Saturday, 14 April 2018

'A Book Through Time ' Part I: The Author and The Text.

Inspired by the BBC's A House Through Time, we're pleased to introduce a new blog series which focuses on a single book from its very beginnings to its place on the shelves at the Library of Innerpeffray today. The first post, which looks at the author and content of the work selected, comes from Kelsey Jackson Williams, Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at the University of Stirling.

Despite his name, John Scott (1638/9-1695) was no Scot.  The son of a “sufficient grasier” – according to the snobbish antiquary Anthony Wood – Scott was born at Chippenham in Wiltshire and while still young was sent to London to serve as an apprentice (in what trade we are not told).  He did not relish the life his father had laid out for him, though, and after three years of drudgery he gave up his apprenticeship and entered New Inn Hall, Oxford, in December 1658 at the age of nineteen, rather older than the ordinary undergraduate of his day and something akin to what we might now call a “mature student”.

Scott flourished at university, especially enjoying logic and philosophy, but left without taking a degree, perhaps due to a lack of funds.  The next decade of his life is a blank.  Again according to Wood, he was engaged in “some mean employment” which ultimately led him into holy orders.  From 1678 onwards he served in a series of increasingly prominent roles in the City churches: rector of St. Peter-le-Poer, prebend of St. Paul’s, Lecturer and Reader at St. Bartholomew-the-Great, and Rector of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, “at all which places he obtained a great name, and was much resorted to for his most admirable way of preaching”.

It was Scott’s skill as a preacher which allowed the Wiltshire lad to rise through the ranks of the Anglican Establishment.  In an era when preaching was a highly prized skill and the fashionable citizens of London would flock to whichever church could boast the most eloquent orator in its pulpit, such abilities could catapult even an obscure priest into the limelight.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, Scott was no politician.  He toed the political line, whether under the Stuarts or William and Mary, expressed a conventional and relatively mild dislike for James VII and II’s Catholicism, and would have “been a bishop, had not some scruples hindered him”.  The funeral sermon preached by his friend Dr. Zacheus Isham upon Scott’s death painted a portrait of an altogether blameless man, most memorable “for his Kindness, and Humanity, and amicable Disposition, and Affability, and pleasentness of Temper, and Condescension, and Sincerity, and readiness to do all good Offices for any that had recourse to him”.

But despite these accomplishments, Scott was most known, in his own lifetime and after, as a devotional writer.  Chief amongst his works was The Christian Life, from its Beginning to its Consummation in Glory, the first part of which was published in 1681, with a much-expanded second edition appearing 1683-1687, and which by 1730 had reached its ninth printing.  The volume under discussion in this series of blog posts is part two, volume two of the second edition.

The subject of this volume of Scott’s expansive work is succinctly set out on its title page, which states that within “that Fundamental Principle of Christian Duty, the Doctrine of our Saviours Mediation, is Explained and Proved”.  The six hundred-odd folio pages which follow set this forth in copious detail, laying out the necessity of Christ’s mediation between the devout Christian and their God, and exploring the nature and extent of that mediation – Christ’s “Kingdom” – through a close reading of the relevant Biblical passages.  In the thorny windings of Scott’s reasoning we can see an echo of the young Oxford logician and metaphysician at work in the mature priest:

Considering therefore how much we are governed by our sense in this state of our Apostacy, it was doubtless a wonderful wise contrivance of God, who is a pure Spirit, to assume to himself some sensible matter, that therein by presenting himself to our outward or inward sense, he might strike the deeper aw on us, and thereby the more effectually rule and govern us (p. 568).

Such arguments were part and parcel of late-seventeenth century Anglicanism’s larger project of explaining Christianity to an increasingly skeptical world.  As Scott had written earlier, “we cannot certainly distinguish what is done by the Spirit from what is done by our natural Reason and Conscience co-operating with him . . . it is not to be expected that we who know so little of the nature and intercourse of Spirits should be able to render a clear and distinct account of it” (pp. 80-81).  Ultimately, then, the Christian Life was more than just a devotional manual, it was the work of a philosopher grappling with the nature of belief and straining against the physical bonds of his own body to explore the metaphysical world of consciousness and the Divine.  “For alas! our minds are naturally so vain and stupid, so giddy, listless, and inadvertent, especially in spiritual things which are abstract from common sence” (p. 85) that these philosophical wrestlings were necessary for belief to survive at all.

