Launch Event & Display

The Launch Event for this site, which comprised of a small exhibition accompanied by a talk, took place on Tuesday 28th March 2017. Here are some highlights from the display:


Leighton MS 25

Leighton Library matriculation book Oct 31 1734-1814 (Leighton MS 25)

Following a decision to charge a subscription to those wishing to borrow from the library, this book records the names of those who “matriculated”. A large portion of these subscribers never borrowed from the collection, and a great number who do not appear to have matriculated do appear in the borrowers’ register. The few letters held as MS 28 seem to indicate that subscribers could write in support of others to borrow books on their account. Many subscribers also seem to have paid in general support of the library, rather than with the intention to borrow or use as reference.

Leighton MS 27

Register of borrowings from the Leighton Library 1780-1833 (Leighton MS 27)

The main source for borrowers from the Leighton Library. This opening includes a rare example of a reader recording their own borrowing: John Ramsay of OchtertMistakeyre signed out “Rapin’s History” on a new page, when there was still room left under his previous borrowings. The Keeper of the Books ensured the mistake was correctly attributed.

Leighton MS 30

Register of borrowings from the Library by short-term visitors 1815- 1833 (Leighton MS 30)

Referred to as “the water book”, it records those taking advantage of short-term membership of the library while visiting Dunblane, due in no small part to the increase in visitors to the town following the discovery of mineral springs nearby in 1813. It contains the borrowings of over 100 individuals, who usually register for a fortnight for the sum of two shillings and six pence.


Cornelius Stewart, Surgeon in Dunblane

‘One of the prominent men in Dunblane at this time [1800-1842] was Cornelius Stewart, who carried on a medical practice in Dunblane and district during the early portion of the 19th century […] He was known locally as “Corney”. In his later years he is said to have been of round, stoutish build, with long grey hair and side whiskers’

Barty History of Dunblane p.233

Cornelius Stewart, who became a prominent figure in Dunblane, borrows from the library from 1800 to 1804, in the very early portion of his career. He seems to have arrived in Dunblane immediately after gaining a C.M. degree from the University of Glasgow in 1800 (Medical Dictionary for Scotland, 1852), though the University of Glasgow has no record of his graduation. We know at least that he attended Dr Jeffray’s anatomy classes 1798/99 and 1799/1800, giving his town at the time as ‘Newmills’. Though he only borrows for only four years, it is on a very regular basis (usually monthly) from December 1800 to November 1804.

Leighton’s original collection in the library held a reasonable number of medical books thanks to the pursuits of his father, yet Stewart seeks out works published (and acquired by the library) within his own lifetime. Of note is Biggs’ Vanity of Physick, a work violently opposed to dissection as a means of teaching anatomy, especially when we consider just how recently Stewart was himself a student in Anatomy classes. He borrows the most current Transactions of the Royal Society (vol 3 1794 and vol 4 1798. Vol 5 is not published until 1805). Spallanzani’s Dissertations relative to the natural history of animals and vegetables (1789) a ground-breaking work on digestion, also makes an appearance in an English translation.

Despite the medical leanings of many of his early borrowings, Stewart’s most borrowed title is Encyclopedia Britannica. In combination with his penchant for the Annual Register, it shows an interest in reading extensively, rather than intensely, following a trend which is evident in readers elsewhere. An interest in literature is present, but limited only to the most famous (Burns, Ossian, Shakespeare). Many Scottish Enlightenment works appear on Stewart’s list, alongside theological works (Buxtorf, Calvin) and works on practical divinity (Pictet, which the library only holds in French). He reads, therefore, extensively and widely, across the full spectrum of the collection.

Given his lengthy association with the town, it is perhaps surprising that Stewart ceases to use the library from 1804 onwards. He does gets married during his period as a borrower, to Helen Gordon 23 August 1801, but this is three years before he stops borrowing. The couple do not have children in the first decade of their marriage, so family life provides no explanation either. Leighton MS 25 gives another possible explanation. Stewart’s first subscription charge is five shillings for the year, and his name appears alongside many others paying that amount  in the same period. After 1805, the usual charge of 10s6d is applied. Perhaps this doubling in cost prevents Stewart from renewing his membership. As we have seen from his borrowing record, in the quantity and type of books borrowed, Stewart seems to be the type of borrower to ensure he got value for money.

