It was a story too good to be true – and in the end, it was.
Earlier this year, while working in our archive, a member of staff came across a copy of In the Cairngorms by Nan Shepherd donated to the SPL in 2016. On picking up the book, several sheets of paper and a Christmas card fell out. The staff member discovered handwriting on the sheets, handwriting that matched an inscription on the title page signed by Shepherd. The sheets of paper comprised a letter from Shepherd to a friend, a Danish countess and artist, who she met while hillwalking; the address on the letter matched one for a house Shepherd lived in most of her life. Now, a newly discovered letter by Shepherd was exciting enough; better still, it appeared that the letter contained four unpublished poems.
We then took some pains to authenticate the letter. While we discovered the letter was genuine, we discovered the poems had in fact appeared before. They can be found in the publisher Galileo’s 2016 edition of In The Cairngorms, which contains twelve poems discovered during research for Charlotte Peacock’s Nan Shepherd biography, Into the Mountain. Sadly, we only discovered the poems had previously appeared after we’d informed the media that we (mistakenly) thought we’d found new four poems. Many thanks to Galileo for helping us to realise our mistake. We got it wrong. Apologies for raising hopes.
Nevertheless, we are thrilled to have found this nugget of Shepherd arcana and today are sharing below images of the letter and Christmas card. With the pandemic continuing, plans to put the letter on exhibition must be delayed, but we hope these photos will be something of a substitute in the meantime. Interest in the author of The Living Mountain and In The Cairngorms continues to grow, not least since an iconic image of Shepherd was added to the Scottish five pound note in 2016. We hope that these photos will help to feed growing awareness of what an incredible author Shepherd was and continues to be.
You can order In The Cairngorms, with an introduction by Robert Macfarlane, from Galileo’s website (link here), while you can order Into the Mountain from the SPL’s online shop here, which will be posted out to your home.