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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


Volume 2 Page 376
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OLD AND NEW EDINEURGH. LSouth Bridge. 376 In 1837 he succeeded Professor Macvey Napier as Librarian to the Signet Library ; and when the new and noble library of the University was opened he volunteered to arrange it, which he did with all the ardour of a bibliomaniac. Hewas made LL.D. of his native university in 1864, and is believed to have edited and annotated fully 250 rare works on Scottish history and antiquities. True to its old tradition, No. 49 is still a booksellefs shop, held by the old firm of Ogle and Murray. In No. 98 of the Bridge Street are the Assay Office and Goldsmith?s Hall, The former is open on alternate days, when articles of gold and silver that require to be guaranteed by the stamp of genuineness, are sent in and assayed. The assay master scrapes a small quantity of metal off each article, and submits it to a test in order to ascertain the quality. The duty charged here on each ounce of gold plate is 17s. 6d., and on silver plate IS. 6d One of the earliest incorporated trades of Edinburgh was that of the hammermen, under which were included the goldsmiths, who, in 1586, were formed into a separate company. By the articles of it, apprentices must serve for a term of seven years, and masters are obliged to serve a regular apprenticeship of three years or more to make them more perfect in their trade. They were, moreover, once bound to give the deacon of the craft sufficient proof of their knowledge of metals, and of their skill in the working thereof. By a charter of James VI., all persons not of the corporation are prohibited from exercising the trade of a goldsmith within the liberties of Edinburgh. King James VII. incorporated the company by a charter, with additional powers for the regulation of its trade. Those were granted, so it runs, ? because the art and science of goldsmiths is exercised in the city of Edinburgh, to which our subjects frequently resort, because it is the seat of our supreme Parliament, and of the other supreme courts, and there are few goldsmiths in other cities.? In virtue of the powers conferred upon it, the company, from the date of its formation, tested and stamped all the plate and jewellery made in Scotland. The first stamp adopted was the tipletowered castle, or city arms. ?In 1681,? says Bremner, in his ?? Industries of Scotland,? ?a letter representing the date was stamped on as well as the castle. The letter A indicates that the article bearing it was made in the year between the 29th of September, 1681, and the same day in 1682 ; the other letters of the alphabet, omitting j and w, representing the succeeding twenty-three years. Each piece bore, in addition to the castle and date letter, the assay-master?s initials. Seven alphabets of a different type have been exhausted in recording the dates ; and the letter of the eighth alphabet, for 1869, is an Egyptian capital M. In 1759 the standard mark of a thistle was substituted for the assay-master?s initials, and is still continued. In 1784 a ?duty-mark? was added, the form being the head of the sovereign. The silver mace of. the city of Edinburgh is dated 1617 ; the High Church plate, 1643.? The making of spoons and forks was at one time an extensive branch of the silversmith trade in Edinburgh ; but the profits were so small that it has now passed almost entirely into the hands of English manufacturers. The erection of this bridge led to the formation of Xunter?s Square and Hair Street, much about the same time and in immediate conjunction with i t The square and street (where the King?s pnntingoffice was placed) were both named from Sir James Hunter Blair, who was Provost of the city when the bridge was commenced, but whose death at Harrogate, in 1789, did not permit him to see the fine1 completion of it. Number 4 in this small square, the north side of which is entirely formed by the Tron Church, contains the old hall of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, which was formed in 1681. But long previous to that year the merchants OF the city formed themselves into a corporation, called the guildry, from which, for many ages, the magistrates were exclusively chosen ; and, by an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of James III., each of the incorporated trades in Edinburgh was empowered to choose one of their number to vote in the election of those who were to govern the city, and this guildry was the parent of the Merchant Company. ?It was amidst some of the most distressing things in our national histovhangings of the poor ?hill folk? in the Grassmarket, trying of the patriot Argyle for taking the test-oath with an explanation, and so forththat this company came into being. Its nativity was further heralded by sundry other things of a troublous kind affecting merchandise and its practitioners.?? The merchants of Edinburgh, according to Amot, were erected into a bodp-corporate by royal charter, dated 19th October, 1681, under the name of The Company of Merchants of fhe Cig of Edinburgh. By this charter they were empowered to choose a Preses, who is called ? The Master,? with twelve assistants, a treasurer, clerk, and officer. The company were further empowered to purchase
Volume 2 Page 377
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