Dunnett Newsletter – 7th May 2001

Greetings from a Scotland which seems to have skipped Spring and gone straight into Summer after a cold and wet April.This newsletter is mostly concerned with the recent first AGM of the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Association (DDRA) and associated mini-gathering. I had hoped to have some more “Answers from Dorothy” but she has been busily working away with Elspeth Morrison on the second volume of the Companion so those will have to wait for a while. They have to have the manuscript of Vol 2 ready for mid-summer although publication is not due until the following summer. Which brings me to the first news item.


Although world rights for the new paperback edition of the original Companion had been sold to Random House/Vintage, I had been having no success in discovering how (or indeed if) the Companion would be distributed in the UK. On turning to Dorothy’s agent for help I heard that Penguin/Michael Joseph were now regretting their sale of world rights and were trying to buy back the UK rights for it. Now this might be good news for UK, Commonwealth and European readers if only it had come sooner, however there are severe doubts as to whether a Penguin edition could be put together in time to match the US publication date – the estimates I’ve been given have suggested November and I’ve told them that if that were the earliest that could be done then most international (and probably most internet connected UK) readers would simply order from the US via Amazon or other US-based internet booksellers. This situation is liable to constant change so please understand the position and that we cannot take orders for it until we have a firm decision on what’s happening.


The second piece of news is that FW Howes are going ahead with the audiobook recording of Queens’ Play and are currently auditioning narrators, having taken on board the comments that I and others have given them regarding Game of Kings. We are probably looking at a date sometime in September/October for release but this is obviously open to change. As is my normal practice I won’t take any orders until I have an ISBN for it, but I will circulate a message both in a general newsletter and a special one to everyone who ordered or expressed interest in GK, so there should be no danger of missing the boat.



This took place at the Point Hotel in Edinburgh on the 21st April and although numbers were a little lower than expected (possibly due to the foot-and-mouth crisis) it was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience for all and we even had a couple of overseas visitors.
The venue itself was spectacular, as we were on the top floor of the hotel with glass on most sides allowing wonderful vistas over the city, with the castle in particular standing out only a stone’s throw away. The AGM itself took very little time as much of it was the formality of approving the constitution and accepting the nominees for council. Val Bierman gave a brief summary of the magazine and of the winding-up of the old Dunnett Trust after the Edinburgh 2000 Gathering. We were indebted to Pauline Brace for chairing the meeting during the handover from the steering committee to the new council.

Elspeth’s Talk

After a short break we were given a talk by Elspeth Morrison in which she described a little of her recent work on the second volume of the Dorothy Dunnett Companion, and how it has differed from the first volume where much of the task was in reconstructing the researches that DD had made. This time there has been much more collaboration possible whereas on the first volume Dorothy was busy writing the HN series.

Elspeth finds it hard to read the books for pleasure as she is constantly looking for things that she may need to research and reference. She acknowledges that there will inevitably be things that are left out that someone will want to know about. Particularly in the original volume there was a great deal of HN material which simply couldn’t be included because it risked giving away parts of the plot.

In many case the quotes that people wish to reference are actually just fragments – there is no more – it is the context that Dorothy puts them into that is important. It is also the case that there isn’t the 20 or 30 years available for research that Dorothy has accumulated, and there are the limitations of the publishing process to contend with, so there has to be some trimming down. Elspeth remarked that she had three criteria – is it relevant, is it fun, is it sexy!!

In doing research related to Scottish history it is important to be aware of who is married to whom. The is an oft-mentioned quote which says that everyone is related in Scotland and without church dispensation no-one would be able to marry anyone else. She mentioned that in many cases she found herself treading the same paths as Dorothy had and that many of the items that she was able to trace are in footnotes or in bibliographies in the secondary sources – which means a great deal of reading for often quite minor points. This time around she has been able to use Dorothy’s own library but of course there is far too much to go through everything and she found herself constantly having to resist being sidetracked by interesting volumes that happened to sit next to crucial books on the shelves. On occasion there would be delightful discoveries – one such was to find that a historical character in the HN was the source of a quote used by Lymond – “amiable as a fawn lively as a girl” (unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough in my note-taking to catch who this was – I shall have to ask Elspeth next time we speak).