With thanks to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow


Alexander B. Barty, (1994) The history of Dunblane. New edition. Stirling: Stirling District Libraries

Peter Gordon Stewart (1839) Essay on the Dunblane Mineral Springs

The Medical Directory for Scotland, 1852. London: John Churchill

Transcription of Borrowings

D Munro: Full Transcription

Year Month Date Title Vol
1821 Aug 14 Aristophanes One
1824 April 14 Strabo One
1824 April 14 Livy 1st
1824 April 14 Ovid 1st
1825 Sept 11 Massillons Sermons 6 vols
1825 Sept 11 Bourdaloue’s Do [Sermons] 2 vols
1825 Sept 11 Historiae Saracenicae Arabii One
1825 Sept 11 Anthologia Graeca One
1826 March 11 Saurius Sermons 6 Vols
1826 March 11 Gronovius Livy Vol 2nd
1826 March 11 Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis
1826 March 11 Erskine’s [?] Discourses Vol 2nd
1826 Oct 31 Castilli Lexicon Hept 2 vols
1828 June 11 Playfair’s Georgraphy Vol 4th

D Munro – Grammar School Boy, Stirling

By Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell, PhD Candidate at the University of Stirling,researching childhood reading practices in eighteenth-century Scotland.

Munro borrows from the Leighton Library between the years 1821 and 1825 and is identified throughout as a “grammar school boy” from Stirling. He borrows a total of fourteen titles over the course of these years and often borrows four or five texts on a single date which suggests that he is making a specific trip to the Leighton Library to access reading materials.

There is a large gap of three years between his first visit in August 1821 and his next in April 1824 but these early borrowings reflect a typical early grammar school education in Latin and Greek with Munro borrowing a volume of Aristophanes in 1821 and volumes of Strabo, Livy and Ovid in 1824. However, the provision for Greek was still rather basic at that time, particularly in comparison to the Latin education a typical Scottish grammar school boy would have been receiving and it may have been that Munro had no access to a formal Greek education, except through a private tutor.

At that time, the Grammar School of Stirling taught only Latin and English (consisting of Writing and Arithmetic). The school was rebuilt in 1788 and was described as “commodious school houses” in the 1793 Statistical Account[1]. It remained the burgh’s grammar school until 1856, when the new High School replaced it, offering a much wider range of modern subjects, including Latin, Greek, French, geography and ancient history[2]. Despite its new buildings in 1788, by 1793, the grammar school still only has two teachers, one Latin and one English master.

The typical curriculum for a grammar school boy offered very little Greek until the middle of the nineteenth century. The Royal High School of Edinburgh tended to be one of the more progressive schools in terms of an eighteenth-century curriculum and even here, by the eighteenth century, class sets of Greek texts were not a major investment for the school library. The first class set of texts to be purchased was a set of twenty copies of the New Testament in Greek in 1773, suggesting that the study of Greek, which had been introduced in 1614 (Ross, p. 41), but was promoted by rector, Alexander Adam, had a religious, as well as linguistic focus. New Testament Greek, which is simpler than Classic Greek, would also have been an easier introduction to learning the language for pupils. In 1802, John Sinclair records an Analysis of the System of Education at Harrow for a Boy in the Remove for the Royal High School which shows that the Greek education at Harrow, which the High School was looking towards for inspiration at the beginning of the nineteenth century, consisted only of Homer, the New Testament and Scriptures in Greek[3]. By the end of the eighteenth century, many of the Scottish universities were also lamenting the fact that school boys arrived with little or no knowledge of Greek and the first-year courses were changed to accommodate this[4].

Munro’s wider borrowing in the Greek language suggests that he was augmenting his grammar school education in Stirling, either through private study or with a private tutor, and one of the purposes of his visits to the library in these earlier years was to access these titles. His borrowing in Latin suggests either that he is borrowing during the school holidays (which would account for the sporadic nature of his visits) or that the library at the Grammar School was limited (there is no mention of a library within the “commodious school houses”, unlike at the Royal High School where the new buildings included a purpose-built library). The Statistical Account of 1845 for Stirling suggests that there was a limited range of libraries in the parish even by this later date, and certainly nothing comparable to the collection available at Leighton[5]. Many of the Greek texts at Leighton Library also have Latin parallel text which Munro may have been using to access the Greek writing.

