"...that jewel inlaid in the fields of Perthshire,
the reading-room at Innerpeffray - "
from Robert Crawford's poem 'The Digital Library, St Andrews', written for National Poetry Day 2007
Jewel-like and well hidden, this library near Crieff, where I was on Saturday, enchants both with its location on a bend in the River Earn with a Roman road marching past, and by its incredible collection of ancient books. Scotland's oldest free public lending library, it opened here in 1763, and to scan the ledger with the records of the borrowers, where they walked from and what they borrowed, is to appreciate the hunger for knowledge.
Visitors these days can't borrow, but they can browse and whether it's the content of the books or the intrigue of printing, paper-making and binding that draws you in, there's a wealth on offer. The enthusiasm of keepers Colin and Ann Edgar will keep the mysteries opening with match-box sized bibles, unique books covering subjects as diverse as astrology, demonology, chiromancy, spiritualism, war, politics, law, agriculture, horticulture, natural history, history and literature. And in a number of languages. A personal favourite is the "Historie of foure footed beastes" by Edward Topsell, London 1607, from which the Mantichora above is extracted.