George IV Bridge – celebrating 50 years

16th-century autograph album: acquired in 1975

One type of manuscript which has survived from the 16th and 17th centuries is the 'album amicorum' or autograph album.

These albums were mostly kept by students and travellers on the Continent, but we know that five had Scottish owners. One of them belonged to Sir Michael Balfour, who later became Lord Balfour of Burleigh.

Most of the entries in Sir Michael Balfour's 'album amicorum' date from 1596 to 1599, when he was travelling in Italy, France, Holland, Denmark and Bohemia.

The album records Balfour's journeys and the people he encountered. It also contains a fine series of paintings of people and scenes in contemporary Padua and Venice, including the Venetian woman pictured.

In 1975 the National Library of Scotland bought the manuscript with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

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