Greetings from Edinburgh where January has so far been crisp and cold but surprisingly sunny.
I should first mention the problems I’ve been dealing with on the website recently. A few weeks ago we set up a facility for customers to collect web orders from our branches. Unfortunately this complicated setup had a rather subtle but nasty bug in it and under certain circumstances the internal checking routines (which determine if changes have been made to the order or if there are any internal inconsistencies in the details supplied) could be falsely triggered and required the user to press the final checkout button twice instead of once. As a result some people were fooled into thinking they had placed orders when they in fact hadn’t. I hope none of you have been caught by this bug, but if any of you have then my apologies for it. We’ve now completely redesigned the checkout system and we think it’s now easier to use than before so at least some good has come of it, but it’s been a fairly fraught couple of weeks trying to make it foolproof.
Game of Kings Audiobook
As you’ll remember from the last newsletter I was in contact with Howes back in October about obtaining copies of the Game of Kings audiobook at a price that would allow us to sell it to you. I received over 50 replies from people interested either in it or in possible further releases from the series, and set up a little mini-newsletter to keep them informed of progress, and armed with their requests I was able to encourage Howes to look favourably at recording more of the LC and to do a deal with them for 50 copies of GK. As I mentioned last time, they are mainly geared for supplying the library market and normally only sell around 250-300 of a successful title so this order stretched them somewhat. I received the first 32 copies in mid-December and gave the people who had responded the first chance of buying them, which seemed only fair since it was their information that had allowed me to do the deal. The remaining 18 have taken a while to arrive but have just now appeared this week. 4 were already reserved but the remaining 14 are available for anyone who would like one. They are priced at UKP 57.95 (plus VAT for anyone in the UK)
They can be ordered through the website – There is a hotlink from the Bibliography page and the Book News page, or alternatively, depending on your email program, you may get a clickable hotlink on the following line
which will take you straight in to the ordering process.
Note that you’ll see the price including 171/2% VAT on the order screen – don’t worry about this. If you’re outside the UK you won’t have to pay it. It’s our equivalent of a Sales Tax and is common in the EU countries. Books don’t attract VAT in the UK so it isn’t normally an issue, but cassettes do even if they are audiobooks.
Whispering Gallery and the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association
As some of you will know the most recent issue of Whispering Gallery magazine saw a change in organisation. The old Dorothy Dunnett Foundation was wound up after the Edinburgh Gathering and a new body – the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association was formed to continue the production of the magazine and co-ordinate further Dunnett related activities. I was invited to serve on the steering committee and we’ve had a couple of meetings to decide things like the constitution, applications for charitable status, and the date and organisation of the first AGM. Subscribers to the magazine are automatically members of the DDRA.
That issue of WG contained the first instalments of some of the talks and presentations which took place at the Edinburgh Gathering last summer, and the next issue, which is due out around the end of February, will continue this. If you aren’t currently a subscriber and are interested in becoming one then you can still obtain information and a form from Michael Joseph who have agreed to continue acting as the link for another year. The address is:
Whispering Gallery, c/o Michael Joseph Editorial, 27 Wright’s Lane, London, W8 5TZ
If you don’t need information but just want to send your subscription straight away then you can send it to:
The Editor, Whispering Gallery, 9 Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh, EH10 4HT
from whom it is also possible to obtain back issues where available. WG is issued 4 times a year and a year’s subscription costs UKP 17.00 within the UK, UKP 18.50 in EU countries, and UKP 21.00 for outside Europe. Cheques *must* be made payable to the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association, and not to anyone else.
Annual General Meeting
The first AGM of the DDRA will be held on Saturday 21st April 2001 at the Point Hotel, Bread Street, Edinburgh, and there will also be a mini-gathering with talks from Pauline Brace and Elspeth Morrison. Only DDRA members can attend the AGM in the morning but guests are welcome to attend the rest of the day – the cost of which is UKP 20.00 – and there are still some places left. The hotel’s conference centre is contained in what is basically a large glass box on the roof of the hotel, and it has superb views to the nearby castle and over the New Town to the sea.
There is an optional coach tour on the Sunday to the west of Scotland to visit Dean Castle, home of the Boyd family, where Ann MacMillan will be giving a presentation. The return trip will be via Lochwinnoch and will get back to Edinburgh around 6pm. This trip will cost UKP 22.00 including buffet lunch, and places are restricted by the numbers that the castle can take, so it’s strictly first come first served.
Anyone who can stay till the Monday may wish to visit Roslin where Joy Madden will be happy to show them round.
I’ll post fuller details (as they appeared in the last issue of the magazine) on the web pages in the next couple of days.