Elspeth then went on to give a quick verbal tour of the Royal Mile, as an addition to the excellent notes she provided to the delegates for their own excursions. These are too detailed to repeat here but one interesting item that came up was in reference to the old Tolbooth building – where Kathi goes on various errands and overhears the plotting. The Tolbooth records are all documented – who paid what rent etc. – so we know exactly what business went on there and who was involved.

Following a break for an excellent (if rather cramped) lunch where there was much lively discussion, not to mention an impromptu demonstration of divining by Jo Kirkham who had featured a professional diviner at a recent Rye get-together, we settled down to listen to our second speaker – Pauline Brace. Pauline gave us a detailed talk on plurality in King Hereafter and compared and contrasted the story given us by Shakespeare with that given us by DD, with a look at the historical sources and inherent politics involved in the former’s depiction, and looking at why he extracted the elements he did for dramatic purposes. Later she went on to look at the historical character of Thorfinn and gave us some reasons behind Dorothy’s theory. Now I must confess that my note-taking was quite useless in the face of the stream of information, reasoning and theorising that Pauline presented us with – and her mellifluous speaking voice frequently had me lost in thought as I tried to consider her arguments, only to discover that while I’d been thinking she’d already moved well into the next point! All I can say is that you should take any chance to hear her speak and hope that she may present her own summary of this talk in Whispering Gallery.

Towards the end of the afternoon, just before Pauline finished her talk, a special visitor arrived – Dorothy herself of course! I know of at least two people who had never been to a Dunnett gathering of any sort who were almost speechless with pleasure to be introduced to her, and as always she managed to find time for everyone.
I should also mention that after all her hard work, Val Bierman was forced to dash away and indeed missed the Sunday trip altogether, as there came an urgent report that she was about to become a grandmother. As it turned out the baby didn’t arrive that weekend after all, though I hope by now everything has been safely and successfully resolved.


The original trip to Dean Castle having been cancelled because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, we instead had a two-part trip to Linlithgow Palace and Rosslyn Chapel. Unfortunately we were not favoured by the weather which was rather wet, but the worst of it seemed to occur while we had coffee and cakes at the Bridge Inn at Ratho (which is an centre for sailings on the Union Canal) on the way to Linlithgow. As we drove on, local enthusiast Val Dean was able to point out to us the area where the recent find was made of a complete iron age chariot, which is causing great excitement amongst archaeologists. Prior to entering the Palace we were grateful to the elders of St. Michael’s Church for allowing us to pay a quick visit to the plaque which commemorates Anselm Adorne.

Linlithgow is a magnificent building in a superb setting overlooking the loch, and yet for some reason is often underappreciated on the usual tourist trail. Mary de Guise rated it finer than all the palaces of France and to see it in it’s splendor before the fire which destroyed its roof and interior paneling and decorations must have been a great experience. My one disappointment on this trip was that the courtyard fountain was covered in boarding and scaffolding as it is being conserved at the moment. However there was plenty to explore and photograph, and it was a great pleasure to go round with others of a similar interest (and in particular Elspeth).
I’ve added some pictures to the Dunnett Places to Visit page on the website which I hope will give you a flavour of the place, even in the rain. (www.jamesthin.co.uk/duvisits.htm)

After returning to the bus we headed off to Roslin where we met up with local Dunnett fan and Rosslyn Chapel expert Joy Madden, where we first had lunch at the local hotel before heading up to the chapel itself. I had not been inside the chapel for some years and I must confess I had forgotten just what a marvel it is. If the carvings were instead plasterwork it would still be magnificent – but you have to constantly remind yourself that this delicate tracery of foliage or that leering face or graceful angel is actually solid stone. The mind is continually overwhelmed by the layers of detail as you look at, for instance, an archway, then see the shaping of its columns, then the pointed decoration on them, then the fact that all those points have flat surfaces which are again decorated, and that there are figures and symbols and faces at all the intersections and in all the nooks and crannies. Then there is the Apprentice Pillar, which would be a substantial achievement if it were a computer projection with the machine available to work out the DNA-like geometry for you and layer the spiral decoration on top of a pre-existing fluted column – to imagine a mason actually carving it from stone almost defies belief.
Joy was a great help to us all in explaining aspects of the construction and renovation work, and also the Sinclair, Templar and Masonic signs and symbolism, and trying to divide fact from fiction in some of the more outlandish theories which abound in this unique building. Down in a lower section she was able to show us some of the mason’s geometrical workings inscribed on the stone and I would have dearly loved to have been on a one-to-one tour and to have discussed it all in more detail.

