The University of South Carolina is marking the bicentenary of Robert Burns's death in 1796, not only with an international research conference on "Robert Burns and Literary Nationalism," but with a major exhibition of works by and about the poet, showing selected highlights from the G. Ross Roy Collection of Burns, Burnsiana and Scottish Poetry.
This extensive collection, acquired from Professor Roy through a generous gift-purchase agreement in 1989, is now widely recognized as among the best Burns collections anywhere in North America, and it regularly attracts to the University researchers from around the world. It is a special pleasure to me to see the Roy Collection displayed for the bicentenary, as its acquisition was one of the first goals to be realized after I became director of the University of South Carolina Libraries.
The present exhibition, curated by Prof. Roy himself, represents of course only a very small part of the whole collection, which covers Scottish poetry from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, with some earlier items. On-line entries for items in the collection are available through the University's USCAN catalogue, and through the World Wide Web, and a full printed catalogue of the Burns items is now also in preparation, with Prof. Roy's help. This exhibit catalogue gives a sample of what is to come and provides an informative commemoration of the University's Robert Burns bicentenary celebrations.
Vice-Provost and Dean for Libraries and Information Systems
A Note on the Exhibit and Catalogue
The items chosen for the University's Robert Burns bicentenary exhibit have been selected from over four thousand items in the Roy Collection on Burns alone. In making the selection, the aim has been not only to display some of the outstanding high points and the rarest items (the Kilmarnock edition, the 1799 Merry Muses, the letter to Clarinda), but also to represent some of the different strengths of the collection, as for instance in sections on the early editions, on the development of Burns scholarship in the nineteenth century, on Burns chapbooks, on Burns and Scottish song, and on Burns translations. For the display, but not in this catalogue, I also included some items, such as postcards, banknotes and postage stamps, to illustrate the poet's popular reputation. The great majority of items have now been transferred with the Roy Collection to the University of South Carolina Libraries; a few items on display, notably manuscripts and artifacts, are from my personal collection, and the postcards were from the collection of Thomas E. Keith. The items on Burns in America, originally displayed as part of a small separate exhibit in South Caroliniana Library, have here been integrated with the main exhibit sequence.
While I have selected the items and provided the descriptions, I should like to thank Jamie S. Hansen, who coordinated the exhibit for Special Collections, my wife Lucie who helped with the exhibit planning and with this catalogue, and Patrick Scott who helped in mounting the exhibit and in editing. Thanks are due to the South Carolina Humanities Council, a state-level agency of the National Endowment for the Humanities, for support of the Burns bicentenary project, and to the Thomas Cooper Society, for generously funding this exhibit catalogue.
This handsome full-length statue of Burns, in bronzed plaster, is based on the most familiar image of the poet, Alexander Nasmyth's full-length oil-portrait, painted in 1828.
This virtual exhibit has been grouped into eight islands of material. To go to an island, simply click on one of the following links. While on an island page, click on the thumbnail pictures to see larger images or excerpts from the texts.