the wider Drummond family of Drummond Castle.

The first female recorded in the Borrowers’ Register is Beatrix Faichney, daughter of James Faichney and Margaret Richart. The family lived at Knappielands, a farm between Innerpeffray and Muthill, and a location that is still named on maps today. We know from baptism records of the Episcopal Church, Muthill, that at least eleven children were born to James and Margaret, including three sets of twins – William (1/9/1726), twins Elspeth and Jean (23/5/1727 – and this sad note recorded with the date ‘born before time. Jean died a few minutes after baptism’), twins Thomas and Joseph (17/5/1728), Beatrix (31/1/1731), Margaret (2/1/1734), twins Janet and Lilias (24/6/1738), James (2/5/1742) and Jean (2/5/1751).

The are only two entries for Beatrix, both entered at the bottom of the first page of the Borrowers’ Register, and the date was 29th August, 1747. From these entries we are led to conclude that Beatrix was probably employed as a servant on the Abercairney estate. Perhaps this was not the first time that she had borrowed books from Innerpeffray for ‘Mr Moray, at Abercairney’, and for herself.

The first entry reads as follows:
Lent to Mr Moray at Abercairney by Beatrix Faichney.
1st Volume of Clarendon Civil Wars, the History of Queen Elizabeth & the 1st Volume of the Compleat history of Europe.

Second entry on the same date:
Lent Beatrix Faichney Christ the way the truth and the life.

On the 24th March, 1751, in the Parish of Crieff, Beatrix married William Roben. Unfortunately, after this date, the couple disappear from our story, as no further records of them living in the area, or further afield, have been discovered so far.

The second female Borrower named in the Register is Janet Cooper, living at Kirkhill of Innerpeffray. Her only entry is dated 12th September, 1747.

Lent to Janet Cooper in the Kirkhill of Innerpeffray
book on the unchangeableness of God.

Other than where Janet was living, we have been unable to discover anything else about her. The only possible reference is to a Janet Cowper, baptised at Fowlis Wester, in 1723.

Left: Mr. Pearse’s last Legacy – Two Discourses’ London 1687

The next female Borrower was ‘Elizabeth Faichney, in Loanhead’ on the 16th September, 1752. This Elizabeth was the daughter of Andrew Faichney and Elspeth Brugh, of Drumsachy/Drumsachany, baptised on the 13th November, 1730. There are baptisms recorded for three other children – John (13/11/1725), when the parents are listed as living at Innerpeffray, followed by Jean (15/5/1728) and James (22/1/1732) when they were living at Drumsachy/ Drumsachany. We have been unable to find any map, or descriptive reference, to enable us to identify this location. Drumness and Macheny, two adjacent settlements, may give us a clue as to where it might have been. Or it may even have been Drummawhance. When place names were being written, down the writer at the time would frequently spell them as they were pronounced. What appears on paper may bear little or no resemblance to the correct spelling!

Lent to Elizabeth Faichney in Loanhead Burroughs Saints Happiness

There were numerous branches of the Faichney family living in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries, several of whom borrowed books from the Library. However, from the Borrowers’ Register we can see that both John and James Faichney, in Loanhead, were also borrowing books in 1752 and 1753. John was a Master Stone Mason and he was in charge of the construction of the building in which the library has been housed since 1762.
The name ‘Margaret Morison, of Innerpeffray’, first appears on the 10th May, 1755, when she borrows ‘An Abridgement of Dr. Preston’s VVorks’ by William Jemmat, M.A., 1648 (see left)

There are two later entries for Margaret, one on 29th September, 1756, when she borrows William Perkins ‘Cases of Conscience’, and another on 13th November, 1756, when she borrows William Gouge’s ‘God’s three arrovves’. On the 24th July, 1756, a ‘Duncan Morison, Kirkhill of Innerpeffray, a servant to James Sharp’, borrowed a book. Perhaps he was Margaret’s husband.

The next female Borrower was ‘John Allan’s wife’ on the 29th September, 1756. John Allan had married Helen Dawson, in Muthill, and births and baptisms were recorded for their children, the first being Ann, born on 12th February 1745. She was followed by Mary (24/2/1748), James (7/7/1750), John (9/3/1751), John (20/3/1753) – it was common practice to give the same name to another child after the death of the first one of that name and this occurs again with James (27/7/1755). Then there was Helen (16/11/1757), Margaret (24/7/1760), David (26/4/1764) and Christian (26/4/1767).
John Allan is recorded in the Borrowers’ Register as ‘Gardner at Innerpeffray’, and he borrowed books from 12th May, 1753, until 1756 and then again between 1764 and 1766. However, there is only the one entry for his wife, who would no doubt have been fully occupied looking after their young family and would have had little time to sit and read. Interestingly, the one book that she did borrow was ‘An Abridgement of Dr. Preston’s VVorks’ edited by William Jemmat, M.A., 1648, the same book that her near neighbour, Margaret Morison, had borrowed the previous year. Perhaps Margaret had discussed the book with Helen Allan and encouraged her to come to the library and borrow it for herself.

There was no borrowing at all recorded between the 17th February, 1759 and 16th November, 1763. This was the time when the building that now houses the Library of Innerpeffray was under construction.
There is then a lack of female borrowers until ‘Mrs. Mary Drummond, Innerpeffray’, on the 18th December, 1765. She borrows ‘The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, Begun in the Year 1641’ by Edward Earl of Clarendon. Oxford 1702 and ‘A Collection of Voyages and Travels Vols. 3 & 4’ . London 1704

On the 9th May, 1771, ‘Louisa Drummond at the Castle of Drummond’, borrowed ‘La Sainte Bible de Port Royal. Louisa was a daughter of Andrew Drummond, who served as a colonel in the French army, and his wife, Magdalena Silvia, who was the daughter of a Lieutenant General in the French army.

She borrowed the same book again on the 31st August, 1773, along with ‘Goguet origins
des loix, des arts, et des sciences. 1758’

Mrs Hepburn, wife of John Hepburn Esq. of Colquhalzie, became a borrower, on the 6th December, 1775. John Hepburn had succeeded to the Colquhalzie Estate on the death of his mother’s cousin, Dorothea Stewart. He married Margaret Bissett, daughter of James Bissett of Ferdal, and they had two children, a daughter, Helen, and a son, Thomas.
The first book Mrs. Hepburn borrowed was ‘A Harmony of four Gospels’ by James Macknight. Her husband was already a borrower before her and their son, Thomas, had first borrowed a book from Innerpeffray in 1771. He borrows again in 1772, 1776 and then with much more frequency between 1790 and 1813.
The next time we see the name of ‘Mrs. Hepburn, of Colquhalzie’, is in January 1782, when she borrows ‘(Jeremiah) Burroughs Saints Happiness’ and ‘An exposition of the Creed’ by John Pearson. However, this entry could be either Mrs. (Margaret) Hepburn borrowing once more or it could be Mrs. (Mary) Hepburn, Thomas’s wife, whom he married in 1781. An entry for a Mrs. Hepburn, Colquhalzie, does not appear again until 23rd August, 1805, when she borrows ‘Biographia Britannica’ and Jeremiah Seed’s ‘Sermons’.

