SCOTLAND’S first free public lending library has been gifted an “astonishing” collection of more than 200 first editions, valued at more than £650,000, by a wealthy American collector.
The collection of rare Scottish books, including works by Robert Burns, David Hume and John Knox, have been donated to the Library of Innerpeffray in Highland Perthshire by Janet Burns Saint Germain who first visited the historic library 20 years ago.
The Library of Innerpeffray was founded in 1680 “for the benefit of all” by David Drummond, the third Lord Madertie .The library was originally located in the loft of St Mary’s Chapel, and moved into a purpose-built library house in 1762
The library already houses more than 5000 books, including the oldest continuous Borrowers’ Register in Europe. But it has now been revealed Innerpeffray is to be the new home of the “Scottish Collection”, worth in the region of 1 million dollars, after being gifted to the library by Mrs Germain.
A library spokeswoman said: “The Collection includes an exceptional assembly of the works of Robert Burns including a handwritten manuscript of the song ‘Wilt Thou be my Dearie?’, first editions of many important Scottish Enlightenment writers such as David Hume, and Samuel Johnson’s tour of Scotland and Journey to the Western Isles, as well as many superb examples of early Scottish books.”
She explained: “Mrs Germain visited the library some twenty years ago, and decided her collection belonged here.The Library of Innerpeffray was the first free public lending library in Scotland. It contains over 5000 books and the oldest continuous Borrowers Register in Europe, revealing the name, address and occupation of people who took home books: shepherds, merchants, and weavers. Now a museum, visitors come from all over the world to enjoy its treasures first-hand, trace their family in the register and marvel in the power of the written word.”
Mrs Germain, whose great grandparents came from Fife and Kinross, said: “I want people to enjoy the books as much as I have, and for that to happen they need to be available, not locked away in a private or academic library. Innerpeffray is perfect.”
Robert Wallace, chairman of the Library of Innerpeffray said “We are utterly thrilled that Innerpeffray will be the new home for this astonishing collection and deeply honoured by the generosity. We invite everyone interested in Scotland, its history and literature to visit us and share in the gift.”
Martyn Wade, chief executive of the National Library of Scotland said: “This collection brings together the best of Scottish literature across four centuries. I am delighted it is coming to Scotland.”