Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Scots Magazine & The American War of Independence - a personal post

          “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch –Irish Presbyterian rebellion.”
          These are the words of a Hessian officer fighting on the British side in 1778. There is an undoubted element of truth in them as the colonists did indeed comprise a ‘diaspora’ of Scots and Irish who, for various reasons, had migrated to America during the eighteenth century in search of a better life, perhaps a life free from oppression. The eighteenth century is regarded as the century of Enlightenment particularly in Scotland where people such as David Hume, Lord Kames, Adam Smith, William Robertson and many others dominated the world of scientific advancement, culture and philosophy. Their ground breaking thinking is often credited with forming the modern world.
          But the same century was one of civil, national and international strife as wars and conflicts followed in succession from start to finish. Not least among these wars was the American War of Independence which occupied the years 1775 to 1782.This rapidly became a truly global conflict involving Britain, America, Canada, France, Spain, the West Indies and even India. By the time of its conclusion the world had changed and a new nation had been born; The United States of America. Few people at that time foresaw what this meant but Adam Smith in his ‘Wealth of Nations’ was prescient when he declared that this was a ‘new form of government.....which seems likely to become one of the greatest and most formidable that ever was seen in the world.’
           With the benefit of hindsight and present day knowledge we can easily concur with these sentiments but how was the war and its outcome seen in Scotland and Britain at the time; how was it reported? Was there censorship of bad news and promotion of good? Today we can read learned historical commentaries which will show who acted wisely with better skill and foresight and who pursued foolish and misguide policies. But how much better if the events can be read about at the time of their happening and without the added dubious benefit of hindsight. The Library of Innerpeffray allows anyone to do precisely that by making available to read accounts of the contemporary actions and outcomes of the war. These ‘hot off the press’ reports can be found in the copies of the editions of the Scots Magazine held in the Library and covering the months and years of the war. Apart from the inevitable time lag involved in bringing the news across the Atlantic, the reports allow the reader to transport him or herself to the relevant time and be an eighteenth century Edinburgh citizen reading ‘all about it.’ The growing tensions in the American colonies following the Seven Years War; the imposition on the colonists of unpopular, and to the colonists unlawful, taxes; the insensitive and arrogant response to their complaints by the King and parliament in Westminster; the repeal of these taxes except for the tea tax; the boycotting of British goods; the so-called Boston Massacre; the Boston Tea Party, They are all reported in the Magazine as events of the moment.
          These initial confrontations eventually and almost inevitably led to direct conflict. Actions such as the siege of Boston and the battle of Bunker Hill meant that there was no going back and with the issuing of The Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776 war was declared against Britain. The whole of the Declaration is given in the August edition of the Magazine together with considerable scathing comments from the British. The conflict which followed drew in France and Spain in support of the American cause, although these two countries had their own political agendas as they saw the war as a means whereby territories lost in earlier conflicts to the British might be recovered. Although the Americans avoided full scale battles with the more experienced British army, as time passed the colonial army began to turn the tide under the leadership of General Washington, aided by General Lafayette of France. When Lord Cornwalis was forced to surrender Yorktown, Britain had lost the war and the United States of America was a reality. The Treaty of Versailles confirmed and recognised this as fact.
- Bill Gray

Friday, 12 October 2012

Wonderful Celerity

One of the most asked questions in the Library is about when printing began, so imagine our joy when we came across this lovely description, complete with references, in  A Geographical Description of the all the countries in the knowne world, by Sa. Clarke London 1657.  The volume is bound with The Looking Glasse for Saints and Sinners and we hadn’t come across the other part until today.  Full of treats including ‘Greatest Rivers, Strangest Fountaines’ and this -

The First invention of Printing
Laurence Jans, a rich Citizen of Harlem in the Low-Countreys, walking forth one day into the neighbouring Woods for recreation, began to cut in pieces of wood the letters of his name, printing them on the back of his hand, which pleasing him well, hee cut three of four lines which beat with Ink, and printed them upon Paper, wherewith he much joyed, and determined to find out another kind of Ink more fastening and holding, and so, with his Kinsman Thomas Peterse, found another way to print whole Sheets but of one side only, which are yet to be seen in the said town; afterwards he changed his letters of Wood into Lead and after that into Tin, and so by degrees this famous Art of Printing grew to perfection. Belg. Common-Wealth p57
Some say that John Guttenberg of Strasburg was the first Inventor of it, Anno Christi 1440.  In which City he first practised it, and removed from thence to Mentz, there perefetced it.  They say that Tullies Offices was the first book that everwas printed.  P. Ramus Schol. Math. L2
It doth with Wonderful Celerity convey learning from one Country, and age to another.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Some thoughts on Cheese

Inspired by a talk for the Friends of the Library from Humphrey Errington on the Social History of Cheese, some cheesey thoughts from our collection.

Probably the earliest mention is from Maison Rustique, 1600, which describes Cheese of all sorts, and where cheese making is obviously the woman's domain:
"As concerning the making of cheese: she shall choose the most grosse and fat milke, being pure and newly drawn, to make cheese that will keep a long time, and of such milke she shall gather neither butter nor creame; but such as it commeth from the cowe, such shall be put into vessels to coagulate and turne to curds... but chieflie and above all other things, it is required that the maidens that shall meddle with the making of the cheese should be cleanly, fit for the purpose, their sleeves from about their hands and arms foulded up."

Later, in Chambers Information for the People (1842) is mostly technical, describing the proper preparation of Rennet using the maw of a freshly killed calf.  There is also a lengthy description of the making of Parmesan and other kinds of cheese, and equally detailed production notes for the newly fashionable Dunlop Cheese from Ayrshire.

But our Enclycopedia Britannica of 1801 strikes a cautionary note: Physicians condemn its too free use in general as a kind of food considering it fit only for "the laborious or those with strong digestive organs".  This seems good advice when taken with the other suggested use:
"When shaved thin and properly treated with hot water it forms a very strong cement when mixed with quicklime."

Crackers, anyone?

Friday, 24 February 2012

The First Post

Welcome to the new blog from The Library of Inerpeffray, Scotland's oldest free public lending library founded in 1680..Follow our blog to share the treasures we find in this literary haven in rural Perthshire.  This year we'll be celebrating the anniverary of the beautiful Georgian Library Building: 250 years old this year. This library building, commissioned by Robert Hay Drummond, great nephew to the Founder, was completed in 1762. It was purpose built for him by architect Charles Freebairn. The Wast Book, which visitors can see at the Library contains record of all the money spent on its contruction down to the 1/6th of a penny!
Hay Drummond became Archbishop of York in 1761, but this did not prevent him from maintaining an interest as Patron of Innerpeffray and he donated some 1500+ books to the collection during his patronage. We celebrate the building’s 250th birthday of the building with a focus on the books and the lending of the eighteenth century, including the many volumes from writers of the Scottish Enlightenment.  I hope you will enjoy this exhibition if you are able to visit during the year.