- Kelsey Jackson Williams
University of Stirling

Monday, 9 April 2018

Marking Library Books!

Some of you may have spotted this recent news story, where a library borrower developed a 'code' for marking which books they had already borrowed, so as not to borrow them again. Completely by accident, as this story emerged, Keeper Lara Haggerty and PhD student Jill Dye discovered something which looked like one of the borrowers from InnerpeffrayScotland's first free public lending library, may have been doing something similar.  

The Library of Innerpeffray has records of loaning its books to the local public from 1747 to 1968. Despite such firm evidence for their borrowingthe books themselves (almost 90% of which are still present in the library) contain very few markings by any reader, and those marks which are present tend to pre-date the book entering the library's collection. This, alongside the incredible survival rate of borrowed works, would suggest that the books were relatively well cared for by library users, ensuring that they were safely returned undamaged and unmarked. 

However, while in pursuit of something entirely different, Jill and Lara spotted a few books which, while not annotated, did have handwritten dates close to their title pages, all around the year 1826. With a little further investigation using the borrowers' register, they managed to work out what tied these titles and dates together: a man called Robert Taylor. 

Title page & frontispiece via JISC's Historical Texts
Robert Taylor borrows from the Library between June 1825 and September 1826. He never lists his occupation but is recorded as living in the Parish of Blackford. We cannot ascertain his occupation with any degree of certainty since there are multiple individuals of that name in that parish at that time, but we can rule out his being a student or a minister since he does not appear in such registers. The works he chooses to borrow give us no indication either, since he chooses a fair amount of philosophy, but also the works of Shakespeare and the remarkable-sounding 'Coffee-house Jests', which unfortunately is no longer at Innerpeffray [NB if you have a mystery copy which has any evidence of a former bookplate or unfamiliar library markings, we would love to hear from you!]

The pencil annotation recorded in the first volume of Shakespeare's Plays is most fascinating of all, because of the additional information it chooses to record. Taylor writes 'Innerpeffray Library, 25 May 1826 to be returned'. 25 May is not the date on which the book is due to be returned, but the date on which it is borrowed. 'To be returned' therefore, alongside the fact that the library has also been identified, would indicate that Robert Taylor is almost certainly borrowing books from other collections, and this is the means by which he can identify the home location of each item. While it had always been a logical assumption that, particularly by the 19th century, Innerpeffray would not be the sole source of books for its users, evidence of library use (borrower records, visitor books) is so rare that it has not thus far been possible to prove. It is fantastic, therefore, to finally be able to confirm this, and by such unusual means! 

This episode shows precisely the value of matching Library Records to the exact books which were borrowed. While it is exciting finally to be able to pin down an individual writing in an Innerpeffray book, we must add that writing in library books is still not to be encouraged. Howeverif you simply must, please make sure to follow Robert Taylor's example, and only do so in pencil. 

Robert Taylor's Borrowings 
8 June 1825 Bolingbroke's Philosophic Works (London, 1754) 
15 July 1825 Cudworth's Intellectual System (London, 1743) 
13 April 1826 Douglas' Criterion, or, Miracles Examined (London, 1754) 
25 May 1826 Shakespeare's Plays (Samuel Johnson ed.) (London, 1765) 
29 June 1826 Anderson's Observations (Edinburgh, 1777) 
31 August 1826 Hickes' Coffee-house Jests (London, 1686) 
23 September 1826 Mackenzie's Moral Gallantry (Edinburgh, 1667) 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Meet the Borrower: Samuel Gilfillan

The latest Meet the Borrower comes slightly later than planned as Innerpeffray’s resident PhD student, Jill, has moved to Dundee to focus on writing-up. Innerpeffray Library and its borrowers, however, are inescapable, as this post attests.

