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Calligraphy and illustrations for Spencer

Identifier: Coll-1413

Scope and Contents

First edition. 1946. Octavo. 11 sheets (13 x 17.5 cm) of fine art paper preserved in a marbled paper folder comprising a decorated title-page followed by the text, with a pen-and-ink drawing at the tope of each page (save the last which closes with a decorated 'Finis').

One of the drawings has been coloured. The illustrations are typical of Mclaren's illustrative at its finest. The initials on the back ('HM') would seem to suggest that this is the recipient of the portfolio.

The drawings include those illustrating: the 'shore of silver-streaming Thames'; a 'flock of nymphs [...] each one had a little wicker basket's; the 'two swans of goodly hue'; the 'nymphs, which now had flowers their fill'; the 'baskets [...] store of flowers'; a spray of flowers being perhaps 'the world's fair ornament'; nymphs, swans and flowers; 'Sweet Thames' with skyline and bridge; Queen Elizabeth, 'Great England's glory and the world's wide wonder'; and, the 'Finis' in which 'I end my song'.


  • Creation: 1946


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

Biographical / Historical

William McLaren (1923–1987) was born in Ferniegair, Hamilton, but grew up in Cardenden, Fife, Scotland with a crippling handicap that affected his feet. He attended Beath High School, Cowdenbeath, before going to college in Edinburgh. In 1944 he earned his Diploma and the Highly Commended Post Diploma from Edinburgh College of Art. After graduation and with a bursary from the Andrew Grant Fund he left Scotland and visited Italy and France. Throughout his life he remained a francophile and was fluent in French.

McLaren earned a living as a commercial illustrator working for such titles as The Radio Times and The Listener. He is noted for illustrating the popular Beverley Nichols gardening books. He also painted murals at Wemyss Castle, St Adrian's Church in West Wemyss, Hopetoun House, Hawthornden Castle and Tyninghame House. He also produced a portfolio of work around Edmund Spenser's Prothalamion.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene (1590-1596), an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English language. Following The Faerie Queene Spenser released Prothalamion, a wedding song written for the daughters of a duke.


1 volume

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material acquired August 2012. Accession no: E2012.42.

Processing Information

Catalogued by Graeme D. Eddie 16 January 2013

Original calligraphy and illustrations, 1946, for the 'Prothalamion' by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), done by William McLaren (1923-1987)
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379