On 1st January, 1789, Margaret Malcom, at Mill of Gask, borrows Burrough’s ‘Gospel Revelation’. There is only this one entry for her and other than where she was living at the time, we have no other information about her. She could be the Margaret Malcom baptised in Auchterarder on the 18th January, 1767, and daughter of William Malcom and Betty Clement. She may be the Margaret Malcom whose name is recorded on the 1841 Census, as living at East Kirkton, Auchterarder. These are the kind of dilemmas faced when trying to identify many Borrowers, both male and female. especially when there are numerous families living in the same areas with the same forenames, surnames and of similar ages.

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Tour of the Tops – Episode 5 “Unusual Reviews”

Welcome to the fifth in this series of blogs that have been appearing every now and then to pique the interest of the wonderful followers of the life of Innerpeffray Library. As always, the theme is a general one, but I try to ensure that there is a variety of books, so hopefully there is something for everyone. For those of you lucky enough to have visited the Library, you will have noticed that the shelves really do go from floor to ceiling and, as a result, there are some shelves that really do not get the attention that they perhaps deserve. This series aims to remedy this injustice by dragging out the ladder and going for a quick Tour of the Tops to see what gems there are awaiting true recognition! This ‘Episode’ looks at some rather exotic food, a rather misleading (to 21st century eyes at least!) essay on tobacco and that rare find – a 17th century book that actually mentions the Library’s founder!

The first book I want to share with you today is all about the East and West Indies. The book is a translation of José de Acosta’s work describing the New World in great detail. Acosta was a Spanish Jesuit missionary who spent a significant amount of time in South America and was one of the first Europeans to describe altitude sickness and to attribute it to the thinness of the air. Given this was two centuries before oxygen was discovered, he was quite far ahead of his time! Fortunately for us, the Library’s copy is indeed a translation, so I was able to read it without too much difficulty! It’s very much the kind of book that you could read cover to cover given the time, but I decided to focus on two specific aspects. One thing to note, as you may have perhaps already guessed, is that the book’s focus is on what we now call South America, and there is not so much on the East and West Indies. I wonder if this is a slight mistranslation of Historia natural y moral de las Indias, the original Spanish title and someone assumed that the plural was because it covered both East and West Indies? Either way, don’t expect much about the Philippines or Jamaica in the book!

So having just said that the book is primarily concerned with South America, I am now going to seemingly contradict myself, as the first thing I want to share is all about… the Poles. No, not the inhabitants of Poland, but the antipodean regions of the globe. There is a rather fascinating description of the form of the world and the inhabitants thereof, as you can see in the pictures below (nothing that the third is not the page immediately after the second!)

Quite a lot of text to digest there, apologies! Starting on the left, we have a description of the world, although not quite as we understand it! I’m sure none of my readers still cling to the myth that Colombus believed the world was flat when he set sail for China, but there have been various historical figures that believed the world is flat, or bowl-shaped (with slightly concave sides), or even floating in water in an endless ocean. It is the latter theory upon which this text touches in the first and second photos, but concluding that “the Sea is never divided from the Lande above a thousand Leagues.” (approximately 3000 miles). It’s an interesting idea that the antipodean point on the earth to land is water and vice versa, although our more enlightened times have comprehensively shown otherwise! Continuing across to the third sheet, we find Acosta quoting heavily from a late Roman author called Lactantius. This chap was not a fan of the round earth theory and dismisses it in quite ridiculous ways. “Is it possible that any should be so grosse and simple as to beleeve there were a people or nation marching with their feete upwardes, and their heades downwardes”? When you think that this is being written without any understanding of gravitational forces, you can kinda of understand where he is coming from, however insane it sounds to us today. Imagine a ball with a figure standing at the top; if you try and place someone on the opposite side, of course their feet are now at the top and things fall from where their feet are towards where their head is. Logical, isn’t it? I do love Acosta’s rebuttal to the idea – a simple and clear demonstration of the inaccuracy of Lactantius’ theory! “Wee that live now at Peru… finde not ourselves to bee hanging in the air, our heades downward, and our feete on high”.

The other thing I wanted to share, as mentioned in the introduction, was some rather interesting food-related information from the New World! On the left you can read about the “Cacao” – source, of course, of chocolate in our modern lives. However, chocolate as we know and love it today was not something that was available at the end of the 16th Century, and so it has a rather different form. As can be seen, the main use is for a drink called “Chocholaté” (looks familiar!) that is “loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a skumme or froth that is very unpleasant to taste”. Hmm, now sounds less familiar! It gets even better as we read on – “They say they make diverse sortes of it, some hote, some colde, and some temperate, and put therein much of that Chili” Wait, WHAT do they put in?! Having once tried a modern attempt at recreating this “chocholaté”, I have to say it is not something I can recommend… Maybe it’s something that you have to get used to over time – or perhaps my tastes are just cultured enough to enjoy it; after all, “they feast noble men as they passe through their Country” with it!

So one final treat from this book before I move on… A substance that is a little less acceptable than chocolate in today’s society! Coca leaves – the source of cocaine. Here we get a description of the practice of chewing the leaves for a mild dose of the cocaine (not that this was known to Acosta at the time of course). Acosta describes the coca as being “like the taste of leather” – hardly a ringing endorsement – but he seems confident in its abilities. One wonders how much he tried. I will leave you with the delightful way that it could be eaten as well as chewed – “mingle it with the ashes of bones burnt and beat in powlder; or with lime”. Given some of the things that allegedly get mixed in with modern cocaine, this sounds worryingly familiar! A most fascinating read indeed, and a book I could certainly recommend to any Library visitor!

The next book on today’s Tour is another Madertie book. If I’ve learned one thing from doing these tours thus far, it’s that Madertie had excellent taste because there are a lot of fascinating books from his collection to enjoy! This one is the “Entertainments of the Cours”, written (unsurprisingly) in French originally and “rendered” into English. As a Francophile, I am always drawn to books about 17th Century France, especially as this promised to discuss life in the early years of the Sun King Louis XIV. What really surprised me, however, was on the next page…

So I first saw, just in the top left corner of the left-hand image, Madertie’s signature, but then, well hello!! I spy a Marquis (or Marques as the printed text claims) whom I recognise! A quick reference back to the date on the frontispiece confirms that this is the second Marquis of Montrose, not his most renowned father who had died in 1650, and therefore this is the nephew of Madertie, as his wife was the sister of the first Marquis. Even with this, I was far from ready for what I found on the next page… A reference to Madertie himself (here spelled Maderty)! I was absolutely stunned; I’ve seen his signature so many times in various books around the Library, as well as his name in print in our various leaflets and signs and whatnot, but here we have a contemporary writing about him! For a man about whom we know almost nothing, this is a huge deal. Yes, sure, it’s a fleeting reference, merely saying that he is a “Noble Soul” known by the first Marquis of Montrose, but it is a reference nonetheless. The dedication is from the English translator, but what I find fascinating is the fact that this was published in 1658, under the Cromwellian Commonwealth, yet it praises people who had fought against and been executed by that regime! One wonders how they got away with this at the time! It’s not as if the printing was done abroad and the book smuggled into the country; it was sold at the “three Pigeons in St. Paul’s Churchyard” – a common location for booksellers. So here we have a book that Madertie owned and could read his name in print; what else does it have to show us?