Munro’s later borrowings diversify somewhat. He still borrows Latin and Greek titles including the Greek Anthology, a collection of poems, and Gronovius’ Livy in 1825 and 1826 respectively but also begins to borrow a range of Sermon between 1825 and 1826, including those by Jean-Baptiste Massillon and Louis Bourdaloue, suggesting that Munro was also proficient in French by this time. He also borrows John Erskine’s Discourses in 1826. The diversity of these religious texts is interesting, suggesting that Munro was engaging with Catholic (Massillon), Jesuit (Bourdaloue) and Calvinist (Erskine) writings almost concurrently. In 1828, Munro borrows just one text, James Playfair’s A System of Geography, Ancient and Modern suggesting a further broadening of his interests and education.

The schools available to boys in Stirling around this time lend themselves to a piecemeal education, where they would have had to attend several different schools or engage in both public and private education, to become well-versed in a range of subjects. The expansive nature of Munro’s borrowings suggest that he was engaged in a broader education, whether self-motivated or through private tuition, than the Stirling Grammar School would have given him access to.

[1] Statistical Account 1793, vol. III, p. 281

[2] Statistical Account 1845, vol. III, p. 441

[3] John Sinclair (1802), Analysis of the educational system at Harrow (Edinburgh City Council Archives, SL137/4/1/19)