A trip up to the roof which is currently covered with an elaborate canopy to assist in drying out the damp stonework showed that the decoration continued even at the top of the building, while it was amazing to hear from Joy that the original foundations indicate that the chapel was to have been another 91 feet long.

Again I have added some interior picture of the chapel to the website – I was pleasantly surprised that nearly all the shots I took were sharp, as all those I’ve so far had back were taken at long shutter speeds of up to two seconds with only a monopod for support (tripods are frowned on in the chapel). I did take some others with flash later but have yet to get them developed.
All in all an excellent day despite the rain and I hope that all the visitors enjoyed themselves over the weekend.


Before moving on I must mention, for those of you who didn’t see the announcement on the discussion groups, that at the beginning of April I added to the new Dunnett Places to Visit in Europe page a large number of pictures of Malta and Gozo which were very kindly sent to me by Monica Murray, who also supplied the quotations which are included. As if this were not generous enough she also sent a picture of a chateau which she thinks may have been the inspiration for Sevigny and a description of a very Gaultier-ish sounding restaurant. Many thanks Monica, and also thanks to Kathleen Shaw who also sent in a description of the Loire area and a useful website address.


It’s quite a while since I last gave you “Confessions of a Dunnett Reader”, and perhaps it is in any case a rather different beast now than back in the days when I was a novice reader working my way through the LC and reviving everyone’s memories of their own first time.

A year ago I was on holiday on the island of Islay, and struck down with the flu, was reading the Icelandic scenes of TWLW – an interesting exercise when lapsing in and out of fever and dreaming some very strange dreams during which I was totally convinced that I had complete understanding of the entire series. For some reason I couldn’t quite remember the secrets when I returned to the land of the feverless!!

TLWL struck a number of chords with me, the most important being the relationship between Nicholas and Kathi. That they are spiritually close is by now a given, and this is of course continued through the rest of the series. Some people have problems with the fact that he seeks her out for some activities and that there are some areas that he and Gelis never share – music being the most obvious. Many of these readers find it difficult to allow him to have two “loves”. My own take on this is coloured by an unhappiness with a common social attitude that has been prevalent, at least in this country, until very recently, which says that it is impossible for married men to have a friendship with another woman without sex being involved. This is an attitude I have always disliked because I’ve often found myself having friendships with women and vehemently object when it is assumed that there is something else going on.

I have long believed that in the HN Dorothy was giving us a story that was much more like real life than the obviously heroic story of Lymond. In the LC it was natural that L & P would turn out to be soul-mates and compliment each other in every way – the perfect match. Though for the most part hardly romantic at all, the LC was in its later stages the ultimate in heroic romance. She’d done that and HN was always going to be very different. To me Nick’s relationship with Gelis is much more like a real marriage – if you ignore for the moment the years of conflict over Jodi; and therefore his other relationship with Kathi needs to be seen in the same light. In real life men and women often relate fine on one level but not at all on another – how many wives completely fail to understand what it means to their husbands to play golf, or climb mountains, or play music or chess or even just go out with the lads every now and again. Naturally it works the other way too and husbands totally miss the point over some aspect of their wives’ activities that means nothing to them. Yet these are often perfectly stable and fulfilling marriages. This is what we see in the Nick, Gelis, Kathie triangle (though as always with Dorothy there is more going on as well) – Nick and Gelis have a great shared interest in the mechanics of trade and business and she is his equal in this area. There is also their wonderful sexual compatibility which is illustrated so well later on in C&R and Gemini. However she doesn’t have music in her skill set and this becomes an area which is essential to Nick’s existence – without someone to share this with he isn’t whole. I don’t see this as some people do as meaning that he needs two loves, in fact Kathi could just have easily have been male in this respect, merely that in real life we find different elements of contact in different people. Admittedly we see far less of Gelis’ side of the story, which is perhaps a shame but then the series would have ended up being another couple of volumes long and practical considerations always have to be born in mind. The thought occurs that there is an amusing contrast in things that Nicholas and Lymond have to learn in their respective journeys – Nick has to learn that you can love someone without sex being involved; Lymond took a long time to realise that you could have sex and that love *could* also be involved!

