Saturday, 16 September 2017

Meet the Borrower: Samuel Gilfillan

The latest Meet the Borrower comes slightly later than planned as Innerpeffray’s resident PhD student, Jill, has moved to Dundee to focus on writing-up. Innerpeffray Library and its borrowers, however, are inescapable, as this post attests.

Gilfillan Memorial Church, Dundee - Ref: WC1426

Close to the centre of Dundee stands Gilfillan Memorial church, which commemorates George Gilfillian (1813-1878), who was born in Comrie, around 10 miles west of Innerpeffray. Gilfillan was an author and poet as well as a minister, with a strong reputation for supporting working-class poets. Though George does not appear in the register of borrowers at Innerpeffray himself, books from the library were certainly borrowed by his family. This post centres on his father, Rev. Samuel Gilfillan.

Samuel Gilfillan appears in the register on five occasions. He visited in the winter months of 1791 and 1792, before returning almost two decades later in June 1812.  Listing his occupation as preacher of the Associate Congregation of Comrie, his first visits to the library were just months after his ordination, and prior to his marriage to Rachel Barlas in 1793. In 20 years between his visits, Samuel works hard to become proficient as a preacher in Gaelic, as well as English, to reflect the dual language of the parish. He, and other ministers of the same church, began a scheme to set up lending libraries in the highlands for largely religious books. 14 such libraries were created, with one in Comrie itself (possibly the one mentioned in the New Statistical Account of Scotland as opened in 1822). Astonishingly, his own borrowing does not reflect any interest in other languages, and nor does it typify the type of religious borrowing we see among others at Innerpeffray, which he evidently intends for borrowers from his own library scheme.

His early book selections are remarkable in their uniformity: three entries record the Scots Magazine, three Buffon's Natural History, two Robertson's History of Charles V and one other history, Watson's History of the reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain. Buffon is one of the most highly-illustrated works in the collection ("Rhinoceros" pictured below), but also gives remarkably full and detailled account of the natural world as it was understood at the time of composition. The Scots Magazine, bound into volumes which covered individual years, provided contemporary accounts of world events for a Scottish audience. Volume 48, for example, borrowed by Samuel in November 1792, records events for 1786. While other users seem to borrow older volumes to use as historic accounts, Samuel here favours the most recent edition (though the publication continued, the library held 1739-1786) What perhaps links these works is that they are more likely to be found in institutional collections rather than personal: both run to several volumes and, in practicality, require a fair amount of shelf-space, as well as a significant investment. Is he, therefore, supplementing access to books elsewhere with what was available at Innerpeffray?

Whilst it is unclear in his early borrowing years the extent of his book ownership, by the time of his later borrowing, Samuel had built up his own extensive library. Prized among his possessions were Thomas McRie’s Life of John Knox as well as the works of Hannah More (presented to him by the authors), and in 1803 he spent more than 10% of his income on books, binding and printing! He returned to Innerpeffray in 1812, however, to borrow ‘Roger’s Journals’ (Journals of Major Robert Rogers, London, 1765), Xenophon’s Memorabilia (Oxford, 1749) and Grotius ‘on the Christian Religion’ (likely The truth of the Christian religion, London, 1767). While Grotius and the Xenophon were fairly readily-available and standard works, Rogers is likely to have been rare even at the time, with only one London edition (and only 8 reported copies of any edition currently in the UK). It is a primary account of an American colonial frontiersman. As with his earlier borrowing, we see evidence that the library being used to supplement what's available in his personal collection.

Samuel Gilfillan's borrowings of Innerpeffray, and their contrast with the types of work which he intended for other to borrow from a lending library, have the potential to tell us more about the role that Innerpeffray filled. The lending library he envisioned would combat the lack of access to religious works among the lower classes, the type of work which middling sorts, such as himself, might be able to purchase or have access to through other networks. To other more typical borrowers, Innerpeffray does fulfil this role. Gilfillan, however, benefitted from the eclectic collection created through Innerpeffray's unique history, with its seventeenth-century origins as a private collection trying to support reading for all in contrast to its eighteenth-century governors' visions of 'scholarly gentleman'. It's exactly this kind of borrowing which lending libraries of the type he envisaged might not be able to support.

Samuel Gilfillan's Borrowings:
9 Nov 1791 Scots Magazine (1 vol)
9 Nov 1791 Buffon's Natural History (3 vol)
17 Jan 1792 Buffon's Natural History (5 vol)
17 Jan 1792 Scots Magazine (3 vol)
27 Nov 1792 Robertson's History of Charles V (vol 2)
27 Nov 1792 Buffon's Natural History (vol 8)
27 Nov 1792 Scots Magazine (vol 48)
31 Dec 1792 Robertson's History of Charles V (2 vol)
31 Dec 1792 Watson's The history of the reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain 1777
11 Jun 1812 Journals of Major Robert Rogers, 1765
11 Jun 1812 Xenophon’s Memorabilia, 1749
11 Jun 1812 Grotius The truth of the Christian religion, 1767

Aileen Black, Gilfillan of Dundee, 1813-1878, Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2006.
J. Gordon, ed. The New Statistical Account of Scotland. Comrie, Perth, Vol. 10, Edinburgh: Blackwoods and Sons, 1845 pp.578-596
Henry Paton, ‘Gilfillan, Samuel (1762–1826)’, rev. Rosemary Mitchell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004,  [accessed 30 Aug 2017; sign-in required]
English short title catalogue

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Wading in the footsteps of the Innerpeffray borrowers!