[4] Statistical Account 1799, vol. XXI, p. 82

[5] Statistical Account (1845), p. 443

Full Transcription

Mr Stewart, Surgeon in Dunblane: Transcription

Year Month Date Title Vol
1800 12 15 Encyc Brit. 1st pt 1st & 2nd
1801 1 14 Encyc Brit. Vol 2nd both parts
1801 1 14 Watson’s Chem Essay 1st vol & other [four?] too
1801 1 14 Bacon’s posthumous works One
1801 3 24 Encyclopaedia Vols 3 Pts 1&2
1801 3 24 Burn’s Poems
1801 3 24 Thomson’s Opinions One Vol
1801 4 17 Dury’s Decisions One vol
1801 4 17 Pope Four first vols
1801 4 29 Pope 6th, 7,8,9,10
1801 4 29 Burnet’s Theory of the Earth 2 vols
1801 5 13 The Spectator 4 first vols
1801 6 29 Spallanzani’s Diss: 2 vols
1801 6 29 Cotton’s Concord One vol
1801 7 22 Encyc Vol 4 pt 1st
1801 7 22 Watson’s Tracts Vol 1st
1801 7 22 Biggs Vanity of Physic Vol One
1801 10 30 [Encyc] Vol 4th pt 1 & Vol 3 1st & 2nd
1801 11 21 Encyc] Vol 6th pts 1st & 2nd
1801 11 21 Guthrie’s History Two first
1802 1 14 Guthrie’s History 5th & 6th
1802 1 14 [encyclopedia?] Vol 8th pts 1st & 2nd &
1802 1 27 [encyclopedia?] Vol. 9 Pts 1st & 2nd
1802 1 27 R: Society Trans. Vol 3d
1802 1 27 Essay 6th of C: Rumford 6th
1802 3 3 [encyclopedia?] Vol 10th Pts 1st & 2nd
1802 3 3 R: S: Trans Vol 4th
1802 3 3 Essay 7th Pts 1st & 2nd
1802 3 16 [encyclopedia?] 12th pt 2nd & Vol 13th pt 1st
1802 3 16 Kames Two first
1802 3 16 Dickson Two
1802 4 29 Encyc Vols 13 pt 2d & 14 pts 1st & 2nd
1802 5 19 Chambers Dict: Vol 2
1802 5 19 Cowley’s Poems One
1802 8 6 Biographia Britannica 1st & 2nd
1802 8 6 Annual Register for 1797
1802 9 23 Abercrombie’s martial Atchivments Vol 1st
1802 9 23 Buffon’s Natural History 1st Vol
1802 9 23 British Poets 1,2,3, & 4th.
1802 10 5 Hartley on Man
1802 10 5 Reid on Intellectual Powers
1802 10 5 British Poets 76,77,78,79
1802 10 12 Reid on Intellectual Powers
1802 10 12 Bible le Sainte
1802 10 12 Shakespear Vol 1st & 2nd
1802 10 19 K. Elements of Criticism 2 Vols
1802 10 19 Blair’s Lectures Vol 2nd
1802 10 19 Encyc Brit. Vol 15 pt 2 & 16 pt 1
1802 10 19 Nat Hist Vols 2 & 3
1802 11 25 Buffon Vols 4 & 5
1802 11 25 Enc 17 pts 1 & 2
1802 11 25 Enc 18 pts 1& 2
1802 11 25 Calvin on Job One
1802 11 25 Pictet Vol 1st
1802 11 25 Encyc Vol 2d Part 1st
1802 11 25 Ossian Two
1803 1 28 Horrebow’s [Nat.Hist. of Iceland] One
1803 1 28 Biblia Sacra One
1803 1 28 Dalrymple 1st
1803 1 28 Mackenzie 1 Duo
1803 1 28 Pictet’s Theology 2nd Vol
1803 1 28 Annual Register 2nd & 3rd
1803 1 28 Paschall One
1803 1 28 Annual Register 4th & 5th
1803 1 28 Guthrie two
1803 1 28 Ann Reg 6th & 7th
1803 1 28 Guthrie 2nd
1803 1 28 Annual Reg 8th & 9th
1803 1 28 Paley’s Philos 2 Vols
1803 1 28 Hurd on Prophecy
1803 1 28 Principles of Equity 2
1803 1 28 Lowth’s Grammar One
1803 7 26 Principles of Equity One
1803 7 26 Oeuvres St Real First
1803 7 26 Stat Acct 3rd & 4th
1803 7 26 Annual Register 11th
1803 Principles of Equity One
1803 Stat Acct 5th
1803 Annual Register 12,13,14
1803 10 26 Ann: Reg 14th
1803 10 27 [Ann: Reg] 15,16,17
1803 11 27 Delolme One
1803 12 13 Puffendorff One
1803 12 13 Annual Register 14th
1803 12 13 Delolme
1804 1 10 Drawing of Encyc One
1804 1 10 Article Trigonometry
1804 1 10 Annual Register 20 & 21st
1804 1 10 Reid’s Enquiry
1804 2 29 Drawing of Encyc
1804 2 29 Annual Register 1779&80
1804 2 29 Architecture of Encyc One
1804 5 17 Drawing of Encyc
1804 5 17 Buxtorfe One
1804 5 17 Kempis One
1804 5 17 Leland Two
1804 10 29 Blair’s Lectures 1st Vol
1804 10 29 Lowth’s Grammar One
Mr Stewart gives up reading &c Nov 24

Mrs Dalzell


In 1813 the discovery of mineral wells at Dunblane meant a huge increase in visitors to the town. The library brought in a short-term subscription option (two shillings and sixpence) so that those visitors could use the library during their stay. Whilst these visitors were initially recorded in the same register as the regular members, they were eventually recorded in a separate booklet, identified thanks to a comical correction in the main register (pictured)


The earliest “water-drinker” borrower is a Mrs Dalzell. With such a common name and with no indication as to her home address it has been impossible to identify precisely who she was, but her borrowing records still give a fascinating example of books borrowed by those visiting to take the waters.  She visits the library in July and August 1815, borrowing 18 times in that period. A full transcript of her borrowing is available here.

Literature and travel make up the most part of her borrowing. Zeluco, the tale of a Sicilian rogue by John Moore, a Scottish author first published in 1789 is not only the very first thing Mrs Dalzell borrows, becomes the most borrowed book in the Leighton Library’s history. Chrysal, an it-narrative, is the tale of a coin (the narrator) making its journey from Peru into various pockets across Europe, witnessing both world-changing events and intimate scandals on the way. Mrs Dalzell borrows “Grant’s Poems” too, an 1803 anthology of poetry by Scottish widow, Mrs Anne Grant. An interest in such works strongly suggest that, in this instance, the library is being used to access books intended to be read for pleasure.