Gilfillan Memorial Church, Dundee - Ref: WC1426

Close to the centre of Dundee stands Gilfillan Memorial church, which commemorates George Gilfillian (1813-1878), who was born in Comrie, around 10 miles west of Innerpeffray. Gilfillan was an author and poet as well as a minister, with a strong reputation for supporting working-class poets. Though George does not appear in the register of borrowers at Innerpeffray himself, books from the library were certainly borrowed by his family. This post centres on his father, Rev. Samuel Gilfillan.

Samuel Gilfillan appears in the register on five occasions. He visited in the winter months of 1791 and 1792, before returning almost two decades later in June 1812.  Listing his occupation as preacher of the Associate Congregation of Comrie, his first visits to the library were just months after his ordination, and prior to his marriage to Rachel Barlas in 1793. In 20 years between his visits, Samuel works hard to become proficient as a preacher in Gaelic, as well as English, to reflect the dual language of the parish. He, and other ministers of the same church, began a scheme to set up lending libraries in the highlands for largely religious books. 14 such libraries were created, with one in Comrie itself (possibly the one mentioned in the New Statistical Account of Scotland as opened in 1822). Astonishingly, his own borrowing does not reflect any interest in other languages, and nor does it typify the type of religious borrowing we see among others at Innerpeffray, which he evidently intends for borrowers from his own library scheme.

His early book selections are remarkable in their uniformity: three entries record the Scots Magazine, three Buffon's Natural History, two Robertson's History of Charles V and one other history, Watson's History of the reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain. Buffon is one of the most highly-illustrated works in the collection ("Rhinoceros" pictured below), but also gives remarkably full and detailled account of the natural world as it was understood at the time of composition. The Scots Magazine, bound into volumes which covered individual years, provided contemporary accounts of world events for a Scottish audience. Volume 48, for example, borrowed by Samuel in November 1792, records events for 1786. While other users seem to borrow older volumes to use as historic accounts, Samuel here favours the most recent edition (though the publication continued, the library held 1739-1786) What perhaps links these works is that they are more likely to be found in institutional collections rather than personal: both run to several volumes and, in practicality, require a fair amount of shelf-space, as well as a significant investment. Is he, therefore, supplementing access to books elsewhere with what was available at Innerpeffray?

Whilst it is unclear in his early borrowing years the extent of his book ownership, by the time of his later borrowing, Samuel had built up his own extensive library. Prized among his possessions were Thomas McRie’s Life of John Knox as well as the works of Hannah More (presented to him by the authors), and in 1803 he spent more than 10% of his income on books, binding and printing! He returned to Innerpeffray in 1812, however, to borrow ‘Roger’s Journals’ (Journals of Major Robert Rogers, London, 1765), Xenophon’s Memorabilia (Oxford, 1749) and Grotius ‘on the Christian Religion’ (likely The truth of the Christian religion, London, 1767). While Grotius and the Xenophon were fairly readily-available and standard works, Rogers is likely to have been rare even at the time, with only one London edition (and only 8 reported copies of any edition currently in the UK). It is a primary account of an American colonial frontiersman. As with his earlier borrowing, we see evidence that the library being used to supplement what's available in his personal collection.

Samuel Gilfillan's borrowings of Innerpeffray, and their contrast with the types of work which he intended for other to borrow from a lending library, have the potential to tell us more about the role that Innerpeffray filled. The lending library he envisioned would combat the lack of access to religious works among the lower classes, the type of work which middling sorts, such as himself, might be able to purchase or have access to through other networks. To other more typical borrowers, Innerpeffray does fulfil this role. Gilfillan, however, benefitted from the eclectic collection created through Innerpeffray's unique history, with its seventeenth-century origins as a private collection trying to support reading for all in contrast to its eighteenth-century governors' visions of 'scholarly gentleman'. It's exactly this kind of borrowing which lending libraries of the type he envisaged might not be able to support.

