Adventures with auld Acts: Pre-1707 Acts of the Scottish Parliament

I had such a fun enquiry this morning! It started off looking like a simple request for an Act of the old Scottish Parliament. Easy-peasy since we have two sets of Thomson’s Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland in stock. However, my enquirer expected c.24 of 1661 to be on the topic of diligence… but it was not (dun dun daaaaa!)

We double checked a couple of sources, including Stair’s Institutions of the law of Scotland but the Act was always cited as c.24 of 1661. Then I remembered that, although Thomson’s Acts (known as the Record edition) is considered the key text, there are various other versions of the Scottish Acts available. Also, I later realised, since Stair’s work was published in 1681 he would certainly not be referring to a set of volumes commissioned by Queen Victoria!

I went off to find one of our tiny ‘Glendook’ editions of the Acts. The two volumes look striking when juxtaposed since the Glendook is only 16cm tall while the Record edition is literally larger than my torso!

 

Glendook is tough to work with. The tiny page size means tiny text. Also, there’s no space for extraneous information, such as year of enactment! As I paged through I happened upon what looked like the Act I was after but was required to leaf back several pages to check I was, in fact, looking at the correct year.

So, I confirmed that c.24 of 1661 was an ‘Act concerning appearand airs their payment of their own and their predecessours’ debtswhich was just what we’d hoped for. I then used the Record edition index to establish the Act was noted as c.88 in that publication. Job done! All I had left was a bit of fighting with the photocopier to make big copies of tiny books and small copies of giant ones.

Happy enquirer. Happy librarian  🙂

Some information on the two editions:

Record Edition
This is ‘Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland’ or ‘Thomson’s Acts’ by Thomas Thomson and Cosmo Innes, printed in twelve folio (43cm) volumes from 1814-75. Published by command of Queen Victoria, this edition was the most complete version of the Acts of Parliament published until that point, and has remained the key work used by historians ever since. The final volume contains an index which is very useful for tracking down Acts when you only have a name or subject.

Errors:  Separate but related acts are often merged into one, numbering of statutes is erratic from volume to volume, occasionally including forfeitures and other private business, in other instances leaving such acts out altogether. Original manuscript numbering is ignored completely.  Thomson’s overzealous editing means that some of the text, especially in the older Acts, is not as originally passed (see Notes on the Sources for the Parliaments of Scotland, 1426-1466 for details).

Duodecimo (or Glendook) Edition
Duodecimo Edition refers to ‘Glendook’s Scots Acts’ or ‘Laws and Acts of Parliament made by King James the First and his royal successors, kings and queens of Scotland‘ by Sir Thomas Murray of Glendook (1682). This was published as two volumes containing statutes from 1424 to 1681.  A third volume (1685 to 1707 by William Duke of Queensberry and others) was published later. The name ‘Duodecimo’ refers to the size of the volumes. These are the smallest volumes of the Acts we hold.

Errors:  There is a note on the St. Andrews University website detailing the errors in this edition of Scottish Acts.  Glendook’s work seems to be based on previous publications rather than original records. Of the two Glendook editions published, the earlier 1681 folio has fewer typos than this duodecimo edition.  The work is incomplete, excluding public acts and occasionally entire sessions of parliament but including Acts of Sederunt as if they were statutes.

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for The Right to E-read

EBLIDA – European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations have posted an update on thier petition for The Right to E-read.

eIOhIsUHOCnDbpb-800x450-noPad

Time for reform?

Apr 01, 2015 — The London Manifesto calls for fair copyright that is fit for purpose and will benefit every European citizen.

Why fair copyright matters

Fair copyright across Europe is essential. Without it we will fail to adequately support research, innovation and growth, and hinder the ambition for a digital single market. With it we will better foster knowledge across borders, meet the needs of disabled people and take full advantage of the digital age.
The manifesto… Read more

Order in Council – update

chart2

“On the chart accompanying this Order are marked all the limits referred to therein”

My sea chart of the Cromarty Firth arrived in the post this morning – and what a thing of beauty it is! You can’t really tell from this image but the lovely folk at the Privy Council Office have scanned the original in sections then pieced them, almost seamlessly, back together. It is glorious and – as my lovely assistant demonstrates below, quite enormous!

