Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2016

Robert Louis Stevenson Day (#RLSDay) is now an annual date on Edinburgh’s literary calendar when the life and works of one of our City of Literature’s most famous writers are celebrated. The lead up to Stevenson’s birthday on 13 November saw events taking place throughout Edinburgh.

We were privileged on 10 November to host a lecture by the eminent Robert Louis Stevenson expert, Professor Barry Menikoff. We heard a very insightful talk about Stevenson’s book, David Balfour – better known to most of us as Catriona.

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We were also entertained by a scratch company of student actors from Liverpool who performed a dramatized version of Stevenson’s short story Markheim. The first time that a murdered body has been found on one of the Reference Library’s desks!

This event was organised by The Centre for Literature and Writing (CLAW) at Napier University.

Happy Robert Louis Stevenson Day!


Every year on 13 November Edinburgh celebrates the birthday of one of our most famous literary sons.

Today and tomorrow libraries are hosting lots of free, family friendly events. Come along and join in the fun. We’ve pirate parties, treasure hunts and crafts galore. For a complete listing of  RLS Day events visit the Edinburgh City of Literature website.

Or visit the Writers’ Museum, just off the Royal Mile, to discover more about Robert Louis Stevenson’s remarkable life.

Among the wealth of amazing objects on display are photographs, artefacts illuminating Stevenson’s time in Samoa, as well as his ring, riding boots and first editions of some of his works. Explore the museum for free.

Tortoiseshell and silver 'Tusitala' ('storyteller') ring

Tortoiseshell and silver “Tusitala” (“storyteller”) ring

And to celebrate RLS day, the award-winning living history group, Edinburgh Living History, will entertain you in the Writers’ Museum. There are free performances at 1pm and 2pm today and tomorrow  (13 and 14 November) They will be performing dramatised readings from some of RLS’s works, particularly his short stories and poetry. No need to book, just come along on the day.

Verses first edition (3)

Fist edition of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”

Top 10 Robert Louis Stevenson quotations


The fan-tash-tic staff at Muirhouse Library are getting ready to celebrate Robert Louis Stevenson Day this Friday (13 November)

And to get you in the mood here are our top 10 RLS quotations:

Nothing like a little judicious levity.
The Wrong Box, 1889

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.
Reflections and remarks on human life, 1898

Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.
The Lantern Bearers, 1882

Youth is wholly experimental.
Letter to a Young Gentleman, Scribner’s Magazine, 1888

The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, 1881

It is a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.
Treasure Island, 1883

All human beings are commingled out of good and evil.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1886

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Treasure Island, 1883

The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to effect him precisely as you wish.
Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, 1881

The man who forgets to be grateful has fallen asleep in life.
Letters, 1884

See a list of all RLSDay events taking place in Edinburgh on the Edinburgh City of Literature site.

Coming soon… Previously

Now in its third year, Previously…the festival of Scottish History, just gets bigger and better. Here are four ways you can get involved:

1. Share your memories of Corstorphine

Corstorphine residents past and present are invited to the library at 6.30pm on Wednesday 20th November, for an illustrated talk on the history of the village followed by your opportunity to share a Corstorphine memory or anecdote. If you’ve got something you’d like to share contact Corstorphine Library in advance so we can make sure there’s time to fit everyone in. 

2. Celebrate one of Edinburgh’s most famous sons

UN739 RLS Day 2012 Block

Mark Robert Louis Stevenson Day on 13 November with walks, talks and afternoon tea.

3. Join The Big Book Club

Join the biggest Book Club ever as we discuss ‘The Glorious Thing’ by Christine Orr. Set in Edinburgh in 1916, this funny, sometimes tragic, beautifully written novel centres on a group of young people trying to find their place in society. Orr examines the changing role of women, politics and religion against the backdrop of the First World War. Contact for your free copy of the book in advance of the event and book online to reserve places for your book group.

4. Explore Edinburgh’s hidden past

Our Town Stories brings the hidden stories from Edinburgh’s past to life with some amazing photographs. Find out about the country’s oldest fire brigade and read the story of the nine-year-old suffragette.

There are well over 200 other events to choose from – visit the Previously… site for details

On the trail of Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy Robert Louis Stevenson Day! To celebrate we’ve got not one, but two, exciting pieces of news for devotees of the revolutionary novelist, master storyteller, travel writing pioneer and genius essayist.

First, in association with Luath Press, author and actor John Cairney is visiting Central Library to talk about ‘The Quest for Robert Louis Stevenson’.

Cairney’s book explores the release of the passionate potential that Stevenson found in Samoa, a paradise that was marred by the eccentric behaviour Stevenson’s wife Fanny Osbourne.

The talk takes place at Central Library on Thursday 29th November at 6.30pm – book online to reserve your place.