It's been almost a month since it last rained at Innerpeffray, and the usually forceful River Earn is calm and low. Inspired by the rare sight of the river's bed, intrepid Keeper, Lara Haggerty, took the opportunity to wade in the footsteps of historic Innerpeffray borrowers.
Though today Innerpeffray can sometimes feels like it's in the middle of nowhere, it is thought to have been a crossing point of the River Earn since Roman times. It was certainly in use in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a fact which the road layout echoes even in modern maps.
The Library's historic borrowers' register (1747-1968) suggests that borrowers regularly travelled across the water, from nearby Strageath (visible on the map above) and Muthill. While today Muthill is a 15 minute drive from Innerpeffray via Kinkell Bridge, we estimate that journey time could be slashed to 4 minutes if the river were passable by car.

A map of the Innerpeffray estate from 1889 shows not only a ford across the river, but also a ferry crossing, presumably for those who wished to keep their feet dry. Using this map as their guide, Lara (bravely accompanied by her daughter) waded her way across the Earn, reaching the other side in a matter of minutes, slowed only by the weight of water in their wellies.
Lara's review of the experience? "It was very fast-flowing in the middle, but not too chilly!"

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Innerpeffray during the First World War

Throughout the First World War, the Library at Innerpeffray appears to remain open.  The Keeper of Books at Innerpeffray Library is recorded as D. Sutherland. When he borrows books from the library he writes that he is the ’Librarian.’

It is not D. Sutherland, so much as it is his visitors, who are of interest. Many Sutherlands come and go throughout the war-period, but two stand out in the Register, as they write their occupation as ‘Soldier.’ The two soldiers appear in the Visitor’s Book eight times each and borrow several books during their stay at the Schoolhouse.
We can see from the Borrower’s Register exactly what the soldiers read on their stay. The books they borrowed came mainly from the Reading Room, which houses a collection from the 19th Century and later, many of which are fictional works.
Were these the source of recreation and respite for the soldiers?
· Salmon Fishing by William Earl Hodgson, 1906.
· One of the 28th: a tale of Waterloo by G.A. Henty, 1890.
· Hoof and Claw by Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, 1915.
· Kim by Rudyard Kipling, 1901.
· The First Hundred Thousand by John Hay Beith, 1876.
· Masterman Ready by Frederick Marryat, 1841.

From 1914 to 1919 we see the progression of the soldiers who write themselves into the Visitor’s Book, particularly R.W. Sutherland and J.W.R. Sutherland, the soldiers who stay in the Schoolhouse and borrow from the library.
R.W. Sutherland was part of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery “B” Battery Overseas Contingent. The RCHA came from older Batteries of the Canadian military and supported British formations.
J.W.R. Sutherland was part of the Scottish Horse M.E.F. and was later in the 2nd Cavalry Reserve in Ireland. In October 1916 the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Scottish Horse became known as the Black Watch.
Other visitors by the name of Sutherland also write down their occupation in the military, from the Royal Navy to the Seaforth Highlanders, though none of them appear to borrow books from the library.

Sophie Wood

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Innerpeffray Library: A tale of two buildings

Visitors to Innerpeffray justifiably wonder why two such contrasting buildings are nestled beside each other deep in the Perthshire countryside. The gleaming white eighteenth-century library building at Innerpeffray is not what you’d expect happily to co-exist beside the ancient stone chapel. Yet while the chapel building pre-dates the advent of Innerpeffray Library by nearly 2 centuries, it housed the collection for more than 8 decades, and it is that collection which caused the younger building to be constructed beside its neighbour.  A closer look at early sources about the library give some insight into was the library in the chapel was like, and the circumstances surrounding the creation of its (very close) neighbour.

The Library of Innerpeffray was founded by David Drummond, Third Lord Madertie in around 1680, during the latter stages of his life. It has long been known that the chapel at Innerpeffray was the original location of the library as it is specifically mentioned in his will, the terms of which still govern the library today. The small upper room created in its west end is the only reasonable candidate for its former home, and can still be visited today, by the sure-footed, via a small spiral staircase.

The few surviving archival records from the period do tell us something of the character of the room. The earliest recorded expenditure is “for buying firewood to preserve the books” in 1700 and 1701, and the small fireplace can still be seen, along with its chimney, sprouting incongruously from the chapel roof. Yet the phrasing shows that its inclusion is not, as you might assume, for the comfort of readers, but instead to preserve the books. This is an early hint that books from the library, with its limited space, light and warmth, were meant to be borrowed, rather than read in situ. This type of expense also shows that a priority for the early library was to preserve the existing collections rather than increase or update them.

