Dr Katie McCullough

Dr Katie McCullough Welcomes Gift from Publishing Pioneer

March 30, 2017

When James (Jim) Douglas passed away on September 24, 2016, British Columbia’s book publishing industry lost one of its central figures. Douglas was considered by industry members to be “one of the founding fathers of B.C. publishing.” His first venture, J.J. Douglas Ltd, became prominent publisher Douglas & McIntyre, and he helped guide the establishment of SFU’s professional publishing program. Douglas was also a bibliophile with an abiding interest in books about Scotland, where he was born. Now, his personal collection of Scottish books has been given to Katie McCullough.

McCullough, the Director of the Centre for Scottish Studies, was introduced to Jim and his wife Heather Douglas in February 2016. During a visit at the Douglas home, McCullough saw Jim’s library or, as McCullough says, “Jim’s beloved collection of books.”

“Jim Douglas,” McCullough says, “obviously knew what to collect.” The collection includes James Browne’s (1793-1841) multi-volume History of Scotland, Its Highlands, Regiments, and Clans.  According to McCullough, “as a Scottish historian, these are the kinds of things I want to have on my bookshelf.” Also of note is a copy of Jane Porter’s (1776-1850) The Scottish Chiefs. The well-known book was awarded to Douglas as a school prize, with the award certificate still glued inside. McCullough says these and other books are significant as artifacts, particularly as they demonstrate the 19th Century obsession with romanticizing the Scottish Highlanders. “Gentlemen, or gentlewomen,” she says, “would have had these books on their shelves.”

Some of the volumes are fragile, but McCullough plans to use the more robust books when she teaches the history of the Highlanders in Scotland. Paging through a book from the 19thCentury, she cites a few examples useful for her classes: “Highlanders were seen as primitive warriors” she explains, “and the antiquarians were obsessed with the highlanders in this highly romanticized way.” The collection also includes books on the history of the Gaels, and the Picts, which serve as further examples: “the myth of the history of Scotland is that the Gaels came from Ireland and established a line of kings, and in this myth they use the highlanders as indigenous people.” McCullough says they talk in class, for example, about the process of this romanticization and critique how its myth includes the desire to “improve” the Highlanders, as well as the history of their sustained resettlement. The books, then, serve as useful teaching tools for helping students draw connections between the history of Scotland and public perception of that history through the 19th century, as represented by what was on people’s bookshelves.

The value of the gift will be felt in other ways, as well: McCullough also points out that Douglas' correspondence is "being donated to the SFU Library as a result of my introduction of Heather to Melanie Hardbattle (Acting Head, Special Collections and Rare Books)".

(This article courtesy of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.)