Mrs Dalzell shows an interest in borrowings memoirs, or any work giving an insight into the lives of others. Whilst much of the travel she borrows could fall into this category, it is also joined by Life of Lopez (translated out of the Spanish) and even perhaps Melmoth’s translation of Cicero’s letters. While these works could also feasibly be read for pleasure, her repeated borrowings of Voltaire (volumes 26 and 27), which the Leighton Library only holds in French, suggest an interest in scholarly reading too.

Though she borrows for such a short time, Mrs Dalzell’s borrowing shows that temporary readers visiting the town borrow works from across the library’s collection and not only for pleasure. Other temporary readers (recorded in Leighton MS 30) exhibit similar patterns. Their records also show that, though Leighton founded the library for the benefit of local clergy, by the early nineteenth century it already had a lot to offer the tourist, having sufficiently diversified its offering.

Further Reading

Peter Gordon Stewart, Essay on the Dunblane Mineral Springs (1839)

Full transcription of her borrowings

Mrs Dalzell: Transcription

Year Month Date Title Vol Returned
1815 Jul 11 Zeluco 2 vols Ret Mr Dalzell
1815 Jul 14 Incas of Peru 2 vols Retd
1815 Jul 14 Woolsey’s memoirs One Retd
1815 Jul 20 Life of Lopez One Retd
1815 Jul 20 Chrysal 1st Vol Retd
1815 Jul 20 Grant’s Poems One Retd
1815 Jul 22 Melmoth’s Cicero 2 first Retd
1815 Jul 22 Coxe’s Travels 2 first Retd
1815 Aug 5 Melmoth’s Cicero 2 first Retd
1815 Aug 5 Percival’s Dissert One Retd
1815 Aug 5 Voltaire 26th Vol Retd
1815 Aug 5 [Voltaire] 27th Vol Retd
1815 Aug 5 Melmoth’s [Cicero] Second Retd
1815 Aug 5 Melange du Literature premier volume Retd
1815 Aug 5 Woolsey’s Memoir One Retd

William Sheriff

While the library was founded for the free use of clergy in Dunblane, the introduction of a subscription in 1734 for those who did not meet the narrow criteria meant that many more people could benefit from access to the Leighton collections, not least clergy from outside Dunblane. William Sheriff (or as he appears in the registers, “Shireff”) was one such user, Minister at nearby St Ninians 1788-1823. He accesses the library between November 1790 and October 1806, with 111 entries in the register. A full transcription of his borrowing is available here.

The dates on which Sheriff returns and is issued items are always a couple of days apart, suggesting that items are issued and returned by post rather than in person. This remains true throughout his borrowing life and means that users such as Sheriff, may never have even set foot in the library. Prior to the publication of the first catalogue in 1793, we cannot be certain how works of interest were identified by the external user. Fascinatingly, despite his occupation, Sheriff’s borrowing record begins in 1790 with many works associated with the Scottish Enlightenment (Ferguson, Smith, Kames, Robertson, Reid) and very few religious works at all. By 1792, his tastes move on to travel books, as Sheriff reads his was around the globe (France, Russia, Ireland, Spain, India, China, Egypt). He could, therefore, have provided the librarian with a rough impression of the types of work which interested him, whether he had read about those authors elsewhere or heard by word of mouth.

From 1793 it is far more difficult to ascertain specific types of work which interested Sheriff, which may be explained by the availability of a printed catalogue for the first time. His religious borrowings become more prevalent, including multiple works by early church fathers (Justinian, Tertullian, Ignatius) as well as more accessible sermons and general works. He repeatedly borrows “Buxtorf Thesaurus”, a Hebrew Grammar (Leighton holds the 1629 4th edition). This suggests real scholarly theological work across multiple languages, exactly the type of thing for which Leighton may initially have envisaged the library being used.

Throughout this period too, however, Sheriff begins to borrow John Bell’s series of literature-for-the-masses (referred to in the register as Bell’s Poets or B: Poets or British Poets) sometimes even being issued with 12 at a time. Inexpensively produced and running to 109 volumes, these works are no longer in the Leighton collection, but add to our impression not only of the library, but also of its borrowers. In stocking this title, we see the library actively expanding its collections with inexpensive literary works, which reflect its expanding target readership. That Sheriff intersperses his weighty, academic borrowing with such works shows that he maintained an interest in using the library for other purposes, as he had from his earliest use.

