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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

Imprints of a Nation: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Writers and Publishers

Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery, Hollings Library
Mar 30, 2012 - Jun 30, 2012

The “Imprints of a Nation: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Writers and Publishers” exhibition will be on display in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery in the Hollings Library through June.

The exhibition illustrates the achievements of 18th-century Scottish writers and draws attention to the Scottish publishers and printers who brought their work to the world. Created to welcome the 25th annual conference of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society on April 12-14, the exhibition draws on current scholarly approaches to the history of the book, and its broad range shows the library’s outstanding strength as a center for Scottish research.

In the eighteenth century, Scotland experienced a "sudden burst of genius" -- the Scottish Enlightenment. David Hume in philosophy, Adam Smith in economics, and Robert Burns in poetry are among the many Scots whose writings gained lasting influence far outside Scotland. Above left is an image of Allan Ramsay, another Scottish poet of the time. Scots played major roles in the American Revolution, with 19 Scots or Scots-Irish delegates among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically. Most cases feature work from a single publisher, focused on the publications of one or more major writer whom he published. Along with first and other early editions, and original manuscripts by Robert Burns and others (including his first book, the “Kilmarnock edition”), the exhibition includes special sections on the Scottish debate over church-state relations, Jacobite writing (with a musket ball from the battle of Culloden), a Scottish publisher in revolutionary America (with the Declaration of Independence from the Journals of the Continental Congress which he printed), and Scottish Enlightenment books from the antebellum library of South Carolina College.

         The exhibition is chiefly drawn from the library's G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns & Scottish Poetry, from the many Scottish Enlightenment books acquired by the College 200 years ago, from the James Willard Oliver Collection of David Hume, the Charles B. Weasmer Collection of Secession Presbyterianism, and the recently-donated collections of Donald T. Siebert and G. Edward Gregg.

         Associated with the main exhibition during and immediately after the conference were several smaller displays: a selection of Burns manuscripts and letters from the Roy Collection in the Roy-Scott Room; a selection of early editions of Allan Ramsay, also from the Roy Collection, in the wall cases of Room 135; and a selection of items on Milton and the Scots, chiefly from the Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton, in the wall cases of the Richter Room.

         The exhibition is open to visitors 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday in Hollings Library.

         For more information, including driving and parking directions, visit