Worldwide impact of Scottish literature to be mapped

The worldwide impact of Scottish literature – from the golden age of poetry in the Middle Ages to the cult of Trainspotting – will be illuminated across the globe with the revival of a massive digital bibliography.

A selection of Scottish Literature translations held in the digital bibliography. PIC: University of Glasgow.
A selection of Scottish Literature translations held in the digital bibliography. PIC: University of Glasgow.

The Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation (BOSLIT) contains over 32,000 records in 104 languages and maps literature by Scots writers in all its forms.

The database looks at the influence of Scottish literature as it has travelled around the world and holds information about the countries where individual writers are popular.

Until 2018, the bibliography was hosted by the National Library of Scotland, but it had to be withdrawn due to its outdated format.

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Now librarians, academics, translators, and publishers, led by the University of Glasgow with funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, are to rescue and secure the database for future generations of Scots and Scottish literature lovers around the world.

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Professor Kirsteen McCue, the project’s Principal Investigator and Professor of Scottish Literature and Song Culture at the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts, said: “From Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle to Walter Scott’s first novel Waverley to the eponymous heroine Jean Brodie of Muriel Spark’s writing, Scottish texts have travelled the world across decades even centuries.

They have ignited the imagination and represented the best of Scotland to the world.

“In the 1990s an amazing group of scholars and librarians decided to map these activities and the result was the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation which today has over 32,000 entries of text and translations by Scottish writers from the medieval period up to the present day in over 100 languages.

“But in recent years BOSLIT has become a little bit invisible. Now thanks to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow is launching a project to look at the digital future of BOSLIT. We hope that our project will help ensure this great reservoir of Scottish writing translated into dozens of languages will be protected and allow more people than ever before access this wonderful rich resource of Scottish literature.”

The new project will create a new “digital home” for the bibliography which will allow enhanced analysis of the database.

It is hoped this will make research into the global reception of Scottish Literature across the centuries more accessible.

Dr Paul Malgrati, Research Assistant, who is based in the university’s Scottish Literature department, grew up in France and said a key factor behind his decision to study in Scotland were the Scottish books he read in French translations.

He said: “From Ossian to Ivanhoe and Kidnapped, it is through translation that I first began to love Scotland and its literature. Scottish writing is a staple of world culture, and it is important that the contribution of translators to this global success be fully acknowledged.”

Dr Malgrati added: “Scottish Literature has had a tremendous impact on the modern imagination - an influence which reached far beyond Scotland’s own border.”

It is hoped the Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation will be launched in 2023.

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