In 1823, William Sheriff left for Glasgow to lead a Baptist congregation, breaking away from the Church of Scotland. It is pleasing, therefore, to see his religious borrowings lean towards interpretation of text and informing himself of the views of others, leading towards a change in his own beliefs. Overall, however, religion makes up so small a part of Sheriff’s borrowing that it serves as a reminder that the Leighton Library was not just used by clergy in their work lives, but for their rounded interests, from politics to poetry.

Further Reading

Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation Vol IV (1923)  p.315

Full transcription of his borrowings

William Sheriff: Transcription

Year Month Date Title Vol Returned
1790 11 2 Reid’s Active Power One Vol 20-Dec
1790 11 2 Robertson’s History of Charles V Vol 1st 20-Dec
1790 12 20 Reid’s Intellectual Powers One Vol 28-Jan
1790 12 20 Plutarch’s Lives (Three vols Duodecimo) 4,5,6 28-Jan
1791 1 31 Kames Sketches Two first vols 04-Mar
1791 1 31 Gillie’s Hist: of Greece 1st Vol 04-Mar
1791 3 8 Kames Sketches (Oct) Vols 3&4 22-Mar
1791 3 8 Gillie’s Hist: of Greece (Qto) 2nd Vol 22-Mar
1791 3 25 Ferguson’s Roman Republick (Qto) 2 First Vols 09-Apr
1791 4 12 Robertson’s History of Scotland (Qto) 2 Vols 19th May
1791 5 20 Smith’s Wealth of Nations (Qto) Two Vols Renewed
1791 7 12 Smith’s Wealth of Nations (Qto) Two Vols 17 Augt
1791 8 19 Gibbon’s Roman Empire Vol 2 30-Aug
1791 8 19 Ferguson Roman Republic 3rd Vol 30-Aug
1791 9 2 Gibbon’s 3 & 4 Vols Ret
1791 9 19 Gibbon Vol 5 19-Oct
1791 9 19 Robertson’s Charles V 2nd & 3rd 19-Oct
1791 10 21 Sent Mr S: the two Qto of Watson’s Phillip the 3d Two vols 05-Nov
1791 11 4 Watson’s Phillip the 3d One vol 07-Dec
1791 11 4 Bolingbroke’s Works (duodecimo) Four Vols 27-Dec
1791 12 28 Robertson’s History of America (Qto) 2 Vols 28-Jan
1792 2 6 Campbell on Rhetoric (Oct) 2 Vols 28-Mar
1792 2 6 Milliar Historical View (Qto) 1 Vol 28-Mar
1792 3 30 Smith’s Theory of Moral Sent: (Oct) One Vol Ret
1792 3 30 Shipwreck of the Antelope One vol Ret
1792 6 1 Machiavelli’s Works 2 Vols Renewed
1792 8 1 Machiavelli’s Works 3 Vols 27-Aug
1792 8 28 Neal’s History of the Puritans 2 Vols 11-Oct
1792 10 16 Bishop Burnet’s History of his own times 5 Vols 24-Nov
1792 11 27 Moore’s Travels Thro’ France Switzerland &c&c 2 Vols 11-Dec
1792 12 14 Coxe’s Travels 4 Vols 06-Feb
1793 2 9 Marshall’s Travels 09-Mar
1793 2 9 Moore’s Travels 2 Vols 09-Mar
1793 3 12 Moore’s Travels thro’ Switz &c 2 Vols 17-Mar
1793 3 12 Richardson’s Russian Anecdotes 1 vol 17-Mar
1793 3 19 Dr Robertson’s Ancient India 1 vol Ret
1793 4 4 Swinburne’s Travels through Spain 1 vol 13-May
1793 4 4 Warner on Ireland 2 vols 13-May
1793 5 16 Swinburne’s First Vol (not got 2nd) thro’ Sicily 1st Vol Ret
1793 5 16 Barret’s First Vol 1st Vol Ret
1793 8 16 Barrett’s 2,3 & 4 2,3,4 Ret
1793 10 8 Bell of Antermony’s Travels 2 Vols Ret
