Collection Details

Call Number: MS Gen 1354
Title: Papers relating to the families of Muirhead and Watt
Associated Websites: MS Gen 1354: Book of the Month
Date of Creation: Between 1574 and 1838
Level of Description: Collection
Extent: 1413 items
Name of Creator:
Muirhead family fl 1570-1700
Originally of Lauchop, Lanarkshire.
James Patrick Muirhead 1813-1898
Advocate. Biographer of the engineer James Watt (1736-1819).
James Watt 1769-1848
Engineer. Son of James Watt (1736-1819). Partner in Boulton & Watt, engineers, Birmingham; fitted the Caledonia with engines and steamed to Holland and up the Rhine, …
Content: For a long time this collection was described simply as 'Papers pertaining to the family of Muirhead'. However, the majority of the material is connected with the research, writing and publishing of a biography of the engineer James Watt (1736-1819) by James Patrick Muirhead (1813-1898). This includes a sequence of 904 letters exchanged between James Watt Jr (1769-1848) and Muirhead between 1834 and 1847.

As David Miller writes, these are concerned mainly with Watt's aim to document his father's life and achievements. "Other letters ... document exchanges with informants, publishers, printers, booksellers, engravers, reviewers, editors, and also with recipients of presentation copies. Apart from their interest for those concerned with the Watt legacy, these papers also make a fascinating case study of early Victorian publishing and literary life."

Overview of contents:
MS Gen 1354/1-21, mainly Muirhead family legal papers, 16th century-1820s
MS Gen 1354/22, diary of Voyage in Sicily, 1793, and journals of other journeys in France and Italy, by James Watt, jnr.
MS Gen 1354/23, Muirhead's copy of Arago's Eloge of James Watt, 1839
MS Gen 1354/24, re funeral of Matthew Boulton, 1842
MS Gen 1354/25-75, letters/papers re J P Muirhead's parents, 1805-1820
MS Gen 1354/76-264, letters etc re James Watt, c1816-65
MS Gen 1354/265-1169, correspondence between James Watt, jnr and J P Muirhead, 1834-1847 (904 letters)
MS Gen 1354/1170-1198, various letters to/from James Watt Jnr and J P Muirhead, 1840s
MS Gen 1354/1199-1268, re printing, sales etc of Watt biography, c 1858-1860
MS Gen 1354/1269-1273, re Great Eastern steamship, 1859
MS Gen 1354/1274-1277, re Soho engine works, 1859
MS Gen 1354/1278-1293, mainly letters to J P Muirhead re Watt biography, 1858-9
MS Gen 1354/1294-1402, mainly letters from J P Muirhead to Rev Napier, 1855-1871
MS Gen 1354/1403-1413, mainly Muirhead family papers, c 1832-1875
Arrangement: Material is arranged in the order in which it was received.
List Collection Content
Access: Normal conditions
Language: Not Assigned
Source of Acquisition: Presented by Sir Patrick Muirhead Thomas. Date unknown but prior to 1990.
See Accession details
Notes: Muirhead was Watt Jr's literary executor and it would appear that these papers were passed to his descendants and presented along with the Muirhead family papers.

With the exception of MS Gen 1354/1-21 and /1403-1409, microfilm should be consulted instead of the originals. (Produced as Series 4, Part 3 of Industrial Revolution: A Documentary History by Adam Matthew Publications Ltd, 2007. Introduced by Professor David Miller, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales)
Cataloguing Rules: ISAD(G)
Repository Code: GB 0247

Names associated with this collection:

donor: Sir Patrick Muirhead Thomas 1914-1990
Great-grandson of James Patrick Muirhead (1813-1898), biographer of the engineer James Watt (1736-1819).
subject: James Watt 1736-1819
Inventor and engineer. Educated in Greenock and trained in Glasgow and London. In 1756 he returned to Glasgow and set up a workshop as mathematical instrument maker to the university, until 1764. …
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