This priority can be better understood when in 1724 the trustees describe the library as “being a small inconvenient room & not fit to contain one half of the books that already belong to it” and resolve to spend what money they have on a new building as a priority, alongside the purchase of new books.  Efforts towards creating a new building do not reappear in the archival record until the estate at Innerpeffray is inherited by Robert Hay Drummond in 1739. He conceives a space “for the conveniency of such as shall come to read. Also that as may be a proper central place for the Gentlmen of the neighbourhood to meet at such times as they shall appoint” – more a gentleman’s club than the small lending collection of the dark, intimate chapel room.  The books that he chooses for the collection also echo this new vision (for which see Recommended Reading).

The library building befits that grand conception, with its high ceilings and use of natural light, but what records we have of its use would suggest that not much changed in its move to such a very different location. Such use of space and light would suggest that the architect, and those who signed off on the project, had in mind a grand reading room in which books would be consulted onsite, very different from the intention to lend which had been evident in the chapel setting, but a much more usual use for a library building in the eighteenth century. The borrowers’ register, however, serves as proof that lending continued. The building we have today was in fact intended to be far grander. The trustees veto a plan for an expensive bow window and parapet roof in favour of “a plain roof and three venetian windows in front”, which still continue to serve the library well.

Three big issues seem to plague the planned construction of the library during the period: how to fund it, how to transport materials to the site, and where to put it. It is the latter question which still most puzzles us today. Plans for the building are shown to the Earl of Hopetoun and his advice is specifically sought in the positioning of the new building. There seems no question of the library moving far from its current location, but where to put it? Since we’ve not yet found any record of Hopetoun’s advice, we can as yet only infer it from the decision. 

As you can see in the image above, the two buildings, while separate, are merely inches from each other. The river directly to the side of the library plot may have been a limiting factor: It is problematic in the early life of the building, and various efforts in the 18th and 19th centuries are made to sure up the bank on which it sits, high above the River Earn. However, the library could have been positioned a little further north and still avoided the bank. Or, given the luxury of open space in the library room, it could have avoided any problems by being made a little smaller. The overlap is marked and unusual, and we may never know why. So far the only solution we have identified is a rather romantic one – that the books were to be moved as little from their original location as possible. Indeed, some of the books which would have been in the chapel inhabit shelves literally inches from the original chapel room. We’d be very interested in hearing if you have any better ideas!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

An Olympic Game

The Olympics have dominated much of our interest and attention recently: volunteer Bill Gray takes a closer look.  
The coverage of the Olympic Games this month left me realising I knew very little about their origin. I have been able to partly rectify this thanks to books to be found in Innerpeffray library. A brief mention of the beginning of the ancient games, or Olympiads, in 776 BC is given in volume v of Isaac Newton’s works. The Games continued to be held every four years until 393 AD. Thereafter a gap of 1500 years followed until the founding of the Modern Games in 1894 AD. However the real illumination of the Games is to be found in the marvellous collection of original Scots Magazines  in the library of Innerpeffray. In the volume dated 1754 on page 481 there is a delightful description of these ancient games which also confirms the ancient start-up as 776 BC. This (1754) is of course more than 100 years before their late nineteenth century resurrection after that no-action period of nigh on 1500 years. It seems the original purpose of the games was to stop the warring between city-states in ancient Greece, the argument being that non-fatal competition was a more civilised and more enjoyable way to demonstrate a 'country's' superiority.
The Games took place every four years (an Olympiad) and the sports to be seen have a familiar resonance today. The site where the games took place was called a ‘Stadium’. There was the 'Pentathlon' which comprised a foot race (running),wrestling, quoiting (discus), jumping and darting (javelin). The participants were, unsurprisingly, known as 'pentathletes'. Another sport was the 'pancratium',or boxing to us. It was interesting to read that, pre-empting the Marquis of Queensbury, biting and gauging were not allowed. Another popular event was the chariot race which closely resembled the one shown in the film Ben Hur. Seemingly it was as dangerous as is shown in that film and, even in that male oriented society, women could take part as charioteers. Events were organised in heats when there were many entrants and knock out competitions were run, leading to quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. These ‘exercises’ were distinguished by the name of ‘Gymnastics’.
The rewards for the victors also have a familiar ring. There was great acclamation, applause and cheering. Flowers were thrown and everyone wanted to touch the athletes and shake their hands. Victory parades were given to the winners and banquets were held in their honour.  Laudatory odes were composed and statues erected. Today’s victors might get a gold painted post-box erected in their home town. But the greatest accolade was reserved for the homecoming victor. The city walls were broken down to allow him (there were no female athletes) free access to the city. Victors were forever after honoured with the first and best seats at all public spectacles.
It all seems a bit familiar.