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.  

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Meet the weird and wonderful borrower: David Fisken

Some of the more weird and wonderful items in Innerpeffray’s collections have rarely been borrowed. Content can only go so far to explaining why some books are borrowed more than others. This month, Jill presented a paper to the Centre for the History of Print at the University of Leeds discussing how her PhD can include these additional factors, including size, weight, shape, type-face and weight. This is how we came across David Fisken.

We were interested in who borrowed one of largest and heaviest books, Mercator’s Novus Atlas (1638). It was borrowed only twice in the library’s history (records cover 1747-1968), once in 1839 by John Clarke of Muthill, then in 1852 by David Fisken of Innerpeffray. Another of our books popular with visitors today, but far smaller than the Atlas, is Belon’s 1555 La nature et diversité des poissons, which is similarly impressively hand-coloured. The image shows the two displayed side by side. Belon was only taken out once in the library’s history. That one borrower? The very same David Fisken.

David borrows from the library between 1845 and 1855, from every corner of the library shelves and across its full range of subjects. His borrowing incorporates weird and wonderful items that are not so popular within the borrowers' records, but he has a tendency also to go for the more borrowed items too. Science and the natural world, though not well represented within the collection, are popular for David as for other borrowers. Buffon (in an English translation) was one of Innerpeffray’s most borrowed books. Ferguson’s Astronomy explained is borrowed regularly from 1779 right into the 20th century.

He seems very interested in history, but across a wide range of periods - from Roman times with Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, through James I, up to the 1746 volume of the Scot’s magazine. He’s not just reading works on history, but also contemporary accounts. Very few new books arrived at Innerpeffray between 1790 and 1855, when there was an influx of new titles more suited to a modern lending library. David was seemingly making the most of Innerpeffray’s aging collection.

That said, David also has room for Shakespeare, coming twice in May 1853. Perhaps he, like others at the time, was keen for a stronger representation of classic literary works, and fiction in general. Meanwhile, there is still a strong showing for practical advice, especially on rural affairs (Wildman On Bees, The Complete Gardener), which is again typical of an Innerpeffray borrower.

Even though he borrows some weird and wonderful works, David Fisken’s tastes firmly reflect what was popular at Innerpeffray. This makes it all the more difficult to explain why he and few others were interested in Belon or in taking home Novus Atlas. All the other books are varied in their size, shape, and layout. Though there is a strong number of illustrations represented in his list, this seems to reflect the subject matter rather than a particular focus on picking out illustrated books. For example, the many history works are wholly text-based. Living so close to the library, and at a time when the position of keeper was not always filled, we are left with the possibility that he took out such things just because he could. When it comes to studying borrowing records, that type of pattern is hard to quantify.

Date Borrowed
13 Nov 1845
20 Nov 1845
6 Nov 1845
18 Dec 1845
1 Jul 1847
28 Oct 1847
23 Dec 1847
3 Jan 1848
2 Nov 1848
28 Mar 1850
25 Jul 1850
22 May 1851
19 Jun 1851
26 Jun 1851
20 May 1852
1 Jul 1852
19 May 1853
26 May 1853
4 May 1853
9 Jun 1853
25 May 1854
Title (Volume)
Sleidanus’ A famouse cronicle of oure time
Arnot’s Celebrated criminal trials in Scotland
Inchaaffray Leases
Crispi Sallustii opera omnia
Belon’s La nature et diversité des poissons
Clagett’s Sermons
The laws and acts of Parliament made by King James the First
Biographia Britannica (v.2)
Dalrymple’s Annals of Scotland
Drummond’s History of Scotland from the year 1423 to 1542
Scots Magazine (v.8)
Buffon’s Natural history (v.4)
Mr Chambers Cyclopaedia (v.2 & 3)
The complete farmer: or, a general dictionary of husbandry
Mercator’s Novus atlas
Wildman’s Treatise on the management of bees
Shakespeare: The Plays (v.1)
Shakespeare: The Plays (v.6)
Gibbon’s History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (v.2)
Dalrymple’s Annals of Scotland
Ferguson’s Astronomy explained

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Meet a borrower, meet a relative?