After some meandering through the text, I came across this wonderful section on Metoposcopy. “What is Metoposcopy” I hear you cry? Well, do see this wonderful blog post from Dr. James Grant which talks about it. To summarise briefly, it was the ‘science’ of assessing a person’s future by the lines on their forehead in relation to the planets. It was quite in vogue during the late 16th and 17th Centuries and there were a lot of books published on the subject. Clearly it was discussed at the French Court during that period, despite a ban on the practice by Pope Sixtus V. As you can tell from the text, each line on your forehead corresponds to a planet (or other celestial body) and through this, the expert metoposcist could tell all sorts of secrets about your life. Quite the bizarre practise – your future would have been literally written on your face! It does sound like the kind of thing that foppish courtiers, well isolated from the realities of the world, would have found utterly fascinating!

Today’s final book is a series of letters from a chap called James Howell, who had a quite a colourful life. He was an Anglo-Welsh historian, who become a clerk of the Privy Council during the Civil Wars, and was consequently unable to take up the role and instead spent some time in the Fleet Prison, where we started writing a selection of books. His bibliography includes the first epistolary novel in English, a “New English Grammar” and one of his books features the first recorded use of the phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”! Here, we have a series of letters he wrote throughout his life to a variety of different people. It should be noted that there is some doubt over whether all of the letters he claimed to have written were actually sent as described, so take some of the following with a mild pinch of salt! I am going to share three letters, or extracts from letters, with you, shown below. The left hand one, I shall just leave for your amusement as I don’t think it needs any further description!

So the middle letter is the one alluded to at the beginning of this ‘episode’, with a most amusing description of tobacco. Apparently, “it helps Digestion, taken a-while after Meat; it makes one void Rheum, break Wind, and keeps the Body open”! Well, just marvellous indeed – who wouldn’t want to benefit from such, err, effects? I have to admit, I was somewhat baffled at first by the line about it being “a good Companion to one that converseth with dead Men” – didn’t realise that smoking was a necromantic aid… Having said this, the most incredible line of all is the one saying that “The Smoke of it is one of the wholesomest Scents”. Wow, I don’t know where we went wrong over the last four hundred or so years, but clearly we got things wrong at some point with tobacco if that’s how it used to smell!!

The right-hand letter brings back to the previous book with its description of the execution of the Marquis of Montrose in 1650. Don’t read if you are too squeamish as it goes into a fair bit of detail… I will also apologise in advance to any Scottish readers, as in my five years living up here, I have yet to see any examples of “cruelty from Scotland” so I think this is some gross slander! The latter section refers to a young Charles II, who was crowned in Scone in January 1651 under the terms of the Treaty of Breda, wherein he fully submitted to the power of the Kirk in Scotland and undertook to introduce this to England. Needless to say, he completely repudiated the treaty on being restored to the throne in 1660!

So ends the fifth ‘episode’ of the Tour of the Tops with three letters detailing some of the more unusual aspects of 17th century life! I hope that you have enjoyed this varied selection of books from the hardest to reach shelves of Innerpeffray! As the Library is now open once again, I do encourage you all to come by and visit when you can so you can perhaps explore these incredible books for yourself. The “Tours” will be taking a short break for the next month or so but will certainly be returning in October as there are plenty more shelves awaiting exploration!

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Tour of the Tops – Episode 4 “Different Viewpoints”

Welcome to the fourth in this series of blogs that have been appearing throughout the year to interest, intrigue and, one hopes, entertain followers of the goings-on of Innerpeffray Library. The theme is a general one, but should deliver up something to pique everyone’s interest at some point. For those of you lucky enough to have visited the Library, you will have noticed that the shelves really do go from floor to ceiling and, as a result, there are some shelves that really do not get the attention that they perhaps deserve. This series aims to remedy this injustice by dragging out the ladder and going for a quick Tour of the Tops to see what gems there are awaiting true recognition! This ‘Episode’ looks at ‘orrible deaths and mysterious going-ons throughout English history, discovers the somewhat wilder side of our most famous playwright and has a wander through the stars with a slightly pedantic writer of marginalia!

To change things up somewhat from previous ‘Episodes’, I am going to start with not just one book, but two! They are quite similar in theme and approach, so make a good pairing and I found them fairly close together as well. The first book is “The Abridgement of the English History”, published in 1660 and it is what we call a “Madertie book” as it was owned by the Founder of the Library, David Drummond, third Lord Madertie, as you can tell by the signature in the top left corner. The quality of the research for the book can be guessed at on the front cover – you will note that William the Conqueror is said to have come “into this Nation in the year 1023”, which would have been a great shock to William, given it was twelve years before he was born. I mean, he undoubtedly was a bit of a child prodigy, but there are limits!

The book reads a bit like a tabloid history of England, with a strong focus on ‘orrible deaths, fantastic goings-on and such, rather than great affairs of state, or major events in other countries at the time. The page on the left gives a good example of the things that the author considered essential reading for his target market, with executions, industrial accidents, conjoined twins and unusual finds from the sea all making an appearance in the text. Of course, 1552 was an otherwise quiet year… No need to discuss the rise of John Dudley to the Dukedom of Northumberland, from which he launched what was effectively a coup d’état the following year on the death of Edward VI. And who really cares about the imposition of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer when you can read about the hanging of Sir Richard Vine and Sir Martin Patridge? Truly this was the tabloid history book of its day!

The book with which I have paired it is in a similar vein, although admittedly a little less focused on the sensationalist side of history, whatever it says on the front cover! “The Plain Englishman’s Historian” dates from 1679 and manages to keep the spotlight on significant events a little bit more than the “Abridgement” does, although the dates are not always those that one learns at school! Let’s take a couple of examples. The first one (below left) covers the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and also features a guest appearance by one the best-known villains in English history. You will note that Queen Elizabeth is said to have died “on the very last day of the year 1602”. “But wait!” I hear you cry “She died on March 24th 1603! How can that be the very last day of the year 1602?”. Well, that’s because the year used to be reckoned from March 25th (Lady Day) and not 1st January as we do now. This all changed as part of the move from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 (this move involved ‘missing’ 11 days that year and is the reason why the tax year starts in early April – it is eleven days after the old New Year’s Day). So here the date is correct for a book published in 1679, even though it looks somewhat odd to a modern reader!

