New exhibition at NLS – Pen Names

A major exhibition ‘Pen Names’ – which explores why some authors prefer to use an alias – has opened at NLS.
Using material from their extensive literary archives and printed collections, the exhibition covers a range of writers using pseudonyms who were working in the UK from the 1800s to the present day. Writers include George Eliot, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Josephine Tey, Frank Quitely, Dreda Say Mitchell and Ambrose Parry.

On show will be rare first editions, pulp fiction titles, popular novels and unique collection items. The exhibition also includes a family-friendly interactive activity as well as reading areas for visitors to sit and relax with a book written by (or about) featured authors.

Pen Names will run at NLS, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh until 29 April 2023. Entry is free.


National treasures exhibition – coming soon

Treasures of the National Library of Scotland

A new permanent exhibition, Treasures of the National Library of Scotland, opens on Friday 25 March.

The Treasures exhibition reveals the stories of well-known and surprising items from the national collections, and is set to be a major attraction in Edinburgh.

Visitors will get a glimpse of our vast collections – from the groundbreaking Gutenberg Bible and the handwritten work of Robert Burns to multimedia displays showing early innovations in sound and film. This exhibition provides unique insights into Scotland’s story, and its place in the world.

source: National Library newsletter — March 2022

Ukraine and saving cultural heritage

As part of the UK Web Archive project, NLS are gathering online activity on the topic of the war in Ukraine, with a focus on the relationships with Scotland. This includes news and commentary, charities and fundraising, demonstration and community responses from Scots-Ukrainians, Scots-Russians and Scots-Poles.
A group of cultural heritage professionals – librarians, archivists, researchers, programmers – have set up Save Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO). They are asking for volunteers to help identify and archive sites and content, while they are still online. You do not have to read Ukrainian or Russian to help.

source: National Library newsletter — March 2022

Sir Walter Scott and the Historical Novel – a new display at NLS

From the NLS February newsletter:

Our Sir Walter Scott and the Historical Novel display is open at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. It celebrates Scott’s literary achievements and the development of the historical novel, as well as his contribution to Scotland’s national identity. Items on display include correspondence, engravings and original manuscripts, including ‘The Heart of Mid-Lothian’, considered by some to be one of Scott’s finest novels.

Sir Walter Scott is one of Scotland’s most important authors and last year marked the 250th anniversary of his birth. We hold significant collections of works relating to Scott, including first editions of his novels and the largest collection of Scott’s correspondence to be found anywhere in the world. Our successful Bring the Bards Home appeal recently enabled us to acquire the manuscript of ‘Rob Roy’, which we look forward to receiving later this year.

Visit our Sir Walter Scott display

Sir Walter Scott – 250th anniversary

Sir Walter Scott display opens tomorrow at NLS

A new display, Sir Walter Scott and the Historical Novel, opens at the National Library of Scotland tomorrow (Friday 12th November). This display celebrates Scott’s literary achievements and development of the historical novel, together with his contribution to Scotland’s national identity. Items on display include correspondence, engravings and original manuscripts, including ‘The Heart of Mid-Lothian’, considered by some to be one of Scott’s finest novels.

Sir Walter Scott is one of Scotland’s most important authors and this year marks the 250th anniversary of his birth. NLS holds significant collections of works relating to Scott, including first editions of his novels and the largest collection of Scott’s correspondence to be found anywhere in the world. NLS hope the Bring the Bards Home appeal will help to further grow their collection of Scott material, to include the manuscript of ‘Rob Roy’.

You can find out about other anniversary celebrations taking place during 2021-22 at: Sir Walter Scott 250

16th century Gaelic manuscript acquired by NLS

image of a page from a very old book, with handwritten Gaelic text. Much of page is missing but it has been conserved
the Chronicle of Fortingall

16th century manuscript acquired for the nation
We’re delighted to announce that we were successful in securing the manuscript known as the Chronicle of Fortingall (pictured) at auction last month. This is a significant addition to our Scottish Gaelic manuscripts collection, which is the largest in the world.

Scribes compiled the manuscript between 1554 and 1579 at Fortingall in Highland Perthshire and it contains contemporary annals, poetry and other short texts in Latin, Scots and Gaelic. The scribes belonged to the MacGregor family who compiled the slightly earlier Book of the Dean of Lismore, which is the earliest surviving collection of Scottish Gaelic poetry and one of our greatest treasures. Scholarly research and evidence shows the two manuscripts were almost certainly compiled by members of the same family.

This acquisition was made possible with generous support from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Magnus and Janet Soutar Trust, the B H Breslauer Foundation Fund and the Leckie Family Charitable Trust.

