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New report on Scottish literature suggests Robert Louis Stevenson
may be country’s most influential author

 

Treasure Island is the most globally influential Scottish book ever published, a new report suggests. An analysis by OCLC Research reveals that the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson is the Scottish work most widely republished and most widely held by the world’s libraries.

OCLC Research, part of the worldwide library cooperative OCLC, examined millions of bibliographic descriptions in WorldCat, the world’s largest online database of library collections.  Researchers used this data to identify a Scottish presence in the published record—i.e., materials published in or about Scotland or by its people.  The work found that the Scottish presence in the published record included nearly two million distinct publications,  and yielded a number of insights into Scottish publishing patterns and trends.

Commenting on the report, Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland said: “This is a real step forward in mining OCLC data to help understand institutional, national and international collections and stimulate thinking in how we can collaborate to improve access to these items for everyone.  It is a fascinating and thought provoking piece which we will be looking to use intensively as we take NLS forward.”

These are sentiments echoed by John MacColl, University Librarian & Director of Library Services, University of St Andrews. “This report represents an innovation in bibliographic analysis, drawing on library holdings data to infer some very useful facts about the presence and influence of Scottish literature around the world. The Scottish research library community is delighted that Scotland was chosen by OCLC as the pioneer for a type of analysis that is able to be replicated for other nations and regions.”

Analysing global library collections and publishing activity this way provides valuable insight into the ways Scotland ‘exports’ its national presence around the world. Brian Lavoie, author of the report explains: “Most of the core works are familiar classics in literature, arts, and science written by Scottish authors like Smith, Hume, and Stevenson. However it is interesting to see how the portrayal of Scotland is changing over time with more contemporary works like the ‘Tartan noir’ mystery genre.”

According to the report, Treasure Island consistently tips the rankings across a variety of indicators measuring the relative impact of Scottish works. Republished almost 3,500 times and held in almost 45,000 libraries worldwide means its importance on Scottish literature is undeniable, leading Lavoie to suggest that “rather than Scotch whiskey, perhaps it is the pirates’ legendary ‘bottle of rum’ that we should toast as the iconic drink of Scotland!”

For a copy of Not Scotch, but Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record please email uk@oclc.org.

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