The second example (above) is from the beginning of Elizabeth’s life – the very beginning in fact! Again, the year is one out from that learned today, although this time it is a year later than the normally given 1533! This time I wonder if it is just a printer’s error – one assumes that the threes and fours were fairly close and perhaps it was just a little mistake when putting the print together – but it is possible that it was a vague attempt at disguising the fact that Elizabeth was conceived out of wedlock, given her parents married in January 1533 and she was born in the September. Given Elizabeth’s high favourability even 75 years after her death, her parents’ marriage was a tricky topic to cover – as you can imagine when the husband orders the execution of the wife… As a final note, serving as a nice linking piece between these books and our next, I leave you with a mention of a certain Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobbam (see left). He was a follower of the heretical teachings of Wycliffe – a Lollard – and as such was executed in 1417. However, his friendship with a young Henry V forms a major part of the works of a chap who crops up in our next book…

And so we move onto the next book – “A new and general Biographical Dictionary”, published in 1784. Faced with such a selection of books (it was a twelve-volume set!), I decided to settle for looking up someone I knew would be therein: Mr. William Shakespeare! I am quite the fan of the bard’s plays, and one of my favourite books in the Library is a Hollinshed’s History, used as the source material for Macbeth. Given this book was written over 160 years after Shakespeare’s death, it’s far from a first hand account of his life, but it does shed some light on one the least known periods of his life. From the birth of his twins in 1585 until references to him in London in 1592 (including Robert Greene’s description of him as an “upstart crow”), Shakespeare disappears from the historical record for seven years. All sorts of theories abound – he became a soldier, he went travelling (especially to Italy), he was a husband in Stratford – but the Biographical Dictionary has a different idea. This theory is one that still does the rounds from time to time, although the form does vary sometimes. Here though, it is categorically clear. Shakespeare robbed the deer park of a local landowner multiple times and, as such, was prosecuted. He responded as any guilty poacher would (!) and wrote a hate-filled ballad about the landowner. This so inflamed the situation that he was forced to leave the county for his own safety and as such he ran away to London where he fell in with the players due to his “wit and humour”. It is a really intriguing account, and one wonders if there were any records available at the time to corroborate this story. It seems to have originated with Shakespeare’s first biographer, Nicholas Rowe, in the early 18th Century. I don’t suppose we shall ever know the events that drove a Warwickshire wool merchant’s son to leave his hometown and seek his fortune in London with the players, but I do quite enjoy this suggestion! Before I close out this section, I should add that Sir John Oldcastle from the previous book was the inspiration for Sir John Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V plays, as well as The Merry Wives of Windsor. Originally called Sir John Oldcastle, the Lord Cobham of the time objected to his ancestor being used in such a fashion and so the name was changed to avoid trouble.

Scandalous Shakespearean Stories!

Today’s final book is one I chose simply because of its subject – a word that is just a delight to enunciate at any opportunity – the orrery! What’s an orrery? Well, it’s one of these…

Isn’t it just gorgeous? A scale model of the solar system with the planets shown in their relative positions to one another! The book itself is called “The Description and Use of the Globes and the Orrery” and it dates from 1732. The book has a lot of information about the solar system as it was understood in the 18th century, with a diagram showing the orbits of the planets (I make no apology for not including it here as the orrery is a far better drawing!). A few things jumped out at me as I read through the book. Firstly, there were a number of strange symbols cropping up throughout the text. I was a little unsure as to what they meant – were these an unusual form of printer’s marks? Page 45 had the answer: They were symbols for the signs of the Zodiac, as you can see below:

These are, of course, very similar to the signs still used today – so please pardon my ignorance! In addition, there was an interesting piece of marginalia on the page where I first spotted the zodiacal symbols that ties in nicely with one of our previous books. It is a reference to the dates of the equinoxes and the author refers to these as happening “(according to our way of reckoning) about the 10th of March and 12th of September”. At the side there is noted “O.S = to 20th March to 22nd Sept.”. Clearly someone was reviewing this post-1752 and wanted to ensure the book was brought somewhat up to date. Our mysterious marginalian (suggestions for a better term for someone who writes marginalia are welcomed!!) has further comments throughout the book, often adding further detail to the author’s work, such as the one below.

So ends the fourth ‘episode’ of the Tour of the Tops with an overly enthusiastic marginaliographer (is this a better term?) updating his book on globes and orreries! I hope that you have enjoyed this varied selection of books from the hardest to reach shelves of Innerpeffray! As the Library is now open once again, I do encourage you all to come by and visit when you can so you can perhaps explore these incredible books for yourself. The next ‘episode’ will take a look at foreign food, a sycophantic dedication with a strong Innerpeffray connection and a slightly inaccurate essay on tobacco. Hopefully this will have whetted your appetite for the next Tour of the Tops, coming to the blog soon!

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Tour of the Tops Part 3 – A Historical Perspective

Welcome to the third in a new series of blogs that will hopefully be appearing throughout the year to interest, intrigue and, one hopes, entertain followers of the goings-on of Innerpeffray Library. The theme is a general one, but should deliver up something to pique everyone’s interest at some point. For those of you lucky enough to have visited the Library, you will have noticed that the shelves really do go from floor to ceiling and, as a result, there are some shelves that really do not get the attention that they perhaps deserve. This series aims to remedy this injustice by dragging out the ladder and going for a quick Tour of the Tops to see what gems there are awaiting true recognition! This ‘Episode’ takes a look at some vaguely topical references, as well as taking a look at Sweden’s most famous King!

I moved into a new cabinet for today’s tour and this one was filled with a lot of books with very similar titles. The first set were all called the “Annual Register” for different years and these proved to be jolly interesting. I happened to be looking on 4th July and, as such, I sought out the 1776 edition to see if it had any juicy commentary on the Declaration of Independence. I was not disappointed… The section on “History of Europe” had a superb section describing the occasion as “deeply regretted by every true friend to this empire”. The declaration itself is “not more temperate in stile or composition, than it is in act”. Scathing criticism of the Declaration there! It is not perhaps as strong as the text found within the Scots Magazine for the same year, as that contains the full text of the Declaration with substantial amounts of editorial critique, whereas the text is just presented here without comment. The “Annual Register” does, however, have a number of other really fascinating sections. Not only does it have an account of major events during the year, but it also has significant births, deaths and marriages as well as a plethora of papers on different subjects and even some poetry! If you want to capture the feel of the book, it felt like it fitted the tagline “if you only buy one newspaper this year, make sure it’s the ‘Annual Register’!”.

