THE LIBRARY extends a warm welcome to delegates of the
Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland to Glasgow, and
in particular, to the Department of Special Collections where a small
display of Spanish material spanning the fifteenth to the nineteenth
century has been arranged for the duration of your conference, and
thereafter 'virtually' on the web for future perusal. The items in this
display have been drawn from several of our collections: the
Old Library, the
William Euing (1788-1874)
Bible collection, Professor John
Ferguson's (1837-1916) peerless alchemical library, the emblem books
of Sir William Stirling Maxwell
(1818-78), the rare linguistic collection of
Henri Bourgeois (presented
1926) and the rabbinic library of
Ludwig Blau (1861-1936).
This year is an especially significant one for Glasgow to be hosting this conference, as we have only just added signally to our holdings of Spanish literature by acquiring from Bruno Scarfe his remarkable collection of comedias sueltas and desglosadas, which will be known as the 'Scarfe-La Trobe Collection'. Mr Scarfe (formerly of La Trobe University), who has close family connections with the city and the University of Glasgow, had had offers to purchase the collection from Spain and the USA, but Glasgow University, where his father was for many years a Senior Lecturer in the French Department, was by far his preferred permanent location. An application made to the National Fund for Acquisitions resulted in the award of a 50% grant while the additional funds needed to assist purchase were provided from within the University - from the Chancellor's Fund, the Friends of Glasgow University Library, the Faculty of Arts Library Discretionary Fund, and the Principal's Strategic Development Fund.
Of international importance, the Scarfe-La Trobe Collection of Spanish plays 1600-1900 constitutes a rich corpus of primary evidence which not only illuminates the character and development of Spanish drama but also demonstrates the mutually influential relationship between the national theatre of Spain and drama as it was created, read, performed and printed throughout Europe during three impressively productive centuries. It must be regarded as a major new research resource which will be of considerable benefit both to the University and to scholarship at large. As such it joins ninety-six named special collections, acquired over the 550 years of the University's history.
The first explicit mention of the University Library is dated November 1475 when the first donations by the Chancellor, Bishop John Laing were recorded.In this fashion of small donations and bequests the Library was steadily enlarged throughout the pre- and post- Reformation periods. From a stock of around 3,500 at the end of the 17th century, the library grew sharply throughout the course of the 18th century. This was due largely to the Copyright Act of 1709 which required that it be furnished with a copy of each work entered at Stationers' Hall. Distance from London and the attendant difficulties of acquiring the books required by the teaching staff, rendered the Stationers' Privilege ineffective and consequently in 1836 it was commuted to a fixed sum paid from the Consolidated Fund. The Old Library, in effect all items acquired prior to 1836, held almost nothing in Spanish, and little in modern languages.
However the Library received its greatest boost in 1807 when it inherited the prized library of Dr William Hunter, the distinguished anatomist and Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte. His personal collection of some 10,000 volumes alone augmented the library's stock by fifty percent, and also brought distinction and character to an adequate, but undistinguished academic collection. Moreover, the 650 manuscript codices in the collection, over 100 of them illuminated, accorded Glasgow a prominence which it could not have achieved with its own resources.
The range and number of works in Spanish or relative to Spain and its American colonies, testifies to a more than passive interest on Hunter's part. His reputation as a collector of Hispanic items must have been well established when through the agency of (Isaac?) de Pinto, he acquired one of our greatest treasures, the Descripción de la ciudad y provincia de Tlaxcala.
Another collector, Sir William Stirling Maxwell, whose unrivalled collection of emblem books, acquired in 1958, has become a focus of international research over the last twenty years, was also a former Chancellor of this university. A more explicit enthusiast in respect of things Hispanic, he assembled one of the finest private collections of Spanish paintings (now at Pollok House), and published the first major study on Spanish art and history, the Annals of the artists of Spain (1848).
We hope you will be able to visit Special Collections to see the display; however, should the demands of a very full programme prevent this, we have produced a brief catalogue and web display, which in a more relaxed moment, after the conference, might stimulate a future visit.