However, to return to TLWL, one of the things I most enjoyed about it was seeing Nicholas put back into a more basic and unrefined arena than the high-politics one in which he usually operates. Seeing how he wins over a native population who have no reason to side with him other than what they see of his character. He is also nicely contrasted with Pauel Beneke, who is first his opponent and then an essential part of his small party who have to work together to survive in a hostile environment. Their later relationship in Poland is perhaps the ultimate expression of the sort of male friendship that is seen in football or rugby team-mates who play hard , fight hard and drink hard – who would come close to killing each other in a fight but would as certainly defend each other to the death if required. The very opposite of the platonic man-woman relationship that exists between Nick and Kathi.

This is of necessity a short summary of reactions which omits a great deal of importance to the series and is coloured by the continued readings of the later books, and the discussions on the various internet groups, which even when I can’t keep up enough to contribute in I try to keep up with reading. I moved on to Caprice and Rondo in that same April of last year – desperate to finish it before Gemini appeared so I could approach that with the required perspective along with everyone else. Just as I never entirely subscribed to the “Lymond as Ice-Man” approach to RC, seeing instead the re-emergence from an isolated period that was the inevitable result of the trauma of PiF, I didn’t feel the same horror at the Nick descending to the depths of depravity interpretation which many see in C&R’s early chapters. Yes he was close to giving it all up and going off with Beneke to a pirate’s live, yes he was careless of his own and other lives in a way that was unlike him, but to me it was always going to be an episode that was a relief from the tangled life and only-hinted-at complex responsibility of his extended family. I had no doubt that he would revert to his normal self, if such a thing can be said of a man who is gradually learning a broader perspective that someone of his station in life should normally have had as part of their upbringing We are of course continually kept guessing at his true morality – his gallant offering of his bow to Adorne to avoid the other’s humiliation despite their apparent position as enemies is immediately contrasted with his wounding of Julius in mysterious circumstances. And what on earth is going on between him and Anna during the trip south to Caffa and beyond? And yet by then one has the feeling that he is back in command of a basically moral attitude which we have to contrast with some other dubious episodes such as the “Scottish Plan”. Then of course we have the reappearance of Ludovico de Bologna who has been cast as the annoying interfering religious bigot for much of the series, but is gradually being seen in a rather more positive light. If I was a genius or a charlatan I would now claim to have immediately spotted the required reassessment of the early denouncement of Julius by this same curious churchman. Alas I can claim no such flash of inspiration but only a gradual and growing awareness that things may not be what they seem in all the old relationships.
More later.


Dorothy will be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival on the 15th August at 11.30am. Tickets will be available via the Festival organisers –
please check their site at http://www.edbookfest.co.uk for booking details.

Best wishes to you all.


Dunnett Newsletter – 1st February 2001

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 jencathlee@hotmail.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
Marcus Merriman
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:

Border Bloodshed
Alastair J MacDonald
Tuckwell Press, Dec 2000
pbk 186232106X £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
John Knox
Rosalind Marshall
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
Christopher Brooke
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
Benjamin Woolley
Harper Collins
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 £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.

He continues:
“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.


Newsletter – 20th Oct 2000

Didn’t expect to be doing another newsletter so soon but as there were a couple of pieces of news that quite a few people were waiting for I thought I’d best do a short one and also include a feature that I had some notes on that may be of interest.