I could quite easily spend the rest of this “episode” on just the book (and to think, this is just one year of many that we have at the Library!), so I shall just throw in a few choice sections from this one. Firstly, we have an account of a meeting between a British noblewoman and a man referred to as “Il Re”… The exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie! A lot of the text is taken up with whether she should reply to him or not – apparently the Pope had ordered that no English stranger should speak with him! – but, as can be seen from the section in the photo, it seems that natural curiosity won the day in the end! Her description does the elderly Prince no favours: “He appears bloated and red in the face, his countenance heavy and sleepy, which is attributed to his having given into excess of drinking”. It seems that this account would do little to inspire any Jacobites eager to hear of the man they believed was the rightful King!

The final section I want to share is on Charades, but not quite as we know them now… Instead of being a silent game to guess a book, film, TV show etc., it appears to be a formalised form of riddles with compound nouns. The author clearly feels the need to defend them against those who are unimpressed by them as can be seen in the photo! A reference is made to David Garrick, actor and playwright, playing the game too, so it must be acceptable. I leave this remarkable book with one of the Charades (answer at the end of the “Episode”!):

“My first is one of England’s prime boasts; it rejoices the ear of a horse, and anguishes the toe of a man. My second, when brick, is good, when stone better, when wooden, best of all. My whole is famous alike for rottenness and tin.” Good luck!

My second book was also part of a large series on the upper shelves, this time concerning the proceedings of the Houses of Commons and Lords. I was originally looking for further Independence Day material, but got distracted by the first volume and delving into the correspondence between Parliament and the newly restored King Charles II in 1660. This was a fascinating time, as the kingdom effectively underwent a coup d’état that called for the restoration of the Stuart monarchy after the Commonwealth fell apart. This, of course, entailed quite the about turn for the House of Commons given it had been responsible for executing the new King’s father… I should, of course, note that by the time these proceedings began, the “Long” Parliament had been dissolved and a new body elected, so this was not the same group of men who had been in power during the Civil War and was quite clearly very Royalist in outlook. Having said that, it seems that the tone chosen was obsequious in nature, perhaps too extremely so! Charles I is described as the new King’s “most Royal Father of glorious Memory” – not a description one would recognise of him in today’s history books! The critical passage, though, is that in the extract below:

Proceeding of the House of Commons, London, 1742

This was the crucial text that effectively decreed that the past eleven years had not happened and that there had been no Commonwealth, Cromwell had never become Lord Protector and that King Charles II had become King the moment his “most Royal Father” had died. It also opened the door wide open for prosecution of those who had acted against the new (oops, sorry, of course, he’s not new anymore!) King during the previous eleven years, as they were acting against the man whom God has declared to be the Undoubted King! Powerful stuff, and with a huge impact on British history, restoring, as it did, the line of monarchs that continues to this day.

As with the Annual Register, I feel that there will be a lot of fascinating information across the other books in this series, but again I just focussed on this one! I had a meander through the rest of the text and was intrigued by a number of marginalia and even a manicule! Interestingly, some of the marginalia appeared to have been cut off and, on consultation with the Keeper of the Books, this indicates that they were written before the book was rebound, which can give some indication of the date of the notes as most of the Library’s books were rebound in the 19th Century. I wonder who made notes and to what purpose? The text “Debate on this” appears a number of times. Is it a note about the debate described in the text, or could it be perhaps a note from a schoolmaster to a pupil, or a reminder to himself that this would be a good thing for a class to discuss? My guess is as good as yours! It really is amazing what you can find in books at Innerpeffray!

Our final book today is, unlike the other two, a one-off! It’s not part of a big series, but it was quite a sizeable book nonetheless! It is also one of the 400 or so books that has been in the Library since its inception, as the frontispiece shows with the signature of Madertie at the top left next to the title “The Swedish Intelligencer” – an account of the life of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden and Lion of the North! I have to admit, this is another book that I was expecting to find as it’s one of the Keeper’s favourite books! Gustavus Adolphus was perhaps Sweden’s most famous monarch and led Protestant armies to victories as part of the Thirty Years War, so this account of his life would have made for extremely popular reading in Protestant Britain of the 1630s. It was published within two years of his death at the Battle of Lützen so very much capitalising on his stellar reputation. The book has a very detailed account of his life, but with a clear focus on the battles and, as a result, there are some really lovely maps and battle plans within the book. However, it seems that some of them must have been rushed somewhat… Look at the map below

Seems like a perfectly normal plan of a battle, yes? With a title at the top? Hmm, well, a closer look at the text shows that this is not actually a title…

Apologies for the not great photo quality, but I feel it has to be seen to be believed! “Our Cutter hath made the Ordnance too long, to lye too farre into the River. The Hole also marked R, should have beene on the right hand of Bridge.” Yes, that’s right, there is a note from the printer saying the image has a number of errors! Unbelievable! It just goes to show the difficulty that they would have trying to redo the woodcut – it was clearly a ‘better’ option to put the explanation in at the top when printing it. Can you imagine a modern day book doing likewise..?!

And with that fascinating insight into the mind of a 17th Century printer, we come to the end of this third ‘episode’ of the Tour of the Tops. I trust that you have enjoyed the latest selection from the uppermost shelves of Innerpeffray! Unlike last time, I am pleased to say that I have another three books ready to share with you, so join me soon for the fourth instalment where we read about ‘orrible deaths and mysterious going-ons throughout English history, discover the somewhat wilder side of our most famous playwright and have a wander through the stars with a slightly pedantic writer of marginalia! All of this will be coming soon to the Innerpeffray blog, so keep an eye out and stay safe.

The answer to the riddle is Corn-wall (with apologies to any current residents – I am sure it is no longer famous for its rottenness! It has been suggested that this is a reference to “rotten boroughs” – constituencies that had a very small number of voters, often under the control of a single person, for historical reasons. Apparently, Cornwall was home to a number of them! Alternative explanations welcomed!).

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Instruction, and Good Counsell, may be furthered by an Honest and Pleasant Recreation

Not the least of the attractions of the green and leafy policies of the Library of Innerpeffray is the presence of red squirrels, a fact now emphasised by the embroidery kit depicting a squirrel on sale from the Library shop. The image is taken from the emblem book of George Wither (1588-1667): Wiki tells us that Wither had quite a colourful career, supporting the King against the Scottish Covenantors in 1639, and then Parliament in the English Civil War. However A collection of emblemes, ancient and moderne dates from earlier, having being published in London, by A.M. for Robert Allot, in 1635.

So what are “emblems” in the sense used here? Emblems were a pan-European genre of illustrated books which flourished particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and which reflected a world view in which thought was codified by visual and verbal associations, rather than by mathematics. To generalise wildly, the idea was to take word and text together, observe truth and draw a lesson, or amusement, or both: the combination of word and image would make the apprehension, conscious or unconscious, of the message clearer. We see the same thing at work in modern advertising. Emblems were not however restricted to books, or to Europe. More and more evidence of their use in architecture is emerging, as is their exploitation outwith Europe, for instance in South America, where indigenous imagery was used alongside European materials, notably in religious publications and buildings.