1793 11 1 Grosier’s History of China 2 Vols Ret
1794 1 14 Savary’s letters on Egypt 2 Vols Ret
1794 2 7 Addison’s Miscell. Works 4 Vols Ret
1794 9 30 West on the Resurrection 1 Vol Ret
1794 9 30 Barclay’s Apology 1 Vol Ret
1794 9 30 Ignatii Martyri’s [?] 1 Vol Ret
1794 9 30 Ignatii Antiochiae 1 Vol Ret
1795 1 2 British Poets being Milton’s Works &c 28,29,30,31 Ret
1795 1 30 Justini opera 1 Vol Ret
1795 1 30 Kempis Imitation of Christ 1 Vol Ret
1795 2 10 Irencei [?] Opera 1 Vol Ret
1795 2 10 S: Cyrilli 1st & 2nd Ret
1795 7 31 Clerici Opera Patrum 2 Vols 16-Sep
1795 9 8 Clementi Alex 1 Vol 04-Nov
1795 9 8 Charter of Presbytery One 04-Nov
1795 9 8 History of Eng & Scots Presbytery 1 Vol 04-Nov
1795 6 11 Clementis Alex 1 Vol Ret
1795 6 11 Origen Contra Celsum 1 Vol Ret
1795 6 11 Hurd’s Sermons 2 Vols Ret
1795 6 11 Jenning’s [?] View One Ret
1796 3 4 Tertulliani Opera Ret
1796 3 4 Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Piety Ret
1796 5 3 Oswald’s Appeal 1st Vol Ret
1796 5 3 Burgess’s [?] Spiritual Returnings 1 Vol Ret
1796 8 29 Oswald 2nd Vol Renewed & Ret
1796 8 29 Boyle’s lectures 1st Vol Renewed & Ret
1797 1 5 Oswald 2nd Vol 08-Aug
1797 1 5 Cheyne’s Principles 1 Vol 08-Aug
1797 8 14 Bell’s Poets 103-108 Ren & Ret 11 Nov
1797 11 14 The last towit not being in former parcel [Bell’s Poets?] 98-102, 109 22-Feb
1798 3 1 Poets [Bell’s?] 15-18 Ren & Ret
1798 3 1 Beattie’s Dissert 1 Vol Ren & Ret
1798 9 3 [Bell’s Poets?] 19-22 18-Oct
1798 10 18 [Bell’s Poets?] 23-27 Before March 1799
1799 10 18 Stewart’s Philo One Vol Before March 1799
1799 3 18 B’s Poets 33-36 Ren & Ret
1799 3 18 Elements of Criticism 2 Vols Ren & Ret
1799 8 19 B’s Poets 32, 37-39 Ret
1799 10 8 Campbell on Rhetoric 2 Vols Ren & Ret
1799 10 8 Warburton’s 4 Vols Ret
1802 3 9 Hales 3 Vols Ret
1802 3 9 Henry’s 3 first Ret
1802 3 9 Buxtorfi Thesaurus One
1802 6 11 Buxtorfi One Renewed
1802 6 11 Dow’s First Ret
1802 6 11 New Opinions… One Ret
1803 6 24 Buxtorfi One Renewed
1803 6 24 British Poets 40-43 Ret
1803 6 24 Henry 5th Vol Ret
1803 8 24 Buxtorfi One Ret
1803 9 17 Henry’s 6th Ret
1803 9 17 B: Poets 44-47 Ret
1803 11 28 Henry’s 7th Ret
1803 11 28 B: Poets 48-55 Ret
1804 1 19 Henry’s 8th & 9th Ret
1804 1 19 Ten Next B: Poets 56-65 Ret
1804 2 27 Twelve Next BP 66-75 Ret
1804 6 1 [B: Poets] 88-100 Ret
1804 9 28 Eight volumes of Poets except 102 Ret
1804 9 28 Henry’s History 10 & 11 Ret
1804 11 16 Henry 12 Ret
1804 11 16 Pett[?] Andrew’s Continuation 2 Vols Ret
1805 5 22 Burnet’s three in Latin Ret
1805 8 5 Smellie’s 2nd Vol Ren & Ret
1805 8 5 Burn’s Poems One Ren & Ret
1805 12 31 Crookshank’s 2 Vols Ret
1805 12 31 Knox One Ret
1805 12 31 Percival One
1806 3 3 Temple’s Works 1st Vol Ren & Ret

John Ramsay of Ochtertyre

‘How much would libraries (perfect antipodes to each other) marvel were they to meet half way or to examine the decorations of the one and the cobwebs and confusion of the other?’

