Dr Graham’s Kalimpong Homes

Catechists Kalimpong West Bengal India c 1890
Catechists, Kalimpong, West Bengal, India, ca.1890. John Anderson Graham is standing, second from the right.

Scottish missionary papers in the library’s archive and manuscript collections are replete with stories of individual Scots who sought to fulfil their vocation overseas. Figures requiring little introduction are well represented in the papers, such as in the journals of David Livingstone or letters of Mary Slessor, along with more surprising gems, including the last known letter of Jane Haining, missionary in Budapest, written only two days before her death in Auschwitz in 1944.

One story that stands out is that of Rev Dr John Anderson Graham and his wife, Katherine, founders of the St Andrew’s Colonial Homes in Kalimpong, whose humanitarian work with Anglo-Indian children was recognised by both Indian and British governments.


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Out in Scotland! LGBT display


(Sandstone Press)

February is  LGBT History Month and we are celebrating the LGBT Scottish writing perspective with a small display just outside the Reading Rooms in our George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh.

LGBT writing is especially vibrant in Scotland at the moment with many top sellers and prize winners. Recent National Library guest Val McDermid , Jackie Kay, Ali Smith, Louise Welsh, Zoe Strachan and the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy identify themselves proudly as both Scottish and LGBT. Less famous names are always to be found in the rich reading provided by literary magazines and anthologies.


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Catching the eye of Martin Scorsese

Image by Brigitte Lacombe
Image by Brigitte Lacombe

You’re not quite sure what to expect when you seal an envelope addressed to Hollywood film director, Martin Scorsese in New York. Enclosed was a letter from the National Library of Scotland asking him to support our Moving Image Archive campaign. I wasn’t too hopeful but you just never know so I posted it and kept my fingers crossed.

After five weeks I came in one Monday morning to an email from The Office of Martin Scorsese. I held my breath and opened it. The answer was ‘yes’! (more…)

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Magic in the trenches

One of the many special and named collections held by the Library is the Cuthbert Collection. This is a collection of over 500 books and periodicals on magic and in particular on Scottish magicians and magic in Scotland. Assembled by Jim Cuthbert a member of Paisley Magic Circle and a former president of the Scottish Association of Magic Societies it represents a lifetime of studying and practicing magic. Although a practicing magician Jim Cuthbert’s principle interest is in the history of magic in Scotland and he has published many pamphlets and bibliographies on the subject as well as given talks and lectures. (more…)

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Scottish glass industry

Interior of a crown-glass house, from 'The crown glass cutter and glazier's manual' by William Cooper, Edinburgh: 1835.
Interior of a crown-glass house, from ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ by William Cooper, Edinburgh: 1835, frontispiece.

William Cooper, crown-glass cutter, glazier, and stained glass maker to King William IV had a glass warehouse at 18 Picardy Place, Edinburgh in the early nineteenth century. He also wrote ‘The crown glass cutter and glazier’s manual’ in 1835, describing the history of glassmaking, the processes of glass manufacture and the different methods of using glass. (more…)

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Plague! Document ‘cured’!

Plague image

Conservators are often likened to doctors: they examine their ‘patients’ (the ailing documents), recognize the symptoms, diagnose a disease and prescribe and administer a treatment which will restore them to health without altering their nature or disfiguring their appearance.

I was mindful of the comparison as I worked on the document above for the current winter exhibition, Plague! at the National Library of Scotland. It proclaims the government prohibition on trade with England in 1665, in order to prevent transmission of the disease across the border. (more…)

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Callum Macdonald Memorial Award 2016

callum-cover2016-tIn the week that Scottish poet Don Paterson won the Costa Book Award for poetry for his collection 40 sonnets, we are pleased to announce this year’s Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. In fact the entries have started to come in already.

The Callum Macdonald Memorial Award celebrates Scottish pamphlet poetry and rewards the publisher rather than the poet of an outstanding pamphlet in this vibrant form. (more…)

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