While visiting the Dumbarton Library some months ago, I happened upon an old newspaper article written about a couple over from America, a Mr & Mrs D. J. McAuliffe, of Jackson, Michigan, who wanted to buy a copy of Welles' book, and could not find a copy for sale. Not only were they disappointed to find that their clan's ancestral castle was no more than a gaunt tower surrounded by modern bungalows and blocks of Naval housing occupied mostly by English families (the dreaded "Sassenachs"), they were fascinated to learn more about the old tower from a book they had borrowed from the county library: "Ardincaple Castle and Its Lairds".
As soon as the couple began seeking to obtain a copy of the Welles monograph for their own, they were astonished to find that few people had either seen or ever heard of the rare book. Among the places their search led them was to try Foyle's famous bookshop in London, only to get the dodge from the manager of the rare book department there, who just happened to be married to a MacAulay from Helensburgh. Yet as the manager informed the couple, the ancient book could not be obtained.
Upon realising the futility their efforts, they despairing wrote to the county library pleading to purchase one the library's two original copies, and just couldn't understand why the library would refuse to sell their "spare copy" to the MacAulay descendants, who, as the couple exclaimed, "would be the most treasured possession of every member of our family". But as the article concluded "the County's books are NOT for sale, not even to the man who could be the lost chief of the Macaulays himself." [from Helensburgh Advertiser, 17/07/64].
Unlike this unlucky couple, copies of Welles' monograph do surface occasionally, and while I know the whereabouts of at least ten copies of the original 250 copies, the last copy I saw for sale was in 1998 and it sold for £85. But not to despair, just about quarterly the Mitchell Library in Glasgow hosts an antiquarian book fair when booksellers from around Scotland gather to buy and sell, and quite a few bargains can be had if you're willing to avail yourself of the moment. Yet, if you're seeking a book written about a place in Helensburgh, the more sensible approach would be to seek such a title through the local exchange than traveling to London where the Sassenachs are less than friendly, where they rarely accept Scottish pound notes and they don't take American Express!
While there are a few bookshops in Helensburgh worth contacting, some even on-line, there is one antiquarian bookseller on West Clyde Street in Helensburgh, who just MAY have a copy of Edward R. Welles (1930) Ardincaple Castle and Its Lairds. And as Paul mentioned, the monograph was limited to 250 copies, not to mention being out-of-print for seventy-one years, so you're likely to pay whatever the collector value is today. If anyone's interested in the Helensburgh bookseller alluded to above, you can contact me via email, lest too many inquiries for this same book may add considerably to your ultimate purchase.
It really depends upon how badly you want the book as to what you'd be willing to pay, but any book as coveted as this one, and that fact is well-known, the retail value will certainly be whatever the market will bear. Welles' book has 213 pages, four photogravure prints of the castle and grounds, two map illustrations, nicely bound with a calf spine and corners, and a gilt impression of the MacAulay crest. The content, however, has much to be desired. While the book is the first published work to address Ardincaple Castle and its lairds, it is not the first work to have been conceived.
In preparing his book Welles borrowed liberally from numerous sources, but one source in particular, he borrowed more heavily, and indeed, his book is almost entirely based upon a lecture manuscript by the late Dr. David Murray, of Cardross (1842-1928), whose paper: "The Macaulays of Ardencaple and the Western Lennox", was read at Helensburgh in 1896. According to Murray's daughter, Sylvia, who in 1933, published a short memoir about her father's life, remarked: "Over the years my father had gathered additional material on this subject with the intention of at some time publishing it. He had been approached for information shortly before his death by Mr. E. R. Welles, who in the preface to his Ardincaple Castle and Its Lairds (Glasgow, 1930), after mentioning that he had been given permission to borrow the manuscript, and had made use of it in the preparation of his book, says: 'There have been few men who have possessed as great a knowledge of Western Scotland and its history as the late Dr. David Murray of Cardross. He had begun a treatise on 'The Western Lennox and the Macaulays,' which was an unfinished manuscript when his illness came upon him. Before his death, his daughter, Miss Eunice Murray, very generously permitted the present writer to borrow the manuscript and gave him permission to make use of it in the preparation of this volume. As the reader will increasingly discover, that portion of Dr. Murray's manuscript dealing with the Macaulays has been employed extensively.' "
Anyone possessing or wishing to acquire a copy of Welles book should avail the opportunity to also inquire of the Dumbarton District Libraries for a copy of Murray's 1896 manuscript, for much of what Murray's earlier treatise had contained Welles chose to disregard. While David Murray had spent more than thirty years compiling the information he gleaned from various local records, including some original documents relating to the MacAulays in the seventeenth century, Murray's meticulous labours sped Welles to complete his book in less than six months. Although he alludes in his preface to having first suggested writing a book on Ardincaple Castle in the summer of 1928, a note nearer the end of the book refers to his own diary, of 18th September, when Welles relates to an incident which he believed that he had encountered a ghost in Ardincaple Castle. Barely a fortnight later, on the 3rd of October, Dr. Murray passed away and with his departure was lost the much needed clarifications that Welles later chose to ignore.
In a final footnote, Welles relates of a friend, who after reading his manuscript, suggested that the ghost was trying to reveal the whereabouts of the missing family records. Though his book is highly prized by MacAulays from around the globe, neither Murray nor Welles had access to the Ardincaple estate papers or its ancient cartularies, so what is written by these two writers of the MacAulays is based primary upon the public records that were available to them, together with much hypothesizing upon what records were not available.
As Welles laments in his book that “with the end of the family and the desolation of the castle, came the destruction or disappearance of all the family records which would have been so helpful in the production of this present volume. Those interesting old documents may have been destroyed, or they may have found their way to an unguessed place of oblivion. However, without them the present writer has done his best in the preceding pages to present to the patient reader a history of the Lairds of Ardincaple and of Ardincaple Castle during the period of their sway.”
Little did either Welles or Murray know, yet, the missing records that each had sought were held just four miles away on the shores of Loch Lomond, and had eluded not only Murray’s lifelong studies to locate them but their whereabouts had thwarted the efforts of Ardincaple's other historiographers for more than two centuries.