Visitors at Innerpeffray Library: J.M Barrie, George Bernard Shaw and Adam White

Exploring the history of reading, libraries, and historical tourism, I am one of the new researchers on the Books and Borrowing project, undertaking my PhD with Innerpeffray Library and the University of Stirling. My work continues the story of Innerpeffray Library from another PhD thesis published in 2018, looking into how the library was used in the second half of its lending history, from 1855-1968. In addition to the Borrowing Registers, which contain details of every book borrowed and by whom, I am also researching the library’s Visitors Books, another fascinating manuscript resource which contains the names of all visitors to the library from 1859 to the present day.

Illustration of the Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 1, cover.
Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 1, cover

Last month, I was delighted to be able to spend a week in the Reading Room at Innerpeffray Library, immersing myself in the space and getting to know the library’s volunteers and examine some of its manuscript records. With the aid of face masks, distancing, and regular hand washing – all necessities for archival research in 2020 – I started investigating and photographing Innerpeffray’s Visitors Books. Although part of my job is to fully digitise and transcribe the Visitors Books, creating a searchable database of visitors and where they hailed from, previous investigation into these books has discovered some famous past visitors – including three exciting signatures from the early twentieth century.

The signatures of J.M. Barrie, Charlotte F. Shaw and George Bernard Shaw, September 1924, Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 4, f.1r
The signatures of J.M. Barrie, Charlotte F. Shaw and George Bernard Shaw, September 1924. Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 4, f.1r

On 8 September 1924, Scottish writer and creator of Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie (above) visited Innerpeffray Library, accompanied by a member of the Haldane family from Cloan House. Three days later, on 11 September 1924, Irish writer George Bernard Shaw (G. Bernard Shaw, above) visited the library with his wife Charlotte, an Irish activist (Charlotte F. Shaw, above). In comparison to the Borrowing Registers, which record the books which library users borrowed, the Visitors Books do not often record the reason for each visitor’s trip to the library. In this instance, it has been suggested that both Barrie and the Shaws may have been staying with friends, perhaps the Haldanes, and were brought to see Innerpeffray Library as a tourist destination. Every so often, however, the Visitor Books do provide more information, as on 26 September 1865, when Adam White went into further detail about his visit to Innerpeffray.

Adam White, September 1865, Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 1, f.10v
Adam White, September 1865, Innerpeffray Library Visitors Book volume 1, f.10v: ‘Adam White, for 27 years an assistant in the Zoological Department, British Museum, spent many hours this day in the Library at Innerpeffray.’
Portrait of Adam White
Portrait of Adam White, aged 42, 7th October 1858. Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

By detailing that he ‘spent many hours’ at the Library, it is possible to infer that Adam White was not merely touring the Library but perhaps consulting texts for reference. And very excitingly, thanks to the extra information he provided, it has been possible to trace Adam White, who published two books and even has a species of insect named in his honour! As my research into the Visitors Books continues in the following months, I hope to be able to trace many more visitors to Innerpeffray Library, perhaps even more who have species named after them!

Taphroderes Whitii, as illustrated in Westwood, J. O., The Cabinet of Oriental Entomology (London: William Smith, 1848).]
Taphroderes Whitii, as illustrated in Westwood, J. O., The Cabinet of Oriental Entomology (London: William Smith, 1848).