Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


224 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [High Street. ROBERT CHAMBERS. (From a *ate PkOtog~U#h.) 1 volume by the firm in 1868, and is the preface tD which Robert writes :- ?<I am about to do what very few could do without emotion-revise a book which I wrote turreted edifice, that now forms the west side of Warriston?s Close, and built in 1868. It bears the legend Gracia . Dei. Ro6erfus . Bruiss, with a WILLIAM CHAMBERS. (From a Pktograplr by jokta Lamwrd.) shield at each end, one having the arms sf Bruce of Binning in Linlithgowshire, impaled with those of Preston-three unicorns? heads. The eminent publishers, whose extensive premises now occupy the west side of Warriston?s Close, William and Robert Chambers-the great pioneers of the cheap literature movement-were born at Peebles, in 1800 and 1802 respectively. Their ancestors were woollen manufacturers, and their father carried on the business in cotton at Peebles, on so large a scale that he used sometimes to have a hundred looms at work. He was thus enabled to give his sons a good education at the schools of their native town, where Robert passed through a classical course, with the view of taking orders in the church of Scotland ; but monetary misfortunes having overtaken his parents, the family removed to Edinburgh, where the two brothers were thrown in a great measure on their own resources, but formed the noble resolution to try by stem industry to regain the ground their family had lost ; and a love of reading led them gradually into the business of bookselling. William served an apprenticeship, from 1814 to 1819, with Mr. Sutherland, Calton Street, who gave him four shillings weekly as wages, and on this small sum-shrinking from being a burden on his delicate and struggling mother-he took a lodging, it IS. 6d. per week, in Boak?s Land, West Port, a ittle bed closet, which he shared with a poor livinity student from the hills of Tweeddale. Out )f these slender wages he contrived to save a few ihillings, and began business, in a very small way, n 1819, and by the following year added printing hereto, having taught himself that craft, cutting vith his own hand the larger types out of wood. By 1818 Robert had begun business in a tiny ;hop as a bookstall-keeper, in Leith Walk, and iaving a strong literary turn, he made an essay is author, by starting a small periodical called he KaZez?doscoje, the types of which were set up md printed off by William, in an old rickety xess, which, he relates, ? emitted a jangling, xeaking noise, like a shriek of anguish,? when vorked. After a brief career this publication was hopped, to enable Robert, in 1822, to write a rolume likely to be popular-? Illustrations of the 4uthor of Waverley,? referring to the supposed xiginal characters of the novelist. Of this work William was printer, binder, and publisher, and a iecond edition appeared in 1824. Immediately after its issue he began his ? Traiiitions of Edinburgh ? (in the plan and production Df which the brothers anticipated a joint work, that was to have been written by Scott and Kirkpatrick S1iarpe)-a book re-written and re-published in one .
Volume 2 Page 224
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