(11-13 June 1803, Letters of John Ramsay of Ochtertyre p.80)

Ramsay of Ochtertyre is the most recognisable borrower from the Leighton Library, celebrated as an author in his own right, as well as patron to figures such as Robert Burns and Walter Scott. 199 of his borrowings from the Leighton Library are recorded between October 1785 and January 1814, and there is evidence he had been using the library before the records begin, paying 10 shillings and sixpence for his subscription as early as January 1762.

What sets him apart from the other borrowers is the existence not only of portions of his letters, but the richness of references to reading within them. He clearly read voraciously, and used every method possible to access works, old and new. The quote above suggests that the Leighton Library (perhaps a contender for ‘cobwebs and confusion’) was not the only library he frequented. The letters record that he also sourced books from multiple private individuals such as James Finlayson (Professor of Logic at Edinburgh) and Mrs John Erskine, as well as purchasing his own. This means, therefore, that he exemplifies how use of the Leighton Library, for gentlemen in his position at least, was one small part of a wider reading life.

As it is worthy of far greater study than can be presented here, a full transcription of Ramsay’s borrowings is given here.

Ramsay’s borrowing record from the Leighton Library certainly attests to his fascination of the lives of others throughout, even more so than in the works he references in his letters. It is dominated by histories, memoirs, biographies and travel books, all giving insights into people from across the ages and across the globe. Literature is barely to be seen, though we know from his letters he accessed it elsewhere (Clarissa, The Arabian Nights, Shakespeare). We know from other borrowers and from the Leighton’s 1793 catalogue that similar works were available, but it seems Ramsay was not minded to borrow them. Possible reasons for this could include his being influenced by the history of the library and the religious and historical tendencies of its collections (though other works were available, they were certainly not the collection’s core focus). He may also have borrowed specific titles and authors from his friends for discussion and reading socially, while those works borrowed from the Leighton were for more individual and solitary attention. Items borrowed also include a huge range of sermons and other religious works.

Only one work is borrowed from the Leighton Library and discussed contemporaneously in Ramsay’s letters: ‘I have just re-read Sir John Dalrymple’s memoirs, one of the most pleasing pieces of history I know’. The letter is dated 11 October 1803, with Ramsay borrowing two volumes of Dalrymple on the 19th of September that year, borrowing volume 2 again in November that same year. It does not seem he is using the library, therefore, primarily to acquaint himself with new works (purchases and borrowing from friends seem to fulfil that role) but, in this instance, to revisit works already read. This is also reflected in the general age of the works he borrows and the borrowing of classical works with which he would have been acquainted since childhood.

It is not just reading habits that emerge from Ramsay’s Leighton record , but also a broader impression of the man. Unlike many of the other borrowers who rely on the librarian sending and receiving their books by post, Ramsay seems to borrow in person, his signature attesting to his presence. The frequency of his borrowing too indicates that Ramsay was often to be seen around the town, especially since the library is so centrally located. It also perhaps suggests his preference for browsing, or even a distrust of the librarian and his processes. If the ‘cobwebs and confusion’ description above is applicable to the Leighton Library, as it may well be, perhaps we ought not be surprised.

Further Reading

Letters of John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 1799–1812, ed. B. L. H. Horn, Scottish History Society, 4th ser., vol. 3 (1966)

L. H. Horn, ‘Ramsay, John, of Ochtertyre (1736–1814)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Scotland and Scotsmen in the eighteenth century: from the MSS of John Ramsay, esq., of Ochtertyre, ed. A. Allardyce, 2 vols.,1888.

Full transcription of his borrowings