In 1878 Stevenson journeyed through the Cévennes. The route he followed has today become one of the most popular hiking trails in France, thanks in part to the work of The Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson, which was established in 1994 to develop the trail for tourism.

The Association has put together an exhibition entitled ‘Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson’ featuring images, photographs, drawings and texts from and about Stevenson that illustrate his travels across France and highlight the writer’s international connections.

This exhibition will be on display on the Central Library mezzanine from 15th November until 14th December 2012. It is the first time the exhibition will be on display in the UK and is the product of a collaboration between the Association Sur le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson, Edinburgh City Libraries and the Robert Louis Stevenson Club.

Christian Brochier, Chairman of the Association Sur le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson, told us: “We’ve been working on promoting Stevenson’s heritage for twenty years. It’s a huge honour to bring this exhibition to his native city and pay homage to such a great writer and a great man. Through the exhibition we hope to promote the life and works of our wonderful friend and fellow traveller – especially his links with Cevennes.”

To find out more about Stevenson’s travels you can view more images like the one featured above on Capital Collections, our online image gallery.

“Every man has a sane spot somewhere”

As you know, Robert Louis Stevenson is one of Edinburgh’s greatest literary treasures.  So how come we celebrate Burns and not him?  Our friends at UNESCO City of Literature and Napier University have decided to remedy that, and are hosting some fun activities to launch the inaugural Robert Louis Stevenson Day!  Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature are putting on a host of wonderful events  for their brand new Robert Louis Stevenson day.  For starters, follow #rlsday on twitter to keep up with the latest buzz!

Robert Louis Stevenson was proud and opinionated about his home town, so Picturesque notes from RLS’s oeuvre will be appearing at special locations on the streets of Edinburgh.

If you have a smartphone, follow QR codes to get involved with an innovative online literary trail, hosted on the UNESCO City of Literature’s website.  You might even win free copies of Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde!

RLS at 7 years old

As if that wasn’t enough Robert Louis Stevenson goodness, Previously… Scotland’s History Festival and Napier University’s Centre for Literature and Writing (aka the fantastic acronym CLAW…) have joined forces to bring Edinburgh favourite Ian Rankin and Young Ones funnyman Nigel Planer together for “A Robert Louis Stevenson Evening” on Thursday 17th, at the  City Arts Centre.

If you’ve not managed to reserve your place for this incredibly popular event, you can still get your name on a waiting list and hope for the best!  Email

RLS aged 20, already knee-deep in velvet.

We’ve got even more suggestions for activities to do, to further immerse yourself in the world of Robert Louis Stevenson!

Read all about his life on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Find his works on our literary map of Edinburgh!

A map of Treasure Island

If you’ve read everything of his (really?!), tuck into Who Else Writes Like to get recommendations of writers inspired by the illustrious Scot.

RLS, pictured with family and staff, on a visit to Peebles

For a further peek into his world, have a look at our Robert Louis Stevenson exhibitions, hosted on Capital Collections.  Visit the official RLS website, explore this comprehensive exhibition on the geography of his Edinburgh life, or his Pacific adventures!

An ailing RLS finds solace in music, Waikiki 1889

And finally, why not pop into Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, where you will find many works by and about the man himself – see our extensive selection of work here!

The 30-strong Robert Louis Stevenson Collection

Recommended Reading

Robert Louis Stevenson: writer of boundaries by Richard Ambrosini and Richard Dury

On the Trail of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Cairney

Louis: a life of Robert Louis Stevenson by Phillip Callow

Robert Louis Stevenson: a biography by F.J. McLynn

Narrating Scotland: the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson by Barry Menikoff

Dreams of Elsewhere: the selected travel writings of Robert Louis Stevenson

RLS in love: the love poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson

Selected letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

The Stevenson Library of E.J. Beinecke

Robert Louis Stevenson website launched

We’d like to draw your attention to a fabulous new site celebrating the life and works of Robert Louis Stevenson, which has been put together by staff at Edinburgh Napier University.Robert Louis Stevenson

Many of the pictures in the Gallery section of the site have been taken from the collections of Edinburgh City Libraries. To mark the launch of the web site, we’ve put together a couple of Robert Louis Stevenson exhibitions on Capital Collections.

The RLS family album



image from Capital Collections

Capital Collections (Edinburgh City Libraries Image Library) has embarked on a project to give the public access to Robert Louis Stevenson’s family photograph albums. The albums consist of photographs taken by Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson’s step-son, and other images collected and produced by Stevenson and his family during his journey round the Pacific in 1889-90.

Working in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University and City of Edinburgh Museums the albums have been digitised and will be made available on the web through Capital Collections and a definitive Robert Louis Stevenson website that Edinburgh Napier University is creating. So far 100 of the 540 images are available on an online exhibition entitled Robert Louis Stevenson: Pacific Travels.

Images will continue to be added to Capital Collections and we look forward to the launch of Edinburgh Napier University’s Stevenson website later this year.