Other Dunnett activities
I’m always happy to mention any other Dunnett activity – large or small – so do get in touch if you’re organising anything and I’ll set up a diary of events on the site. I know there are some other events coming up but don’t want to mention them without the organisers say-so in case numbers are limited and it would cause them more work.
One small event in Australia is a “Revel” (a much nicer sounding name than Spit!) which is taking place in Victoria. Here are the details:
Dorothy Dunnett Anniversary Revel
Saturday, 3rd March 2001, 11am to 3pm
John Medley Library, Campus Centre (building 10), Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
DD readers who can get to Melbourne on Saturday 3/3/2001 have an alternative to the Formula One Grand Prix to go to. You are all invited to have an informal chat with likeminded (or not!) fans of Dorothy Dunnett, with relevant books, music, and videos to view and discuss. We can buy something to eat right there in the same building, or BYO, and we will have the library to ourselves, as it is not normally open at weekends. People who missed DD last year can meet those who had the privilege of meeting her – just pop in briefly, or stay longer, as you wish.
A $5 donation to the library would be appreciated from each visitor, for new books etc.!
Anyone who would like to attend, please e-mail Jenny Lee at email@example.com, or call on (03) 9704 6292.
A Visit to the Scottish National Gallery
Last weekend on my way down to the gym for some much-needed exercise, I went along to the Scottish National Gallery. While the main purpose was to visit the Turner watercolours exhibition which is on during January each year and was this year augmented by a visiting Turner oils exhibition, I also took the opportunity to spend some more time looking at the regular displays – and in particular the Trinity College Church Altarpiece paintings on the upper floor. These are of course from the same church where Nicholas sings so movingly as to bring Adorne to tears and were commissioned by Edward Bonkill who is portrayed in one of the pictures flanked by angels (one of whom looks rather like I imagine Catherine de Charetty!).
While I’d seen them some time ago, it was before becoming a DD reader and although I’d seen photos of them since, I’d forgotten just how large and impressive they are. They are set at the end wall of the room and are mounted on two large swivels so that both sides can be viewed, and I was interested to read that although it is generally accepted that they were part of a triptych that later lost its centrepiece during the Reformation, there is also an alternative suggestion that they may instead have formed the covering shutters for the organ.
Just to the left of them is a small painting showing the Trinity College Church as it was before it was removed to make way for Waverley Railway Station and it does look an interesting piece of architecture – rather more so than the rebuilt remnant which is now situated in a close off the High St. (Later in the gallery bookshop I noticed that there is a book on the paintings which discusses their provenance and history and which has sketches of the interior of the church, though unfortunately only black and white photos of the paintings themselves.)
Further to the left was another pleasant surprise – a large portrait of Lord Grey of Wilton. He is depicted as being a striking figure with a long face and even longer beard – not at all how I’d imagined him.
The Gallery has a great many Flemish paintings in various parts of the building and I’ve looked at a number of them for clues to clothing styles or searching for familiar names, and moving in the other direction from the Altarpiece I came across one that stopped me in my tracks. A minor 15th century piece described as “A married woman of Bruges” it was of an attractive woman with what looked likely to be fair hair and dressed in expensive black, and it fairly screamed GELIS!! to me. I must ask Dorothy if she knows it (I’m sure she does) and if it had any influence or was just a happy coincidence.
Interesting New Books
As long time readers will know I don’t often recommend books (other than Dorothy’s!!) in this newsletter as I feel that would be liable to turn them into a mere advertising vehicle, which is not the prime intention. However there have been a number of very interesting ones which have come out in the time since the last newsletter, or are just about to appear, which just cry out to be mentioned. In particular are titles on the Rough Wooings and John Dee.
Four are recently published and easily the most interesting for Lymond fans is
The Rough Wooings: Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1551
Tuckwell Press, Jan 2001
hdbk, 186232090X UKP 25.00
(my blurb in the Scottish web pages) The period in which both England and France sought to capture Scotland by a forced marriage of the child Queen Mary is amongst the most colourful and interesting of our history, and had repercussions that are still felt to this day. This detailed study of the intense warfare and negotiations between the three countries is a major contribution to our understanding of it.
Although I haven’t had time to read this properly yet it is obvious from a quick perusal that a great deal of research has gone into it and I’ll be reading it as soon as I can. Suddenly the English incursions into the Borders and almost as far as Edinburgh take on a new meaning when you “know” the commanders from reading GK.
For anyone who is interested in the political background to the HN as it pertains to France, Scotland and England:
Alastair J MacDonald
Tuckwell Press, Dec 2000
pbk 186232106X Â£16.99
(my blurb) A study of the military offensives between Scotland, England and France between 1369 and 1403.
