Excerpt from Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland, Vol. 1 of 3
The parts of the Macfarlane Collection of Manuscripts relating to Scotland that I now edit are usually called topographical, but Macfarlane himself calls them geographical, and their character may be rega... rded as justifying Macfarlane's designa tion. The Accounts of the parishes and districts of Scotland, as given in this volume of the Manuscript, are to an unusual extent of such a nature as to yield material for the compila tion of maps, and they differ in this respect from ordinary topographical accounts, which are more concerned with descrip tions of special places or objects than with the relation of these to each other in respect of distance or direction by the compass. Indeed, it is rare to find Accounts of localities which are made so much as these are from a geographer's point of view. They sometimes consist almost entirely of statements of the distances of places from each other to the north, south, east, or west. The bendings of a stream are often given with the length of the bend in this or that direction, and with the distance of the change in its course from towns, villages, churches, residences or hills.
Though this may be regarded as a distinguishing feature of the Accounts in this Collection, especially, perhaps, of those in the first volume, they also contain much ordinary topographical description. For example, when a residence is mentioned we may learn who owned it and whether it was in a state of ruin or the reverse, and when a village or town is mentioned we may be told of the names and times of markets held there, whether it did or did not contain a tolbooth, and whether its church was slated or thatched.
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