This past couple of weeks I have been studying the Borrowers’ Register at The Library of Innerpeffray and thinking just what a wonderful resource it is for folks tracing their family history in the Crieff to Muthill and surrounding area. The Register is complete from 1747 to 1968, when the library ceased to be a lending library. Not only can you visit this wonderful museum and handle the books but you could search the Borrowers’ Register for your ancestors from the area and actually see what books they borrowed and when they borrowed them. It frequently lists where they lived, their occupation at the time and, if they could write, their entry will often be in their own handwriting (many would be able to read but not write) rather than entered by the Keeper of the Books at the time.
Innerpeffray Library is a place where you can very easily be distracted by your thoughts as you carefully turn the pages of a particular book. Sitting there, looking out of the windows and surrounded by all the knowledge in those wonderful old books, I often begin to wonder how many of the borrowers, during all those years of lending, did the the very same thing and then dreamt of going to the far off places they were reading about. I am sure that many were inspired to venture forth into the wider world, not just elsewhere in Scotland (although Thomas Pennant’s “A Tour in Scotland”, 1769, was one of the more frequently borrowed books) or the UK, but to travel to far off lands and make a new, and probably better, life for themselves or their family.
Innerpeffray was always a free lending library, not just for the ‘well to do’ people, but there for everyone to use and this is illustrated by the wide variation in occupations listed by the borrowers – weaver, farm labourer, wright, cooper, dyer, farmer, mason, merchant, miller, servant, shoemaker, tailor, surgeon, esquire, gardener, glover, student and many others. When the library was founded in 1680, Scotland was a poor country and its founder David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, laid down that the library should be ‘for the benefit and encouragement of young students’ and stipulated that borrowing should be free to all. That was the very enlightened view of a scholarly man and a benevolent landlord. Many of his books still form part of the collection today.