UPDATED 13 March 2013
One of the rare book team’s long-standing projects has been the creation of a rare Children’s Book Collection, assembled from a combination of new purchases and transfers from other collections already owned by the library. While updating the catalogue records for some of these transfers, an inscription on the fly-leaf of one of the volumes caught my attention. The inscription reads, “To Veronica, Nigel and Felicity (and the greatest of these is Felicity) from this humble servant, J. M. Barrie,” and is dated Christmas 1925. This “Veronica, Nigel, and Felicity” are the children of Principal Sir James Irvine (pictured left with Barrie) whose family hosted regular visits by Barrie to the Principal’s house on The Scores. Barrie, best known as the creator of Peter Pan, had strong ties to the University of St Andrews: he served as rector of the university from 1919 to 1922 delivering his rectorial address on the subject of “Courage.”
The inscription appears on a copy of The Flying Carpet (London: Partridge & Co., 1925), an anthology of stories and poems for children. This beautifully illustrated volume includes contributions by Thomas Hardy, G. K. Chesterton, A. A. Milne, and others. Barrie’s contribution is a short story entitled, “Neil and Tintinnabulum.” The April 1926 issue of The Elementary English Review (via JSTOR) had this to say about the anthology: “The outstanding story is Barrie’s ‘Neil and Tintinnabulum.’ Boys who enjoy ‘Stalky and Co.’ will like it, but it is really for grown-ups. In fact, the author calls it ‘An Interlude for Parents. In his inimitable, charming manner, Barrie describes the relation between a man and a boy. It is a story of the understanding heart that enables an adult to keep his hands off the developing mind and spirit of a child. It will bear reading and re-reading just now when we parents are too prone to give our children so much direction and guidance in school, clubs, camps, and special lessons that they have no time to ‘just grow.'”
Although the book has been in the library’s collection since it was donated by Mr. John di Folco in the 1990s, there was no record of it in the online catalogue prior to its rediscovery last week.
Rare Books Cataloguer