Scotland has a strong position in the emblem world. No less a person than Mary Queen of Scots used emblems for political ends in her embroidery; there are at least three important buildings with clear emblematic features: Pinkie Palace (a private building in Musselburgh), Caerlaverock Castle, and (closest to Innerpeffray) Culross Palace. The world’s best collection of emblem books is now in Glasgow University Library.

An emblem embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots (Victoria and Albert Museum)

The Intrepid Squirrel

Innerpeffray’s single emblem book is, however, the copy of Wither used for the embroidery kit. We can gather the moral intent from the full title: A Collection of Emblemes, ancient and modern: quickened with metricall illustrations, both Morall and Divine: and disposed into lotteries, that Instruction, and Good Counsell, may be furthered by an honest and pleasant recreation. So the idea is to enjoy what you’re looking at and reading, but make sure you gain something from it. The thing about “lotteries” is potentially confusing for anyone reading the Innerpeffray copy, because the end of the book is missing, including a final leaf which incorporates two spinning pointers, which allow random selection (hence “lottery”) of particular emblems, and of connected moral lessons contained in supplementary verses, at the end of each of four parts. However, as it survives this copy can still be read as a “normal” emblem book, using the images and verses in conjunction.

There are two squirrel emblems: this particular squirrel comes from emblem 26 in Book 1.

The three parts have to be taken together: we have a pithy saying or motto at the top, a picture, and a longer verse. It is no accident that this emblem was chosen “during these strange times” of the corona virus:

With Patience, I the Storm sustaine,

For, Sun-shine still doth follow Raine.

Then comes the picture, an engraving of high quality by Crispin de Passe, lifted from an earlier publication by Rollenhagen, published in The Netherlands in 1611-1613, with its original motto: “Durabo” (I will endure/survive). We see the squirrel sitting out a rain storm, rather than lying “heartlesse in her Mossy dray”, as we read in the following long verse which spells out the moral points being raised. The lesson, stated in the last lines of the verse, is clear, reflecting the lines above the picture:

All Griefe shall have an ending, I am sure;

And, therefore, I with Patience, will Endure.

And the admonition to patience in adversity would be hammered home in the further verse which anyone operating the “lottery” (now missing in Innerpeffray, as noted above) would be directed to:

Thou, to Impatience, art inclin’d;

And, hast a discontented Minde;

That, therefore, thou mayst Patience learne,

And, thine owne Over-sights discerne,

Thy Lot (as to a Schoole to day)

Hath sent thee to the Squirrells Dray;

For, she instructs thee, to indure,

Till, thou, a better state, procure.

The odd thing is that peseverance in squirrels is not noted in classical sources, although Pliny notes that they take sensible precautions. This doesn’t really matter in terms of the message of this emblem.

The Wise Athenian Owl

The present writer has privileged information that a further embroidery will be on sale soon, again based on Wither, emblem 17 in Book 2. This time the image is one of four featuring owls.

Wither’s Emblem Owl – annotated with Innerpeffray ‘scribbles’

Again there could be Covid 19 significance in its choice, for while the pithy saying at the top is pretty commonplace:

By Studie, and by Watchfulnesse,

The Jemme of Knowledge, we possesse.

we read in the longer verse the stern instruction that:

… in keeping Home, you do not spend

Your houres in sloth, or, to some fruitlesse end.

More Squirrels

Other emblem images depict squirrels. This image dating from a very early emblem of 1540 shows a squirrel using its tail as a sail to cross a stretch of water, symbolising the need to use all means available to help oneself.

1540 Squirrel Emblem

Wither uses the same motif, Book 3, Emblem 2:

Wither’s Emblem of Squirrel

However, images of squirrels and owls need not be anchored in a quest for serious moral purpose. Probably the most well-known modern image of this motif will jump out at anyone who knows their Squirrel Nutkin!

Beatrix Potter – Squirrel Nutkin

And, lo and behold, we have an owl too:

Beatrix Potter – Squirrel Nutkin

It is up to readers of this blog to determine the moral purport of these images, but the coincidence is charming, and I’d be moderately certain Beatrix Potter knew something about the tradition.

[For the record, the Innerpeffray Wither is recorded as having been borrowed seven times, between 1816 and 1887. The book has Lord Madertie’s signature: it is one of the original books collated at the founding of the Library.]

Links for more information and future reading…

Buy a Squirrel or an Owl embroidery kit, based on the emblems in our shop here

Complete copy of Wither:

Stirling Maxwell Collection, University of Glasgow, Library:



The 1540 squirrel:

Squirrel Nutkin:

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Borrower of the Month: Sinclair Korner – teacher, writer, campaigner, rambler.

When browsing the books at Innerpeffray it is a rare coincidence for us to come across one that
was written by a borrower. As of now, we know of only two, possibly three, people who fit this
scenario and Sinclair Korner is one of them.
Searching through the Borrowers Register for potential candidates for ‘Borrower of the Month’ I
added Dr Korner and his family, from Crieff, to my list for further research. At that stage, the name
did not register as one I had seen in a little book, entitled ‘Rambles Round Crieff’, published in

‘Rambles Round Crieff and Excursions Into The Highlands’ by Sinclair Korner, Ph. Dr.

Sinclair Corner (he changed his name to Korner circa 1850) was born at Eastland, Orphir, Orkney, on 23rd February, 1823, to parents Andrew Corner and Hellen (Nelly) Baikie who had married in 1812.

In 1821, Andrew is recorded as a farmer at Swartabreck, Orphir, with 8 Black Cattle, 2 Swine, 1 Boat. Two of their several children, Sinclair and Philip, would both become teachers. Having spent his early life on Orkney, Sinclair turns up in Edinburgh on the 1841 Census, as a Journeyman Tailor, lodging with John Corner (occupation listed as ‘Clothing’) and family. Perhaps
John Corner was a relative.

Where Sinclair Corner was during the years, 1841 to 1845, remains a bit of a mystery, including when, where and how, he gained enough knowledge of French, German, Latin, Italian and Mathematics, to enable him to teach and translate. In ‘Rambles around Crieff’ he refers to the headmaster of the school (himself) teaching French and German because he had travelled on the
continent, but when exactly that was is difficult to determine from the information gleaned so far.

