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Scottish Thought and Letters in the Eighteenth Century


Introduction - History and Antiquities - Geography - Travels - Encyclopaedias - Libraries - Society and Clubs - Law - Philosophy and Religion- Economy and Social History - Adam Smith - Education Architecture - Science and Medicine- Literature


HISTORY AND ANTIQUITIES

ANDERSON, James Selectus diplomatum et numismatum Scotiae thesaurus.
[Edinburgh : 1739] Mu6-x. 5

This splendidly produced collection of facsimiles of Scottish charters and other muniments was James Anderson's life work; he unfortunately did not live to see its completion, the volume being brought out by Thomas Ruddiman eleven years after Anderson's death in 1728. After the Union the growth in antiquarian and classical studies was largely due to the untiring industry of Thomas Ruddiman. Appointed to the Keepership of the Advocates' Library, he took the preparation of its catalogue in his stride, and spent his time copying out chartularies, composing theses for aspirants to the Bar, revising manuscripts for authors and proofs for booksellers, and exhuming and editing Scots authors

CRAWFURD, George The peerage of Scotland: containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom.
[Edinburgh : 1716] Mu8-a.10
Crawfurd's genealogical and historical works display considerable learning and industry. When Simon Fraser resolved to lay claim to the barony of Lovat, he employed Crawfurd to investigate the case and it was largely through Crawfurd's researches that Fraser's claim was upheld.

HUME, David The history of Great Britain.
[London : 1754-7] 2 vols Bhl - e.5,6

In 1752, Hume, having been recently unsuccessful in an attempt to succeed Adam Smith as Professor of Logic at Glasgow, was made Keeper of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. There 'master of 30,000 volumes', he could indulge a desire to turn to historical writing and this resulted in his History of Great Britain.

Library catalogues still list Hume-as 'Hume, David, the Historian' and in the hundred years after his death (in 1776) there were at least fifty editions of his History. In Hume's own day it was an innovation, setting a new standard in its detail and impartiality; in addition it was written in eminently readable prose.

 

FERGUSON, Adam An essay on the history of civil society.
[Edinburgh : 1767] Bm7 - f.14

Historians of social theory now acknowledge that it was in the eighteenth century that stress was first laid on the importance of the social nature of man and the problems of human relationships in society. Adam Ferguson's Essay is recognised as one of the most important contributions to the sociological thought of the century. The six parts deal with human nature, primitive societies, "policy and arts", the consequences of the development of civil and commercial arts, the decline of nations, and corruption and political slavery.

 

ROBERTSON, William The history of Scotland, during the reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI.
[London : 1759] 2 vols Bh5-e.3,4

In 1762, at the age of 41, Robertson was appointed Principal of Edinburgh University and then to the office of Historiographer of Scotland. This work won Robertson considerable regard as a historian.David Hume wrote to him; "I have not heard of one who does not praise it warmly ... I must fatigue your ears, as much as ours are in this place [London] by endless and repeated and noisy praises of the History of Scotland... Mallet told me that Lord Mansfield is at a loss whether he shall most esteem the matter or the style. Elliot told me that ,being in company with George Grenville, that gentleman was speaking loud in the same key ... Lord Lyttelton seems to think that since the time of St. Paul there scarce has been a better writer than Dr Robertson. Mr Walpole triumphs in the success of his favourites the Scotch."

 

ROBERTSON, William The history of the reign of the Emperor Charles V.
[London : 1769] 3 vols Ed. 1. 4-5

Principal Robertson's second historical treatise, which is generally accepted by historians as of the greatest merit, as much for the long introduction which prefaces the work 'A view of the progress of Society' as for the History itself. The work earned 4,000 for the author and was much admired by Catherine II of Russia.

 

DALRYMPLE, Sir David, Lord Hailes Annals Of Scotland.
[Edinburgh : 1776-1779] 2 vols Hepburn q28

'In 1776 the first volume appeared of a work in which early sources of Scottish history were examined and sifted with admirable acuteness and impartiality, and a connected narration was woven out of disputed documents. Many a venerable story and cherished tradition were demolished or banished to mythland.' - Graham, Scottish men of letters.

Of the same work Dr Samuel Johnson had this to say: 'It is in our language, I think, a new mode of history, which tells all that is wanted, and, I suppose, all that is known ... A book which will always sell: it has such a stability of dates, such a certainty of facts, and such a• punctuality of citation, I never before read Scotch history with certainty.'