Robert Burns first edition found in a barber shop goes on display in Fife

One of just 84 remaining first editions of Robert Burns’s debut poetry collection, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, has gone on display in Fife, over a century after being recovered from a barber shop in Shrewsbury. 

robert burns

The copy is missing its first 50 pages, after they were ripped out by the owner of the barber shop in order to clean his razors. 

It was not until John Murison, a Burns enthusiast, spotted and purchased the book in the late 19th century, that its real value became known. Only 612 copies of Burn’s book were first printed in 1786, with it believed only 84 still survive.

The copy is now on display until 5 February at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries in Fife, next to the Abbey Church which Burns visited in 1787. 

robert burns statue

Statue of Robert Burns in Leith – Edinburgh, Scotland

It is unclear how the book first made its way to Shropshire. “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,” said Sara Kelly, local studies officer with cultural charity OnFife. “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,” Kelly continued.

The fragility of the copy of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect means it has to be housed in a conservation box, paid for by the Dunfermline United Burns Club.In 2019, a separate copy of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect sold for £56,250 at Christie’s.

Leave a Reply

More like this