‘Sinclair Corner, Orphir’, appears in the Alumni records of enrolment for King’s College, Aberdeen, 1845-49, as one of many who ‘studied on the Masters of Art degree course but who did not graduate’. It was not unusual for students to attend various classes and if necessary, for future employment purposes, obtain a certificate directly from individual Professors, rather than to
actually graduate. Perhaps that is what Sinclair, did after attending courses on French, German, Latin, Italian and Mathematics, possibly at another university such as Edinburgh. However, he was obviously at King’s College, Aberdeen, for the first session of the 1845 – 49 course because at the end of it he was awarded first prize for the ‘Junior Greek Class’, notification of which appeared in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on the 1st April, 1846. There is no further mention of him in the University records and by the 24th April 1846 he is advertising himself in the Glasgow Herald, as one of the assistants in the English department of the High School, able to ‘devote his Afternoon Hours to private Tuition, in English, Latin, Greek and Mathematics.’
The next time his name appears is when he marries Frances Gratwick, in Brighton, in the autumn of 1849. She was born in Sussex and was working there as a servant on the 1841 Census, so it is possible that Sinclair met her, at some point after 1846, whilst on his travels to and from the Continent.
By the time of the Census taken on 30th March, 1851, their surname had changed to Korner and the couple were living in Edinburgh with daughter Fanny, 5 months old. Sinclair Korner is recorded as a Teacher of Languages and Mathematics. In 1852, the family moved to Crieff, where he took up the position of Schoolmaster at the Parochial School. From the time he arrived in Crieff he was calling himself, confusingly, Dr. Korner or Sinclair Korner or Sinclair Korner Ph. Dr.. Where, when and how he obtained the latter qualification we have yet to discover, as it was not being awarded in the UK until 1917! Germany was the only country awarding the qualification in the 1840s and it did not require the extensive study that is required today. However, as to how, and where, he acquired the qualification does not detract from the fact that he was obviously a very clever man.
Sinclair Korner is first recorded as a Borrower at Innerpeffray on 17th January 1853, when he took out ‘The Works of Mr. Abraham Cawley.’

The Works of Mr. Abraham Cawley, London 1710

His name does not appear in the Borrowers register again until January 1858, when he is recorded as Dr. Korner. However, during those intervening years he had become well known in Crieff. His name regularly appeared in the local newspapers:- to publicise a new book he had written/translated; to advertise classes in both French and pure Mathematics ‘for men of business’ – advising that both these subjects are essential for the civil service examination; to promote his series of evening lectures on the laws of health and happiness; recording his frequent participation as a speaker at the Penny Readings, a popular entertainment held regularly in the Masons’ Hall, and also at the Crieff Fortnightly lectures; announcing his regular talks to the meetings of the Total Abstinence Society; his involvement on the committee of the Mechanics Institute. He was also writing long articles,
about the works of famous authors, playwrights and poets, and these appeared in newspapers north and south of the border.
He was obviously very forthright in his opinions and some of the articles and letters appearing in local, and national, newspapers were not always complementary about him, nor was he about others. From reading the reports it becomes obvious that he much preferred teaching older pupils, in higher level subjects. In November, 1856, when a new school was being built in Crieff, he wrote that he felt the parochial school should provide not just an elementary education but should move to Grammar or academy status, in order to provide young people with a complete education in the town. He wanted an assistant (well paid and housed) to teach the more elementary levels and in 1857 it was agreed that a second schoolmaster should be appointed. An advertisement appeared in the Strathearn Herald, on 28th March, 1857, for a second schoolmaster for the “Crieff Parochial Grammar School” to start the 1st May. The assistant did not stay for long and was gone by the 1859-60 session.
However, the annual inspections of the school had not always run smoothly for Dr. Korner and on one occasion there were no pupils present when the examiners turned up! On another occasion he is reported as having ‘got into a tussle’ when he challenged one of the inspectors on his examination of the pupils, saying that the man did not understand his
system which was ‘different and greatly improved, superior to those of other schools and that only he was qualified to examine them.’ At other times the examiners were full of praise – ‘proficiency displays in English, reading, history and French were highly complimented’.

There were other disagreements, especially when his support for the increasing of teachers annual salary from the standard £35, appeared widely in the newspapers. James MacRosty, clerk to the heritors and minister of Crieff, was particularly scathing of him in a letter to The Scotsman of October, 1861. He pointed out that, at Mr. Korner’s request, the heritors had erected a ‘handsome new schoolroom to accommodate 150 pupils’ and voluntarily contributed largely towards the salary of an assistant. However the number of pupils attending the new school does not seem to have reached anywhere near its capacity and at the time of Mr. MacRosty’s letter, there were possibly just twelve pupils in attendance that time. Whilst Mr. Korner’s ccomplishments were not in question, the fact remained that the parish school in Crieff was nearly deserted. Mr. MacRosty went on to submit that that ‘£35 per annum, with a free house and garden, besides fees and requisites, afford Mr. Korner liberal renumeration for the work done’. He closes by pointing out that the sole object in giving Mr. Korner the capitation grant, in addition to his salary, was to stimulate him to activity, by making his own pecuniary gain depend in part upon the prosperity of the school. Offering ‘payment by results’ is not such a modern idea after all!
No wonder Sinclair had little time to borrow books again from Innerpeffray until once in January 1858 and then not again until December 1861. Another gap from then until June 1862, when he begins to borrow books on a more regular basis. It would appear, from the titles of books, that on many occasions, he was probably borrowing them to complement his teaching. Perhaps he was swotting up on the facts before he taught them to his classes. At other times he was presumably reading for pleasure.
Books on historical topics feature strongly in his borrowing, as do the various Chambers stalwarts – The Book of Days; Chamber’s Repository; Cyclopedia of English Literature; Chamber’s Papers; Chamber’s Educational Journal – all crammed full of information and facts about everything you might want to know.

The novels and poems of Sir Walter Scott, the Plays of Shakespeare, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, other novels written by authors of the time, and a variety of books referring to the discovery of foreign lands, foreign travel and spending time in places such
as Africa and Australia. He also borrowed books that reflected his wider interests and knowledge of languages.
In December 1864 he brings his daughter and son to the library to borrow books for the first time. As both his wife and daughter were called Fanny (Frances) it is difficult to decipher at times whether it is mother or daughter doing the borrowing. There are
numerous entries in the name of Miss Korner, but when the entry is Fanny Korner we are unable to be certain which one it is, except by looking at the choice of books borrowed and even then, that is no guarantee. There are far more entries for just Sinclair Korner, Crieff, than for Dr. Korner, and his occupation as a teacher is not recorded until after December Son, Sinclair jnr. is clearly recorded each time he borrows.

Extracts from the Borrowing Record for the Korner family. Entries just under Sinclair Korner, Crieff, unless shown otherwise. Book titles as recorded in theRegister.

