IT is a collection of long forgotten scrapbooks which provide a fascinating insight into the mind of Scotland's first national poet.

Now Edwin Morgan's private scrapbooks - containing photographs, literary extracts, newspaper cuttings and art images - are to be made available to the public for the first time when they are publishing digitally.

Morgan, who died in 2012 at the age of 90, made sixteen scrapbooks between his schoolboy years until his 40s, which acted as a creative outlet before his poetry became established.

He twice sought to published them during his own lifetime, but was unsuccessful due to the high costs of publishing and copyright clearance. In 1980, the books were among the first items to enter Morgan's extensive archive which is held at Glasgow University.

Now researchers at Glasgow University are working to publish an entire scrapbook online for the first time, as well as extracts from other volumes. The project also aims to test out new EU and UK guidelines for digitally publishing "orphan works" whose origin or author cannot be traced.

Morgan, who penned more than 60 books of poetry, was professor of English at Glasgow University from 1975 until he retired in 1980, and was appointed Scots Makar in 2004.

Kerry Patterson, project officer for Digitising the Edwin Morgan Scrapbooks, said the scrapbooks were an insight into the poet's interests and life over a 30-year period.

She said: "There are 16 volumes of scrapbooks of various sizes and he has put all kinds of things that interest him in them - cuttings from local newspapers, international news, science magazines, things to do with nature, to do with culture, to do with art.

"Science fiction was quite an important theme in his poetry and he picks out a lot of things to do with scientific developments."

Patterson said some word collages in the scrapbooks could be seen to tie in with Morgan's concrete or 'shape' poetry, where the text is arranged visually to match the content.

She added: "The scrapbooks were also very personal in that he used them as a record - there are self-portraits, photographs of some of his friends and his family and places he went on holiday.

"For example he went on a trip to Russia in 1955 and there are a couple of pages where he has stuck in photographs of him on the trip, plus all kinds of tickets and ephemera that he has picked up on the trip.

"He really has an eye for unusual - such as strange stories about dogs that have been born with two heads and that kind of thing."

Morgan's meticulous organisation of the scrapbooks included numbering all 3,600 pages. However much of the material does not have any indication of where it is sourced from - leading to potential copyright issues if it is published online.

Patterson said one of the aims of the 18-month project - which will publish scrapbook number 12 and extracts from other volumes online - would be to assess the challenges of making this kind of work available digitally.

"Digitisation is a big issue for archives, museums and libraries, as users now expect a lot of content to be available online," she said. "But with anything from the 20th century it can be very problematic, as a lot of the items are still going to be in copyright.

"At the end of the project we are also intending to produce a copyright audit toolkit, which will help archivists and librarians to assess copyright implications of mass digitisation projects such as this."

She added: "Morgan regarded the scrapbooks as really important -they were one of the first things that he gave to special collections for his archive when he left it in 1980, and he saw them as being a very important as part of his own work. So there should be some way that people are able to more widely view them."

Martin Kretschmer, professor of intellectual property law at the university who is jointly leading the project, said there was an ever-increasing "black hole" of materials which were still protected by copyright law, but difficult to use because the owner of the original work has to be traced.

He said the EU and the UK government had tried to improve access to copyright works through "orphan works" provisions introduced at the end of 2014, which are designed to enable digitisation and re-use of works when the rights holder cannot be identified or traced. But he warned it still involved an "onerous and potentially very costly diligent search process."

Kretschmer said: "After 50 years, only 3% of in-copyright books are still commercially available and 7% of in-copyright films. Yet the copyright term lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years - often more than 100 years.

"Edwin Morgan's scrapbooks are a prime example of the challenges involved here. Edwin Morgan assembled contemporary materials without permission - which would have made it difficult and costly to publish the scrapbooks commercially even in his own lifetime.

"Today, five years after Morgan's death in 2010, and more than 80 years after he first started to assemble his scrapbooks during the 1930s, the situation is amplified. Much of the materials incorporated into the scrapbooks don't carry source credits, yet must be presumed to be still in copyright.

"Is it acceptable that the only public who can enjoy Edwin Morgan's art and thoughts embodied in these complex artefacts are those who can travel to the library of the University of Glasgow?"