There is sometimes a tendency is to see British history as being cut off from the rest of Europe but Dorothy constantly reminds us that everything is connected and interdependent. This book traces the complex political and military dealings that went on between these three countries as they strove to use alliances and treaties between each other to their advantage, thus setting up the situations we see in HN and LC
Birlinn, Oct 2000
pbk 1841580910 UKP 9.99
(my blurb) A new analysis of one of the central characters of the Reformation by this noted biographer. A balanced picture of 16th century Scotland against the backdrop of sweeping changes all across Europe allows us to see something of the real Knox and his beliefs instead of the myths and legends which have grown up around him.
I know that a number of you have discussed Knox on the various discussion groups before, but there is so much social and religious mythology about him that it’s been hard to get a proper perspective. This book by the same woman who wrote the biography of Mary that we publish and which is featured on the web pages goes a long way to stripping away those myths.
More specialised but possibly of interest to anyone who is interested in the Borders area is:
Safe Sanctuaries: Security and Defence in Anglo-Scottish Border Churches 1296-1603
John Donald, Oct 2000
hdbk 0859765350 UKP 25.00
(my blurb) The first detailed study of the unique fortified churches of the Borders. The author has visited every major church or site in the original 6 marches of the border area and researched all the supporting dicumentary evidence to produce a comprehensive survey of these historically important buildings.
Another one for Lymond readers is due to be published in April (though for some reason Books in Print thinks it came out last September!). There is some confusion over the title – it’s either called “Pursuit of Angels” or “The Queen’s Conjuror” depending on which of the publisher’s catalogues you read!?
Pursuit of Angels:
The Science and Magic of Dr Dee
hardback, 320pp UKP 15.99
(publishers blurb) A spellbinding portrait of Queen Elizabeth’s conjuror, the great philosopher, scientist and magician, Dr John Dee (1527-1608) and a history of Renaissance science.
Finally, one that is much more specialist but perhaps worth mentioning while I’m doing the others in case anyone can find it in a library. It does give an interesting picture of what country life was really like in the areas near the Borders and puts the day to day living of Wat Scott and Kate Sommerville and their tenants in perspective.
The Harvest of the Hills: Rural Life in Northern England and the Scottish Borders, 1400-1700
Angus J.L. Winchester
Edinburgh University Press, October 2000
pbk, 1853312398 Â£19.99
A study of the environmental history of rural life in the Border, Lake District and Pennine hills, utilising the records of the Manor Courts to build up a picture of pastoral society and illustrate the transition from medieval to early-modern farming methods.
Rosslyn Chapel and the Knights Templar
Many of you have expressed an interest in Rosslyn Chapel following it’s appearance in the HN, and I’ve previously mentioned their excellent official web site at http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk The chapel is chock full of incredible carvings and masonic symbolism and has unfortunately become the focus for a great deal of quasimysticism and some truly awful books and theories. There are those who believe the Holy Grail is buried beneath its vaults, and those who think it is a “gateway to another world”. I’m sure there must have been some good books with useful research which have suffered from being tarred with the brush of “another looney book about Rosslyn”.
One of our partner sites is called Electric Scotland, and Alastair MacIntyre who runs it came across an abridged version of a new book called “The Secret Scroll” in his local newspaper and enjoyed it so much he put it up on his site for his readers.
“The historian Andrew Sinclair is acclaimed as one of the world’s foremost experts on the story of the Holy Grail. A founding fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, he has taught and travelled widely across the world. In his new book, he draws on years of research to explain the importance of a discovery that he believes holds the key to the Grail mystery and much else besides. It is a story that combines religious heresy, Masonic secrets, and the bloodthirsty adventures of the Crusades.”
Notice the author’s surname!! Again I haven’t had time to delve too deeply but this one looks interesting and it’s certainly worth reading the extract even if you find some of the theories too much to believe. It’s at
By coincidence the Scotsman had a feature about Sinclair yesterday morning – doubtless to tie in with the book’s launch.
After writing the above section yesterday I’ve just been told that we’re making the book our Scottish Book of the Month because of the interest it has generated!
Finally, for those of you who are interested in general Scottish history and archaeology (I know there are one or two of you!!) I’ve just finished a complete reorganisation of our Scottish History section into separate chronological sections based on a timeline divided into 8 different periods, plus separate sections for general histories, references, specific peoples and places that fall outwith the main chronology, and emigration. Of all my correspondents you folks will be best qualified to judge its effectiveness so please take a look at it and let me know what you think. I’ve one or two little improvements still to make but it’s pretty much ready to view now. It’s under the Scottish Non-Fiction section or go direct to www.jamesthin.co.uk/schist.htm (although that will miss out the sidebar navigation scheme).
That’s all for now. I hope to have some more “Answers from Dorothy” for the next newsletter.
Best wishes to you all.