Special Collections items currently on exhibition

In the showcase of the foyer of Special Collections on level 12 of the University of Glasgow Library

September - November 2019

Gaelic Literature in Enlightenment Scotland: piecing together the legacy of James McLagan

A significant 18th century collection of Gaelic song is held in Archives and Special Collections. The Rev. James McLagan (1728–1805) amassed over 250 manuscripts, containing over 600 works, some of which he transcribed from oral tradition. Nearly 100 of these belong to the Finn Cycle of literature and folklore, i.e. lays or ballads on the mythical exploits of Fionn mac Cumhaill and his band of warriors. Some of this material was made use of by the writer James Macpherson (1736-1796) in his popular but controversial publications claiming to be translations of epic poems by ‘Ossian’, based on the legendary figure of Oisín, Fionn’s son.

McLagan was born and raised in Gaelic-speaking Highland Perthshire. During the 1760s, 1770s and 1780s his career he was a chaplain in the British Army, with the Scottish Highland regiment, the 42nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch). This career took him to the Isle of Man, across Ireland, and to America during the American War of Independence. He received the freedom of the city of Glasgow in 1776. He later took up the post of minister of the Church of Scotland in the village of Blair Atholl, Perthshire.

The McLagan manuscripts are a valuable, early example of scholarly interest in orally circulating Gaelic material. They are the focus of a research project led by Dr Sìm Innes and Dr Geraldine Parsons, of Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow. In support of the project, the McLagan collection has been conserved and digitised by the Library.

Several Ossianic related items from the McLagan collection form the core of our current display.

On display in The Hunterian

GUGA: Slighe gu Gàidhlig / Exploring Gaelic identities

11 October 2019 - 2 February 2020

Scheduled to coincide with the 2019 Royal National Mòd and the UNESCO ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’, GUGA: Exploring Gaelic Identities considers how historic perceptions of Gaelic culture have been formed and sustained, and asks what this culture, and its language, means in contemporary Scotland.

The exhibition includes eleven items from the Library, including items from our McLagan collection, a Gaelic Book of Common Prayer and 19th century minutes of the Glasgow University Ossianic Society.

Find out more here.

External Exhibitions

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes

George Stubbs: 'all done from Nature'

12 October 2019 - 26 January 2020

George Stubbs: ‘all done from Nature’ presents the first significant overview of this renowned eighteenth century artist-scientist in Britain for more than 30 years. The exhibition brings together 80 paintings, drawings and publications from the National Gallery’s life-size portrait of the stallion Whistlejacket to pieces never previously seen in public. 

Our drawing of the Duke of Richmond's Second Bull Moose (Sp Coll HF 234) features in this exhibition.

Find out more here.