More often than you might imagine, visitors to Innerpeffray with local connections manage to find their ancestors in either our borrowers’ records (1747-1968) or visitors books (1839-today). With successful matches, we can reunite people with the book or books their relative borrowed in what can be a very moving encounter. Yet if the enquirer arrives with very little information, or with a very common name to search for, it can be difficult to identify their relatives in the registers confidently. We never hesitate to search, however, because the borrowings of individuals we do come across, related or not, still provide a fascinating snapshot of a reading life. This is how we came across George Taylor, Student. 

George borrows his first book from Innerpeffray in August 1791. He returns the following summer, and again in the summer of 1794. These gaps in borrowing are not uncommon in the record and, given that he only visits between late April and August, it is possible George was coming to Crieff for seasonal work. This has made it very difficult to trace exactly who he is and what he does, or indeed tie him down to any specific “George Taylor” in the usual sources. In cases like these, sometimes the register entry and books borrowed are all we have to go on. 

George gives “student” as his occupation, which could explain his lengthy absences, but has in fact proved a difficult term to pin down. It appears in the will of David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, when he founds the library in the 1680s “for the benefit of young students”. However, the borrowers’ records, which start in 1747, give no evidence of a restriction to use for those affiliated to particular courses of study or institutions. Further, books on the shelves at Innerpeffray are not your typical educational fare, with a particular lack of standard classical texts until much later. The OED definition “A person engaged in or dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge” means the term “student” could cover autodidacts, or people with a general interest, leaving the only real evidence for what George is or does is as the books he borrows and how he borrows them. 

His first books are volumes 2 and 3 of Pennant’s Tour in Scotland. It isn’t unusual for these to be borrowed separately and out of order as they each deal with different parts of Scotland. We’ve also doubled checked and are certain that volume one wasn’t on loan to someone else at the time! All three volumes are heavily illustrated, and one is currently on display in our travel exhibition. If he’s new to Scotland, or new to a particular part of Scotland, he may be looking to understand his surroundings or their history. 

George’s borrowing continues to show a strong interest in Scottish history and its folklore. Smith’s Galic Antiquities, which he took out in 1792, concerns itself not with physical objects, as we might expect from the title, but with a short history of the Druids, an even shorter discussion of the controversial “poet” Ossian. The final 50% of the book is filled with Ossian’s poetry. In 1794 George also takes out Macpherson’s Critical Dissertations, perhaps wanting to judge for himself the true story behind the mysterious Ossian! 

One of Innerpeffray’s most borrowed books is William Robertson’s (1769) History of the Reign of Emperor Charles V. George borrows volume one in April 1792, and is clearly taken with it, or at least displays a certain level of diligence by borrowing volumes two and three a month later. In contrast, a great many borrowers of the same title seem to have decided that volume one was enough to get the gist. As you can see in the image above, volume 1 was the only one which required a new spine! Rather than a biography, the work more of a history of the reformation jazzed up with events from Charles’ reign, with Martin Luther cast in the heroic role.  

Other titles George borrows delve deeper into both religious history and travel. Especially remarkable is the volume Journey to Siberia, which is an account of a journey through Russia to observe an astronomical phenomenon, but details the people and the minerals Chappe D’Auteroche encounters (strangely, with equal weight!). The people he encounters are also illustrated, giving a vivid picture of a vast expanse most likely unknown to George. Travel again, in particular accounts of people and places, seem to fuel his borrowing.  

While we know no more about him the records at Innerpeffray - the books he borrows, and how he borrows them - we can build up some sort of picture of George. He seems to be a diligent student with a strong interest in Scottish history and an inquiring mind. Whether or not he is a Taylor related to our visitor, however, we may never know.

Books Borrowed 

Date Borrowed
9 August 1791 
24 April 1792 
24 April 1792 
21 May 1792 
14 April 1794 
30 May 1794 
30 June 1794 
30 June 1794
Title (Volume) 

Pennant’s Tour in Scotland (v2 & 3) 
Robertson’s History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V  (v1) 
Smith’s Galic Antiquities 
Robinson’s History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (v2 & v3) 
Kames’ Sketches of the History of Man 
Leland’s View of the Principal Deistical Writers (2 vols) 
Chappe D’Auteroche’s Journey into Siberia 
Macpherson’s Critical Dissertations
Publication Date