Edinburgh Renaissance Band CD

Firstly the news – after a bit of a guddle because of changed phone numbers I’ve finally got hold of copies of the Edinburgh Renaissance Band’s new CD – The Musical Worlds of Niccolo and Lymond. It’s priced at UKP 11.50 and I’ve added it to the Dunnett Bibliography page at the bottom where the cassette used to be. Since it has a code reference (unlike the cassette) it can be ordered through the BookSearch system rather than sending order by email. There is also a link to a track listing for anyone who wants to know what’s on it before deciding if they want to buy it.

Dunnett Companion

The second piece of news will already be known to many of you and in fact is just a confirmation of what we have been hoping/expecting for some time. During her US tour following the Philadelphia Gathering, Dorothy announced that Vintage will be publishing a paperback edition of the Companion, probably around the summer of 2001. It is also hoped that a follow-up volume will be published, perhaps a further year on, which will contain references to the later Niccolos. No details are available yet so I don’t even know if the new paperback will be sold worldwide or just in the US, but as soon as we hear anything I’ll let you all know.

Game of Kings Audiobook

Following some discussion on the lists about this I’ve followed it up and spoken to the company concerned in the UK – W J Howes of Rothley in Leicestershire. They are chiefly involved in producing audiobooks for libraries and don’t normally sell to the book trade as their pricing has no built in margin for allowing discount. Although it’s not really a normal part of their business, they will sell to individuals and normally waive the postage on such transactions – the price is apparently £57.95 +VAT at 17.5% = £68.09 They are also part of the same company which runs the US website www.recordedbooks.com which some of you have seen. The US division rent out audiobooks – something which hasn’t been done here in the UK.

The chap I spoke to at Howes was interested in my description of the web site and our little community of Dunnett fans and suggested that if we were able to put together a reasonable number of orders it might be possible to do some sort of deal so that we could supply some of you with it without having to increase the price to cover our costs. It would also give him some useful feedback in order to decide whether to go ahead with the rest of the Lymonds in audiobook format too. It seems that because of the high cost, good sales for an unabridged audiobook are in the order of only 200-300 copies. If we can demonstrate enough demand then there’s got to be a good chance of them going ahead.

If you are definitely in the market for Game of Kings then do contact me and I can see what can be done about putting in an order. And if you can give an indication of whether you’d also be interested in any successive books I’ll pass it on next time I speak to them.

Scottish National Library – Exhibition of early books from their collection.

While this is only partly Dunnett related I thought it would probably be worth including for a group with such a strong interest in both early books and Scottish history.
Subscribers to Whispering Gallery will have seen a photo in the latest issue of Dorothy performing the opening a few months ago (Val got in before me on this one!) – as a trustee of the Library she was an obvious choice to do the honours.

I’d intended to go much earlier in the summer, but of course there were one of two other things going on at the time! About a week after returning from Switzerland my wife Fiona remembered that we hadn’t yet been to see it so since I had worked 6 days the week we got back I took the Monday off and we went up there.
The exhibition space was surprisingly small, but what a feast was packed into the space. These documents are absolutely fascinating for anyone with a love of books. The display was arranged chronologically with the oldest first so I’ll run through some of what was on show in that order.

The first item was a Kelso Charter dated 1159 which was superbly preserved and appeared at first glance as if it should be one of the more recent until you looked more closely and noticed the gold ornamentation.
The Iona Psalter (1180-1220) gave an indication of the importance of that lovely island in the Christian tradition, while next to it stood The Murthly Hours (1280) which is a prayer book which probably came from France and which was apparently a new and somewhat different form of home worship at the time.

Still rather stunned by the age of these pieces we now came to one cabinet we had three of the most important books in Scottish literature.
Barbour’s The Bruce (1489) is one of only two copies to survive, while Blind Harry’s The Wallace (1488), which of course was a crucial piece of propaganda in the time period of Gemini, is the only copy in existence. Alongside them was Walter Bower’s Scotichronicon (1454), which our own Mercat Press have not long finished publishing in a 9 volume translation, and which is historically perhaps the most important of the three, covering a great deal of material which is little mentioned elsewhere. To see these three together was really quite breathtaking.