Mo and chart

Mo with the chart

This is why I love these types of enquiries. It’s never just ‘looking stuff up and printing it out’. There’s always some investigation, searching, checking, double checking and – fairly often – some asking for help from another organisation. When I do have to seek assistance, in 90% of cases I encounter friendly, professional and endlessly helpful people who go above and beyond to get me what I need. So I want to say THANK YOU! to Margaret and her colleagues at the PCO. Your beautifully crafted chart has made my day, and I’m sure will make my enquirer very happy too  🙂

Orders in Council, old charts and the PCO

Last week I was asked to locate “the Order in Council dated 19th December 1913 (made pursuant to the Dockyard Ports Regulation Act 1865)” and concerning the Dockyard Port of Cromarty. You know I love these old ones!

Orders in Council are orders which have been personally approved, at a meeting of the Privy Council, by the monarch. If the order had been recent it might have been available via the Privy Council website – but 1913 is not recent (even by our standards).

Orders in Council fall into two broad categories, Statutory and Prerogative:

  • Statutory Orders in Council are issued as Statutory Instruments – they are numbered and are published with other SIs
  • Prerogative Orders are not SIs. They are published in the London Gazette and Edinburgh Gazette.

I had no way of knowing which I was looking for…

I began by checking our holdings of published SIs and our unique collection of local SIs (ones which don’t get re-printed). I did find a reference to the Order in Council in the back of the published volume but there was no detail there. Next, I checked online and quickly found what I wanted in the Edinburgh Gazette.

So far, so disappointingly easy.

However, my enquirer soon got back to me. The Order in Council stated:

On the chart accompanying this Order are marked all the limits referred to therein.

“On the chart”? There was no chart reproduced in the Edinburgh Gazette. I had a quick check in the National Records of Scotland online catalogue but they don’t seem to hold anything on this Order. I decided to try contacting the Privy Council Office – the first time I’ve done so. I emailed and explained my request. Today I got a lovely wee message back:

We have searched our archive records and managed to find a copy of the chart. Unfortunately it is extremely large – much too big  for our copier and scanner.

Therefore we have done a ‘cut and paste’ job and I am putting a paper copy in the post to you.

Best regards…

I fervently hope any cutting was only figurative in nature. I would hate to be in anyway connected to the disassembly of a 102 year old sea chart…

Anyway, after a wee bit of treasure-hunting and the help of the friendly folk at the PCO, my patchwork chart is in the post it seems. I really do love these old ones  🙂

Hub

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) launched their Referendum hub recently.  The Hub is intended to help “those seeking information on the Referendum on Independence for Scotland, and on the debate around the Referendum”.  It includes a link to the White Paper on Independence – launched today

More information and copies of the White Paper in various formats – can be found on the ScotGov site: Scotland’s Referendum 2014

Navigation

Yesterday I was searching for an old Statutory Instrument. It was only of local interest – so not re-printed in the official volume… I love this sort of enquiry!

The Urr Navigation Order 1901

I would usually expect to find copies of such items in my Very Fine Library. However, our collection of these local SIs only dates from 1930.  Next step, check the National Archives of Scotland. Their catalogue showed two items that might have been what I wanted but it was uncertain. I passed this info to my enquirer so he could go and look for himself… but this was an unsatisfying result for me. No fun.

These local SIs – by their very nature – are of local interest only (the clue’s in the title). Copies would usually be lodged with local council offices. The problem is, due to multifarious reformations of local government through the decades, old papers of this sort tend to disappear…but it’s always worth a try.

So, I decided to contact the relevant council: Dumfries & Galloway. I spoke to a very nice lady on the phone… who sounded slightly terrified by my request… but said she would look into things and get back to me. While I was awaiting her callback I had another look at the council’s website. I was delighted to find they have an excellent section about their archives, including a catalogue – which said they had a copy of the Urr Navigation Order 1901!

The callback came from one of the very lovely local archivists. He confirmed they do indeed hold the Order – and offered to copy and send it out to me. My Order is in the post. Now that is a satisfying result!

Oh, and the prize for best local council url goes to: dumgal.gov.uk