A Burns gift book, in a Mauchline Ware binding

We’ve recently been given a small, handsome,  Scottish gift book by G. Ross Roy to add to his collection of Robert Burns, Burnsiana, and Scottish Literature. It’s a collection of Burns’s songs printed in Mauchline, Ayrshire (not far from the Burns birthplace at Alloway) in about 1854. The binding is an example of the cottage industry of wooden transferware, most often with a Burns connection, that developed in Mauchine, and known, appropriately enough, as Mauchline Ware.

Mauchline Ware flourished in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, though much earlier examples also exist. Book bindings were one use, though they were generally less common than keepsakes such as small desk accessories or vases. This binding has a full tartan pattern transferred onto it, with an inset Scottish landscape scene. Other binding examples in our collection have transfer portraits of Burns in the center of their wooden boards.

Common to many gift books, this copy has an engraved page with an oval center space for a gift inscription, in this case as a likely birthday gift: “Isabella Anne Ramsden from her affectionate Papa, Sept. 8, 1854 Edinburgh.”

Tom Keith, a friend of our Department and a great collector of Mauchine Ware, recently gave us some of his collection that especially relates to Burns. Here are two examples which show the range of Mauchline Ware items: a small lidded box and a vase. Each has an impression of the Burns cottage birthplace in Alloway and Alloway kirk, featured in Burns’s “Tam O’ Shanter.”





About Jeffrey Makala

The Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections is located in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina. The department preserves and makes accessible rare materials and special research collections supporting teaching and research across a wide range of disciplines.
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