Poetry Scotland Series

William Maclellan (Glasgow, Scotland)
Series dates: 1943-1947
Size: 9.5″ x 6″

William Maclellan (born March 20, 1919) was the son of a Glasgow printer. Maclellan took over the firm at age 20, in 1939. A conscientious objector during WW2, he was jailed for a time, but released to continue his work at the printing firm, where he started to print books and other materials, initially for Polish troops.

“Between the start of his firm in 1941 and its bankruptcy in 1969 he had published original poetry by Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley MacLean, W.S. Graham, George Campbell Hay, George Bruce, Sidney Goodsir Smith, and Maurice Lindsay: also fiction by J.F. Hendrie, Edward Gaitens and Fionn MacColla: also plays by Ewan MacColl and Robert McLellan (no relative): also books of Scottish history, art, and folklore, the most notable being the Dewar Manuscripts.” (source)

Maclellan was apparently never a profitable publisher and many of his authors received little or no compensation for their publications. The firm was subsidized by its commercial printing. The publishing firm was bankrupt by 1969 and Maclellan died in 1996.

The Poetry Scotland Series was part of the¬†“Scottish Renaissance” movement and published many of the Scottish poets associated with that movement. Christopher Murray Grieve, under the pen name Hugh MacDiarmid, was a pivotal character in the Scottish Renaissance, having first suggested the idea in the 1920s. A series of anthologies edited by MacDiarmid called¬†Northern Numbers: Being Representative Selections from Certain Living Scottish Poets¬†published in the 1920s set the stage for the Scottish Renaissance. “By about 1925, MacDiarmid had largely abandoned his English language poetry and began to write in a kind of “synthetic Scots” known as Lallans, that was a hybrid of regional Scots dialects and lexicographical artifacts exhumed from Jamieson’s Dictionary of the Scottish Language, often grafted onto a Standard English grammatical structure” (source).

Novels emerged as a focus in the 1930s, with an emphasis on Scottish identity, politics, and social issues. Interest in Gaelic poetry emerged in the 1940s.  The Scottish Renaissance peaked in the 1950s, with the Poetry Scotland Series corresponding to the high Scottish Renaissance. The movement declined in the 1960s, with international movements capturing the focus of the Scottish literary scene (source).

An advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement, December 16, 1944, includes the first four titles in the series:

The series is numbered to 14, but one title (#13) does not seem to have been published. An additional four titles were announced but not published.

#1: Auntran Blads: An Outwale O Verses, by Douglas Young; Hugh MacDiarmid; Somhairle MacGill-Eain; George Campbell Hay (1943)
#2: Sea Talk, by George Bruce (1944)
#3: The Acreage of the Heart, by Ruthven Todd (1944)
#4: The Seven Journeys: Poems, by W.S. Graham (1944)
#5: Women of the Happy Island, by Joseph Macleod (1944)
#6: Selected Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, by Hugh MacDiarmid (1944)
#7: The Deevil’s Waltz, by¬†Sydney Goodsir Smith (1946)
#8: The Enemies of Love: Poems, 1941-1945, by Maurice Lindsay (1946)
#9: Westward Look: Poems 1922-45, by Robert Herring
#10: A Kist of Whistles: New Poems, by Hugh MacDiarmid (1946)
#11: Sea Glimmer: Poems in Scots and English, by William Jeffrey (1945)
#12: A Braird O Thristles: Scots poems, by Douglas Young (1947)
#13: [no title published]
#14: Selected Poems of Alexander Gray, by Alexander Gray (1946)

*Gaoth Air Loch Fine, by George Campbell Hay
*Fuaran Sleibh, by George Campbell Hay
*The Ruins of Man, by J.F. Hendry
*Hurlygush, by Maurice Lindsay

*Announced (on dust jackets) but no published


This copy of the Selected Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid was first issued as #6 in the series in 1944. The books are large (9″ x 6″) and, as poetry books are wont, short in length. The jackets are unique to each title, and many are illustrated by Scottish artists. This title has a textual jacket in blue. The series name and number are included on the front jacket flap, along with a blurb for the book and the price (6 shillings).

The back of the jacket includes a list of 13 titles, one of which (George Campbell Hay) was not, as far as I can find, published. The Poetry Scotland anthology is also noted at the bottom of the jacket back.

The book covers are heavy boards with a cloth quarter binding.

The books have no half-title page. A photograph of the author faces the title page. The series name is indicated at the top of the title page.

“Printed in Scotland by William Maclellan & Co., Ltd. 240 Hope Street, Glasgow, C.2. Nineteen hundred and forty-four.”