EAB Archive 2001-12-07 William Auld's gift to National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland celebrates gift of Bill Auld's Library

On the 7th of December 2001 around 70 people gathered in festive spirit to celebrate Bill Auld’s generous gift of his private library to the National Library of Scotland. The National Librarian and senior members of his staff were there; many friends and relatives of the bard; and about 25 Esperantists from Scotland and England. The contingent from the Esperanto community included committee members of the Scottish Esperanto Association, the Vice-President and Director of the Esperanto Association of Britain, the President of the London Esperanto Club, and the former manager of the Esperanto Centre in London.

Ian McGowan, the Librarian, began the evening by stressing the immense importance of the gift and his conviction that William Auld is one of Scotland’s major literary figures. He warmly congratulated Bill concerning his candidature 2 years ago for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and indicated the incredible variety of his literary output. The fact that William Auld had translated so much Scottish literature into Esperanto gave him particular pleasure. The National Library now possessed an Esperanto collection of world importance. It was hoped that access to the collection would be available in the first part of 2002, and that the contents would be on the Net at the same time.

After making these introductory remarks, Mr. McGowan asked if Bill Auld would like to say a few words. Bill stood up and made his way towards the platform. All eyes were upon him and there was a palpable felling of anticipation. The poet smiled, paused for a moment, and made a light-hearted remark to ease the tension. Then he began to speak fluently but with great simplicity. He was overwhelmed with pride and also humility; his own works and library were now housed beside the books written and collected by the greatest figures in Scottish literature. He paused again. Should he say more? He gazed intently at his audience; at his friends; and added that all he wished to do was to express thanks to the National Library of Scotland for so honouring him. He returned to his seat with applause resounding through the room.

Don Lord, the emeritus Lecturer in Esperanto at Liverpool University then spoke about Bill Auld, the literary figure known in every country where Esperanto is spoken. He strongly emphasised his incredible skill as a translator. But above all stressed the human qualities which had resulted in the great writer being so admired and appreciated. Don took the opportunity to say a few words in Esperanto, primarily to let non-speakers of the language hear its beautiful sound qualities.

David Bisset, Secretary of the Scottish Esperanto Association, then spoke briefly about the significance of the Auld Collection for Esperanto libraries in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. Having a particular responsibility for the Butler Library, which is the only qualitatively comparable Esperanto collection in Britain, he indicated that fruitful co-operation would undoubtedly be possible. He was delighted that the National library intended to acquire every Esperanto publication with any Scottish connection. He fully understood why William Auld’s collection - with the possible exception of periodicals - had to be “closed”, for the works collected by such a significant literary figure would shed light for scholars on William Auld’s whole corpus; but he was certain that the General Collection would be continually refreshed with the most outstanding Esperanto publications. He finished his analysis of the significance of the gift by quoting the words of William Auld’s current publisher whose company is based in Russia: “I am proud that Auld books published by my modest publishing house are now part of the Auld Collection in the National Library of Scotland; and that this has come about because of co-operation with the greatest living Esperanto writer: a man who is a maestro of Esperanto literature”.

When all was over, one went out into Scotland’s capital, which was radiant with architectural splendour and seasonal decorations, feeling a glow of satisfaction that one of the great cultural institutions of the world was now also part of world Esperanto culture.

David W. Bisset

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