  • 17/1/1853 The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley
  • 25/1/1858 Canterbury Tales Dr. Korner
  • 27/12/1861 Don Quixote; Mémoires de Maximilien de Bethune;
  • Chambers Book of Days
  • 18/6/1862 Agathos or Sunday Stories; Book of Days; The History of St Kilda
  • 2/8/1862 History of England
  • 4/10/1862 Chamber’s Cyclopedia of English Literature
  • 16/6/1863 Chamber’s Repository; Lowell Offering; The Eliphant; Chamber’s Papers;Plurality of the World
  • 2/1/1864 Laws & Acts of Parliament made by King James I; Pictorial Gallery;The Plays of Shakespeare
  • 15/10/1864 Chamber’s Cyclopedia of English Literature; The Lamplighter;Little Robertson
  • 7/12/1864 Scotts Prose work; Bride of Lammermuir; Katie Stewart Miss Korner
  • Five years of a hunter’s life in South Africa; Chamber’s Papers Sinclair jnr.
  • 13/5/1865 The Roving Englishman; Book of Days; Chamber’s Papers; Lamartines Travels in Africa
  • 21/6/1865 Chamber’s Repository; Life of Nelson; Queechy; Chamber’s Papers Miss Korner
  • 7/9/1865 Five years in South Africa; Chamber’s Library for Young People; Book of Days; Susan Hopely Fanny Korner
  • 31/10/1865 Life of Oliver Cromwell; Ten Years in Australia; Memoirs of Englishwomen Fanny Korner
  • 5/5/1866 Tacitus Dr. Korner
  • Chamber’s Repository Miss Korner
  • Tales of a grandfather; Conquest of Florida Sinclair jnr
  • 20/6/1866 Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft; Dr. Korner
  • Chamber’s Repository Miss Korner
  • Chamber’s Repository; Ferdinand and Isabella Sinclair jnr.
title page of Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft 1665
The Discovery of Witchcraft, by Reginald Scot. London 1665
  • 27/12/1866 Chamber’s Educational Journal; Ivanhoe; Chamber’s Cyclopedia of English Literature Dr. Korner
  • Book of Days Miss Korner
  • 9/2/1867 Woodstock; Chamber’s Educational Journal
  • Chamber’s Papers Fanny Korner
  • 2/1/1868 Chambers Encyclopedia; Salmagunds; Chamber’s Papers Dr Korner
  • 27/11/1869 History of Frederick II of Prussia; Waverly; The Abbott; Tails of Crusaders Fanny Korner
  • 8/1/1870 Antiquary; Old Mortality; Guy Mannering Miss Korner
  • 10/12/1870 Hesiodus Greek & Latin Ph D Sinclair Korner, Schoolmaster
  • 30/11/1872 Redgauntlet; The Talisman Sinclair Korner, Schoolmaster
  • 16/4/1873 Cicero – of the nature of the Gods Sinclair Korner, Teacher
  • 29/8/1873 The Plays of Shakespeare; Bacon’s Works; Canterbury Tales; Spencer’s Faerie Queen Dr Korner, Teacher
  • 10/1/1874 Lydgates’ Fall of Princes Sinclair Korner, Teacher
  • 28/2/1874 Bacon’s Works Dr Korner, Teacher
  • 20/5/1874 Plato’s Dialogues Sinclair Korner, Teacher
  • Essays Moral & Humorous Miss Korner
  • 31/7/1874 Plutarchs Lives of ye Greeks and Romans 2 vols Sinclair Korner, Teacher
Les Vies Des Hommes Illustres Grecs et Romans, Paris 1619
  • 25/8/1874 Appian in French – Des Guerres des Romains Sinclair Korner, Teacher
  • 31/12/1874 Antiquary; Woodstock Sinclair Korner, Teacher
  • 12/4/1875 Last books returned to the library

On the 3rd July, 1873, an item had appeared in the Dundee Courier, noting that at a recent meeting of the School Board, Crieff, it was unanimously agreed to accept the resignation of Dr Korner, the Board agreeing to give him a retiring allowance of £50 per annum for life. Little did the members of the Board realise that they would be paying him for the next thirty six years! The
family remained in Crieff until 1875, when they moved back to Edinburgh. Mrs. Korner died there in 1879, aged 57, and in the same year, their son, Sinclair, emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Dunedin on June 4th. Daughter, Fanny, continued to live with her father.
Dr. Korner did not retire quietly and his name continued to appear frequently in the newspapers. He contributed articles on literature and a variety of other topics, many finding their way into newspapers all over the UK. Those articles appearing in the more local papers often contained his opinions and reflections on local topics, especially with regard to his position on the local school board in Edinburgh. At one particularly lively meeting of the latter, some of those present were keen to know exactly where he had gained his qualifications and what they actually were. Having seen his name recorded all three ways, they wanted to know whether he was plain Mr. Korner, Sinclair Korner M. D. or Sinclair Korner Ph. Dr.. Needless to say, the man himself was not present at the meeting to be able to provide them (or us!) with the required information. Sinclair and daughter, Fanny, continued to live in Edinburgh until the late 1880s when they moved to Orkney, and to Sinclair’s childhood home at Eastland, Orphir. Right until his death, he was writing articles on literature and on political history. Some of his comments about the behaviour of members of both the House of Lords and House of Commons, and particularly about those elected to represent the people, could easily be referring to the present day! He continued to voice his opinions on all sorts of local topics, such as crofting, schooling and anything else that he obviously felt required his attention. He was also a very benevolent man and made regular financial donations to the Balfour Hospital, Orkney, and to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, as well as other financial contributions to differing good causes.

During some of their years on Orkney, Fanny appears to have been teaching, possibly in Kirkwall. She accompanied her father on several ‘holidays’ each for about three weeks in June, to Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, their names and places of residence being reported on the Visitors Lists published in the Stonehaven Journal.
What was possibly Sinclair Korner’s final article, ‘A Tramp Tour Fifty Years Ago’ – a wonderfully descriptive account of a walking tour he undertook in Perthshire, in August 1858 – was published in The Orcadian on 28th August 1909. Sinclair Korner died on 16th October 1909. Obituaries indicate that he was well respected, possessed of a broad mind and a strong personality, had
high ideals as a man and an educationalist, was an accomplished scholar, an able and kindly teacher, a cogent reasoner and a clear thinker. Perhaps a man we may all have enjoyed knowing.
A few years after her father’s death, Fanny returned to live in Edinburgh. She had never married and died there in 1940, at the age of 89. Her brother, Sinclair, as already mentioned earlier, had emigrated to New Zealand in 1879, and travelling on the same ship was a Miss F. Prentice, from Midlothian. We might guess that they either knew each other before they both decided to
emigrate, or they met during the voyage. Whichever it was, Sinclair Korner jnr. married Miss Fanny Prentice and they would go on to bring up seven children in the locality of Wingatui, Otago. Sinclair worked all his life as a carpenter and one has to wonder what his father felt about that. Fanny died in 1891, aged 40, and Sinclair died in 1915, aged 63. Many of their descendants still live in Otago and the wider Dunedin area.