In the next cabinet was Robert Carver’s choir book of 1513 and 1520 – the only known source of his work. It was a surprise to see how clear and modern looking the musical notation was, and it I could hardly resist wondering if any of Dorothy’s characters, real or imaginary, might have looked at those pages.

These were all handwritten of course, but we now moved on to some printed material. Printing reached Scotland from France and the earliest dated Scottish book is 1508.
Monarchists and Feminists would probably be aghast at the display which included John Knox’ famous little book – First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), but after Margaret Wilkes’ excellent talk at E2000 it was a delight to see the first surviving printed map of Scotland from 1570. It was of Venetian origin possibly by Paolo Forlani.

Skeynes first medical book (1568) was of great interest to Fiona, though I couldn’t help but remember the dismay I felt at hearing the late historian Ian Grimble describe in a TV programme some years ago how the entire library of the Beaton family, who were the hereditary physicians of Gaeldom, had been completely lost. What a treasure of knowledge to have gone forever.

The National Covenant (1639) was a vital historical document which deserved study but the eye was immediately drawn past it to the massive King James Bible of 1611. Lecterns must have been strongly built in those days! By contrast the little book of Napier’s logarithms (1614) probably had as large an impact in the scientific community, and looked horribly familiar to one brought up on their use at school.
The Psalms of David in Gaelic (1659) was only the 3rd Gaelic book ever printed and was the first opportunity for the Gaels to read the bible in their own language.

Anyone of MacDonald descent would find it hard to look at the Order for the Massacre of Glencoe (1692) without feelings of anger or sorrow. Thankfully a hundred years later the scene was very different as we started to move into the period of the Enlightenment.
Robert Adam’s Book of Neo-classical designs (1786) would be familiar to any architect, while the book that launched a thousand salesmen – The Encyclopedia Britannica (1771) – was another important example of the way knowledge was suddenly being made available to a wider community. Boswell & Johnson naturally put in an appearance but were somewhat overshadowed by Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, a milestone in philosophy and still studied today, as is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which is celebrated by economists as a model for their theories.

Literature now started to put in an appearance again and The Kilmarnock Burns (1786) could hardly be bettered for literary importance unless perhaps by Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814), which of course set the pattern for historical fiction in a way that comes directly down to Dorothy’s writing.

Robert Louis Stevenson was another great Scottish writer but it was his equally famous engineering family’s construction drawings of the Bell Rock Lighthouse which appeared in the next cabinet. That such a structure could be completed on a wind and wave lashed island without the benefit of modern power tools give you a great respect for the builders of the day.

By this time we’re getting well away from “our” period but a quick mention of some of the other items will give a flavour of the rest of the exhibition. The First Statistical Account 1791-99, Robert Owen’s Plan for Relieving Public Distress, Robert Burns’ Glennriddell Manuscript which contains Holy Willie’s Prayer in Burns’ own hand. David Livingstone’s map of Lake Malawi (1863), and a rare example of a Gaelic Emigration poster (1822). Stevenson got his mention in a copy of Young Folks magazine containing the serialised Treasure Island (1883), while one that I would have loved to study in detail was Hill and Adamson’s original photographic album – one of the most important contributions to the early years of the new art form.
Altogether a wonderful little exhibition of quite priceless items.

New Page on the Site

Finally to return to directly related matters, I’ve started a new page on the website for Dunnett related places in Europe. This is a follow on to the page that covers Scottish sites of interest, but as I haven’t been to many European Dunnett sites myself I’d like to invite those of you who have made visits to contribute any descriptions, stories, hints or photographs to share with the others. To start the page off I’ve put up three photographs of Bruge which were very kindly provided by Ann MacMillan. (Thanks again Anne) There is also a link to my first attempt at a map of Europe with some of the main sites of interest marked. This one has the modern political boundaries but I may try and put together one with the Renaissance boundaries if there is sufficient interest. Do let me know if you think this would be worthwhile pursuing.

very best wishes