Lending Registers at Glamis Castle, 1699-1754

by Kelsey Jackson Williams, University of Stirling

Glamis Castle Archive Box 249. © The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle

When exploring an old aristocratic library you dream of finding many things – incunables, manuscripts, provenance and marginalia forgotten by the centuries – but what I had not expected on a frozen December afternoon, still scarfed and coated inside, rubbing my hands for warmth as I worked through archive boxes in Glamis Castle, was a lending register. Two lending registers, in fact. Through the kind auspices of the Glamis archivist, Ingrid Thomson, Dr Mhairi Rutherford and I were writing an article on the library which had been assembled there by an Earl of Kinghorne at the beginning of the seventeenth century. As part of that, we were poring over the family’s immense manuscript archive in search of earlier library catalogues and in the process of doing so we came across two documents: a much-folded bifolium and a rather battered notebook in marble paper wraps which proved to be the castle library’s lending registers for 1699-1708 and the 1740s respectively.

Glamis Castle Archive Box 249, 66/4/2. © The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle

The bifolium is largely taken up with an early book list, evidently of works owned by the family. This in itself is of interest – the tantalising reference to “Mr William Shakespares Comedes histores and tragedies” is 1632 Second Folio as found in another library list – but the gem is a single column on the back which records the lending of a series of books from the Glamis library between 1699 and 1708.  These notes not only show books circulating widely – one book, The Christian Sacrifice, is to be passed on to another reader when the first “has done with it” – but also a very early female borrower, Mrs. Helen Lammie, who borrowed “a play book”. Local ties are very much in evidence, as in the case of “Senecas Morralls lent to the Minister of Glammis”.

Glamis Castle Lending Register, Archive Box 249, 67/1/4. © The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle

The second item, by contrast, is a much more fully realised document, a tool for ensuring the tidy coming and going of books. It is a tall, narrow folio notebook, now bent in two to allow for storage in a smaller archive box, bound in contemporary marbled wraps. Index tabs have been neatly prepared for each letter of the alphabet and both tab and page have been stamped in red with the appropriate letter (the technology behind this deserves its own investigation). I would be the first to disclaim any expert knowledge about lending registers, but the format reminds me somewhat of the contemporary register at Innerpeffray Library with loans being recorded in formulaic paragraphs like this:

Glammiss Castle 9th febry 1740 Then Taken out of the Library Boyers Gramiere the royal french gramiere French and english Letters which I promiss to return upon Demand

Geo: Forbes

Returns are noted in the margin, in this case: “Glamiss August ye 31st 1741 of ye above date were Returnd, Boyers Gramear and the French and English letters Strathmore”.

Entries under ‘F’. Glamis Castle, Archive Box 249, 67/1/4. © The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle

Unlike Innerpeffray, however, it was no salaried librarian who was managing this volume, but the Earl of Strathmore himself! Thomas Lyon, 8th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (1704-1753) had only come to the title and estate by accident after the unlucky deaths of his three elder brothers and comparatively little is known of his life, but the lending register is striking evidence of his care and concern for the already substantial library at Glamis. Regrettably, its use seems to have been comparatively short-lived. Most entries are for 1740-41 and the last dates to 16 November 1754, just after the earl’s death, when his seventeen-year-old son and heir, John, records taking out a large number of volumes, probably for educational purposes. Nonetheless, it is a testament to an otherwise unrecorded moment of reading and lending of books in rural Angus, a county remote from major libraries.

Study of these registers is still in a very early stage.  I have yet to identify the borrowers – though their names suggest that local Angus clergy and gentry bulk large in their numbers – and analyse their choice of books. Followers of Books and Borrowing, however, will be unsurprised to note the presence of Stanhope’s Sermons! Going forward, I hope to address these questions, perhaps in an article, and add a small but unusual tessera to the mosaic of Scotland’s book history.