Site icon Random Scottish History

‘Poems of Ossian’ (1812)

This is a, rather battered, copy of James Macpherson’s translated ‘Poems of Ossian.’ It’s usually kept bound up in a small plastic bag as the binding has come apart and the cover boards are somewhat delicate. The copy of Ramsay’s ‘Tea-Table Miscellany‘ I have, published almost a century prior to this book, is in far better condition. It is, however, still readable which is the main thing. I’ll need to have this copy rebound in order to read without fear of destroying it beyond repair.

As Campbell states in his Introduction,

“MacPherson’s “translation” appeared between 1760 and 1762, and the controversy raged from the beginning, and is growling still; but the dispute now is, whether the poems were originally Scotch or Irish, and how much MacPherson altered them.”

This collection proved fairly controversial when it was published as he’d claimed to have collected many old manuscripts of Ossianic poetry and compiled them together before translating them. All of a sudden he didn’t have the manuscripts any more and some in literary circles felt the book was a work entirely of his own creation. Really when a translator gets to work, what they’re doing is, “what I think they meant to say is.” If you consider a thesaurus and how many words can convey a similar idea of another without fully encompassing the sentiment of the original, really a translator’s work is something of their own creation but Macpherson’s being unable/unwilling to produce the original texts he worked from went against him in the public mind. J F Campbell writes about the Ossian Controversy in volume 4 of his ‘Popular Tales.’

What’s potentially interesting about this book is the inscription in the front, E. B. Galusha. I like to look up previous owners, see ‘Story of Queen Mary,’ and the only person of that name I could find was a Rev. Elon Galusha, an anti-slavery activist from New York and “one of fifteen Underground Railroad stationmasters.” After a quick check on my online receipt for the purchase of this publication I found that I’d repatriated it from the USA. I’m looking into contacting historical organisations over there and I have an email for the person I obtained the book from, so I’ll let you know what I find. Perhaps someone has a writing sample we can compare?


J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Front Cover.

J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Spine.
J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Front Inscription (brought out on Photoshop by Alex);
“E. B. Galusha
From his Father
                                                                          August 13
Then E.B. Galusha again underneath with something completely illegible under that.
J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Front Inscription

J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Frontispiece.

J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Title Page.

J. MacPherson (1812), ‘Poems of Ossian’, London: J. Walker, Publisher’s Page.

Information from Orbitist.

Image from Find a Grave.
Exit mobile version