Sharp Collection


Sharp Collection


This collection is a memorial to the businessman and bibliophile Hugh Frederick Bower Sharp (1897-1937), a wealthy jute manufacturer in Dundee, who died in a railway accident at Castle Cary, near Falkirk. The family wealth was founded on the business success of Sharp’s grandfather, John Sharp. 'Honest John' was a leading businessman in Dundee, being the owner of three jute mills in the city, and was also renowned for his philanthropy.

Hugh Sharp only began to collect books seriously in the last eight years of his life. As well as having a keen interest in the books, Hugh Sharp looked on his collection, built up during the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, as a sound investment. He instructed the leading book dealers in Britain and America to look out for books in the best possible condition - he wanted 'no battered derelicts' in his collection. It comprises over 1,200 volumes, mostly first editions of the classics of English and American literature, and is indeed notable for the very fine condition of the works acquired, many in their original state. The books are most likely to have been held in Sharp's London residence rather than the family home of Hill of Tarvit in Fife (now owned by the National Trust for Scotland), which housed his father Frederick's collection of art and antiques.

One of the earliest books in the collection is a copy of the first printing of the complete works of Chaucer (London, 1532), from the library of Lord Hastings, and one of the latest, the first edition of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the wind' (New York, 1936). There is a copy of the first edition of Milton's 'Paradise lost' (London, 1667), with the first state of the title page and a copy of Milton's 'Poems' (London, 1645), which belonged to Lewis Stucley, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. There is also an impressive copy of the first issue of the King James Bible (London, 1611), which had previously belonged to the famous bibliophiles Henry Huth, and his son Alfred H Huth, and then the 5th Earl of Rosebery (see Durdans and Rosebery Collections). English novels and plays of the 18th century are strongly represented, as are the major works of 19th-century English literature. Notable items include a copy of the suppressed first printing of 'Alice's adventures in Wonderland' (London, 1865), withdrawn from publication by Lewis Carroll because of the poor printing of Tenniel's illustrations, and the first edition of Jane Austen's 'Pride and prejudice' (London, 1813), in original boards. Among a number of works with literary and historical associations is the copy of Walter Scott's first original work, 'The lay of the last minstrel' (Edinburgh, 1805), presented by the author to Dorothy Wordsworth, and later gifted by William Wordsworth to his niece Dora. The collection has the first published edition of Edward Lear's 'A book of nonsense' (London, 1846), and also has a proof or variant copy of the second edition of 1855.

The works of the major American writers of the 19th century are present, as well as earlier works of travel and exploration in America. Amongst the Americana is George Washington's 'Official letters to the Honorable American Congress', in two volumes (London, 1795), with the author's signature on both title pages, and three pages of manuscript notes by the editor John Carey explaining his editorial methods. The books in the collection all have a special bookplate, designed by the artist and family friend EH (Ernest Howard) Shephard (1879-1976), best known for his illustrations of Kenneth Grahame's 'The wind in the willows' and AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh books.


The books have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'H.S.'.


The collection was presented in memory of Hugh Sharp to the Library in 1938 by his mother, Beatrice and his sister, Elizabeth.

Related collections

Inscriptions, letters and papers inserted in the printed books are held at MSS.3303-3326. They are also described and indexed in Vol. 2 of the Library’s Catalogue of manuscripts.


H.S.1243-1244 is a typescript catalogue of the collection compiled by Hugh Sharp himself between 1930 and 1937.

'Books of American and Canadian interest, 1613-1932', HFB Sharp, Edinburgh, [1932?]

'Memorial gift to National Library', The Scotsman, 11 February 1938.

'No battered derelicts: Hugh Sharp and his books' MCT Simpson, Folio (Collections, research, events at the National Library of Scotland) 4 (Spring 2002), 6-9.




English plays

Scott, Sir Walter

English literature

First editions

Voyages and travels

American history and literature