Samuel Gilfillan's Borrowings:
9 Nov 1791 Scots Magazine (1 vol)
9 Nov 1791 Buffon's Natural History (3 vol)
17 Jan 1792 Buffon's Natural History (5 vol)
17 Jan 1792 Scots Magazine (3 vol)
27 Nov 1792 Robertson's History of Charles V (vol 2)
27 Nov 1792 Buffon's Natural History (vol 8)
27 Nov 1792 Scots Magazine (vol 48)
31 Dec 1792 Robertson's History of Charles V (2 vol)
31 Dec 1792 Watson's The history of the reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain 1777
11 Jun 1812 Journals of Major Robert Rogers, 1765
11 Jun 1812 Xenophon’s Memorabilia, 1749
11 Jun 1812 Grotius The truth of the Christian religion, 1767

Aileen Black, Gilfillan of Dundee, 1813-1878, Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2006.
J. Gordon, ed. The New Statistical Account of Scotland. Comrie, Perth, Vol. 10, Edinburgh: Blackwoods and Sons, 1845 pp.578-596
Henry Paton, ‘Gilfillan, Samuel (1762–1826)’, rev. Rosemary Mitchell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004,  [accessed 30 Aug 2017; sign-in required]
English short title catalogue

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Wading in the footsteps of the Innerpeffray borrowers!

It's been almost a month since it last rained at Innerpeffray, and the usually forceful River Earn is calm and low. Inspired by the rare sight of the river's bed, intrepid Keeper, Lara Haggerty, took the opportunity to wade in the footsteps of historic Innerpeffray borrowers.
Though today Innerpeffray can sometimes feels like it's in the middle of nowhere, it is thought to have been a crossing point of the River Earn since Roman times. It was certainly in use in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a fact which the road layout echoes even in modern maps.
The Library's historic borrowers' register (1747-1968) suggests that borrowers regularly travelled across the water, from nearby Strageath (visible on the map above) and Muthill. While today Muthill is a 15 minute drive from Innerpeffray via Kinkell Bridge, we estimate that journey time could be slashed to 4 minutes if the river were passable by car.

A map of the Innerpeffray estate from 1889 shows not only a ford across the river, but also a ferry crossing, presumably for those who wished to keep their feet dry. Using this map as their guide, Lara (bravely accompanied by her daughter) waded her way across the Earn, reaching the other side in a matter of minutes, slowed only by the weight of water in their wellies.
Lara's review of the experience? "It was very fast-flowing in the middle, but not too chilly!"

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Innerpeffray during the First World War

Throughout the First World War, the Library at Innerpeffray appears to remain open.  The Keeper of Books at Innerpeffray Library is recorded as D. Sutherland. When he borrows books from the library he writes that he is the ’Librarian.’

It is not D. Sutherland, so much as it is his visitors, who are of interest. Many Sutherlands come and go throughout the war-period, but two stand out in the Register, as they write their occupation as ‘Soldier.’ The two soldiers appear in the Visitor’s Book eight times each and borrow several books during their stay at the Schoolhouse.
We can see from the Borrower’s Register exactly what the soldiers read on their stay. The books they borrowed came mainly from the Reading Room, which houses a collection from the 19th Century and later, many of which are fictional works.
Were these the source of recreation and respite for the soldiers?
· Salmon Fishing by William Earl Hodgson, 1906.
· One of the 28th: a tale of Waterloo by G.A. Henty, 1890.
· Hoof and Claw by Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, 1915.
· Kim by Rudyard Kipling, 1901.
· The First Hundred Thousand by John Hay Beith, 1876.
· Masterman Ready by Frederick Marryat, 1841.

From 1914 to 1919 we see the progression of the soldiers who write themselves into the Visitor’s Book, particularly R.W. Sutherland and J.W.R. Sutherland, the soldiers who stay in the Schoolhouse and borrow from the library.
R.W. Sutherland was part of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery “B” Battery Overseas Contingent. The RCHA came from older Batteries of the Canadian military and supported British formations.
J.W.R. Sutherland was part of the Scottish Horse M.E.F. and was later in the 2nd Cavalry Reserve in Ireland. In October 1916 the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Scottish Horse became known as the Black Watch.
Other visitors by the name of Sutherland also write down their occupation in the military, from the Royal Navy to the Seaforth Highlanders, though none of them appear to borrow books from the library.

Sophie Wood