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Robert Burns & 18th Century Scotland: Roy Collection

A rapid reference guide to online and other sources about Robert Burns

G. Ross Roy (1924-2013)

G. Ross Roy, Distinguished Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Emeritus, taught at the University of South Carolina from 1965 to 1990.  He is best known for his edition of The Letters of Robert Burns, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985) and as founder, and for nearly fifty years sole editor, of the journal Studies in Scottish Literature

The W. Ormiston Roy Fellowship and Lectures

In 1990, Dr. and Mrs. Roy established the W. Ormiston Roy Fellowship in memory of Dr. Roy's grandfather, to support visiting scholars for up to five weeks research in the Roy Collection. Over twenty scholars have benefitted from this support.  Since 2008, the fund has also supported occasional Ormiston Roy Lectures by distinguished visitors.  The festschrift for Dr. Roy, Robert Burns & Friends (2012), contained essays by thirteen previous Roy Fellows.

Scope, Location, Hours

The G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns, Burnsiana, & Scottish Poetry is the most comprehensive collection outside Scotland of material by and about Burns. In addition to Burns, the collection covers in depth other Scottish poets from 1707 to the present day, from Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson in the 18th century, through Walter Scott and James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson in the 19th century, to Hugh MacDiarmid and later poets in the 20th century, along with a host of lesser known writers.  Other Scottish collections in the Irvin Department (notably Hume and Carlyle) further broaden the research possibilities.  

The Roy Collection is housed in the Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections, Hollings Special Collections Library (entered from the main floor of Thomas Cooper Library).  Books may be consulted by registered readers in the Smith Reading Room, Hollings Library, which is normally open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday (except holidays).  Contact the Irvin Department for further information.

Searching the Roy Collection in Millennium

Items in the Roy Collection (including manuscripts) are cataloged in the University's on-line catalogue Millennium: note that these catalogue entries give much fuller information about the particular copies than normal library cataloguing.

Because of the sheer number of Burns items in the catalogue it is generally best to skip Quick Search and go direct to the Classic Catalogue/Advanced Search.  Before searching, set the Location box to read "Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections." For most searches, it is also best to enter at least one search term in addition to author and title, for instance a publisher's name or (for books about Burns) a subject in the keyword box,  It may also be wise to limit the search to a particular date range (e.g. 1786-1796. for works published in Burns's lifetime).

Some Burns-Related Digital Projects from the Roy Collection

The G. Ross Roy Collection

The illustrated catalogue to the collection (2009) is a good way to study the collection's character and range. It also supplies some additional notes about major items.  Supplement it with the on-line catalogue for the item call numbers and for items added to the collection since mid-2008.