– NLS Newsletter, June 2021

New sounds from NLS artist-in-residence

As the Library’s artist-in-residence for the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project, Jenny Sturgeon has worked with 30 people from across Scotland to create two collaborative pieces of sound art. Listen to As Far North As Anything Grows and Pushing, Reaching, Falling, Replacing on YouTube. These pieces of sound art were formed from four creative writing and music workshops that Jenny ran between November 2020 and March 2021. They were based around archive material from one of the project partners: Professor James Holms Dickson’s ecology lectures at the University of Glasgow (1989, tape recording pictured). Workshop participants delved into and drew inspiration from archive material and field recordings, as well as creating new music and spoken material.


NLS learning resource – Struggles for Liberty

A new online learning resource from the National Library of Scotland:

We’ve launched a new online learning resource – Struggles for Liberty: African American Revolutionaries in the Atlantic World. This resource explores the lifelong fight for social justice of African American activists, some of whom campaigned in Scotland in the 19th century.

Struggles for Liberty features writings authored by prominent African American reformers, freedom fighters and campaigners including Frederick Douglass, Maria W. Stewart, Nathaniel Turner, Sojourner Truth, David Walker and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Their histories are told through autobiographies, letters, photographs and other original documents held at the National Library, in the Walter O. Evans Collection (now at Yale) and in other US library and archive collections.

The resource is arranged by theme including the Story of the Slave, the History of Black Abolition, and African American activists in Scotland. It also includes interactive maps and downloadable learning activities for teachers, including activities mapped to the Curriculum for Excellence.

Struggles for Liberty was created in collaboration with collector Dr Walter O. Evans and partners in the US and th­e UK.

Digital resources at the NLS

Happy New Year to everyone and best wishes for a better 2021.

Country Life – August 2019

Thought you might like to cheer up the new year by enjoying browsing in the “Country Life Archive”, to which we have recently subscribed.  I’m sure you are all familiar with the magazine as an amazing source of information and photos of country houses, estates and leisure pursuits, with of course lots of adverts and biographical information too, giving a great insight to lifestyles and culture of their times. It covers the period from 1897 – 2005, in colour and is fully searchable.

Find the resource from this link: within our Digital Gallery.  To use this from your home you will need to register online as a Library reader and to have a postal address in Scotland. This is very straightforward to do and the information is here:

Happy browsing!

Jennifer Giles
Curator (Scottish Communities & Organisations) National Library of Scotland

A few other interesting NLS e-resources to browse from home:

Digital Gallery – View digitised items from the world-class NLS collections
Digital gallery – National Library of Scotland (

Map images – view thousand of maps online
National Library of Scotland – Map Images (

Moving Image archive

Moving Image archive – From home movies to documentaries, from industry to entertainment – the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive (formerly the Scottish Screen Archive) has something for everyone. Explore around 100 years of Scotland’s history captured by amateur and professional film-makers.
Moving Image Archive catalogue (

Scotsman Digital Archive, 1817-1950 – A full-text digital archive of every issue of The Scotsman newspaper, from 1817 to 1950, in its original published context
eResources – National Library of Scotland (

Browse the full NLS Digital resources collection here: Digital resources – National Library of Scotland (

Here’s one I prepared earlier: a guide to promoting your collections – event report


Yesterday I attended CILIPS East Branch‘s afternoon event exploring some different ways to promote our library collections. It took place at the NLS, and over a few hours we were presented with three very different methods of “exhibiting” materials.

Gordon Yeoman, Exhibitions Conservator, National Library of Scotland
Gordon gave us a run down of what goes into putting on a large exhibition such as Northern Lights, the Scottish Enlightenment (currently running at NLS). His team of six people also work with curators and other NLS staff to present smaller exhibitions in various places around the library. This talk was followed by half an hour in which we were actually able to go and view the exhibit. It looks wonderful.

Calum McGhie, Customer Service Manager, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Edinburgh
I found this section particularly interesting. Though it was less from an exhibition viewpoint and more that it gave me ideas of how we might better communicate with our users around the library using ‘shelf talkers’, as they do in bookshops.

Graeme Hawley, Head of General Collections, National Library of Scotland
The ever entertaining Mr Hawley spoke engagingly about the exhibition he wasn’t able to make into an exhibition (because the Enlightenment exhibit was using the space). Instead he built a website of long-read essays and films to tell the story of the decade which (he argues) is responsible for making the world we live in today. You can visit his website here: Back to the future: 1979-1989.

This was a very enjoyable afternoon and I was really impressed by the unusual (perhaps even quirky!) takes on the idea of ‘exhibitions’. Thanks CILIPS East.