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Monday, June 17, 2024

Rare Burns book saved after pages ripped out in late 1800s

Rare Burns bookOnFife

A rare first edition of a book of Robert Burns poems was saved by a collector in the late 1800s as it was being ripped up by a barber to clean razors.

Burns enthusiast John Murison had spotted the book in a dilapidated state at a barber’s shop in Shrewsbury.

The Glasgow collector stepped in to buy the book, Poems Chiefly In The Scottish Dialect.

It is now on display in Fife, although its first 50 pages are missing.

The exact date Mr Murison rescued the book is not known, but it is thought to have been in the 1880s or 1890s.

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The book will be displayed at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries in Fife, next to the Abbey Church, which Burns visited in 1787.

It will be on show in the reading room from 3 January to 5 February, coinciding with Burns Night on 25 January.

Only 612 copies of Burns’s debut collection, commonly known as the Kilmarnock Edition, were printed in 1786 and it is thought that only 84 survive worldwide.

Sara Kelly, local studies officer with OnFife, the cultural charity which runs the library, said it was a mystery how the book ended up in Shropshire.

Robert Burns

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“The only noted owner is an Alexander Dick in 1790, so there’s more research to be done if we are to chart the book’s journey to Shrewsbury,” she said.

“It’s wonderful that John Murison had the presence of mind to step in and save the book, given that so few of them still exist.

“It doesn’t go on show very often because of its condition and rarity.”

The truncated edition is part of the John Murison Collection that is looked after by OnFife. Because of its fragile condition, it is housed in a conservation box.

The book will be displayed with other Burns-related material collected by Mr Murison, who visited Shrewsbury when he was working as a travelling seed merchant.

Mr Murison’s treasure trove of 1,700 artefacts – considered to be one of the world’s finest collections of Burns-related material – was bought by construction mogul Sir Alexander Gibb, who gifted it to Dunfermline Carnegie Library in 1921.

Poems Chiefly In The Scottish Dialect was printed by John Wilson of Kilmarnock and the entire print-run sold out within a month.

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