Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


8 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [The University. thereof-A few Notable Bequests-Income-The Library-The OF the four Scottish Universities, the youngest Museums. ? dormer windows, crowstepped gables, and turret is Edinburgh, a perfectly Protestant foundation, as the other three were established under the Catholic ?-&vie; yet the merit of originating the idea of academical institutions for the metropolis is due to Robert Reid, who, in 1558, six years before the date of Queen Mary?s charter, ?had bequeathed to the town of Edinburgh the sum of 8,000 merks for the purpose of erecting a University within the city.? . In 1566 Queen Mary entered so warmly into the views of the magistrates as actually to draw up a charter and provide a competent endowment for the future college. But the unsettled state of the realm and the turbulence of the age marred the fulfilment of her generous desire ; yet the charter she had prepared, acted, says Bower, in his ?? His tory,? so powerfully upon her son, James VI., that it was inserted in the one which is now deemed the foundation charter of the university, granted by the king in 1582, with the privilege of erecting houses for the professors and students. In recalling the active benefactors of the university, we cannot omit the names of the Rev. James Lawson, whose exertions contributed so greatly to the institution of the famous High School; and of Provost William Little, and of Clement Little, Commissary of Edinburgh, the latter of whom gave, in 1580, ?? to the city and kirk of God,? the whole of his library, consisting of 300 volumes-a great collection in those days-it is supposed for the use of the proposed college. The teachers at first established by the foundation were a Principal or Prilliarius, a Professor of Divinity, four Regents or Masters of Philosophy, and a Professor of Philology or Humanity. On the site of the Kirk-of-Field a quaint group of quadrangular buildings grew up gradually but rapidly, forming the. old college, which Maitland describes as having three courts, the southern of which was occupied on two sides by the classrooms and professors? houses, and on the others by the College Hall, the houses of the principal and resident graduates. A flight of steps led from this to the western quadrangle, which was rich in stairs. Here the students then resided. The eastern quadrangle contained the Convocation Hall and Library. The gateway was at the head of the College Wynd, with a lofty bell-tower, and the first five words of the a7~e in Gothic characters cut upon its lintel, as it was the original portal to the Kirk-of-Field. When Scott completed his education here the old halls, and solemn, yet in some senses mean, quadrangles, were an unchanged, as in the days of James VI. and the Charleses, and exhibited many quaint legends carved in stone. The old Library was certainly a large and handsome room, wherein were shown a skull, said to be that of George Buchanan ; the original Bohemian protest against the Council of Constance for burning John Huss and Jerome of Prague, dated 1417~ with 105 seals attached to it; the original marriage contract of Queen Mary with the Dauphin ; many coins, medals, and portraits, which were afterwards preserved in the new university. The old college buildings were begun in 1581 ; and in 1583 the Town Council constituted Mr. Robert Rollock, then a professor at St. Andrews, a professor in this university, of which he became afterwards Rector and Principal, and to which by the power of his learning he allured many students. The sum of 61 13s. 4d. was given him to defray the expenses of his removal to Edinburgh, where he began to teach on the 11th of October, when public notice was given ? that students desirous of instruction shall give up their names to a bailie, who shall take order for their instruction.? As there was then no other teacher but himself, he was compelled to put all the students into one class. ?? He soon felt, however, that this was impracticable,? says Bower, ?so as to do justice to the young men committed to his care. After having made this experiment, he was obliged to separate them into two classes. The progress which they made was very different, and a considerable number of them were exceedingly deficient in a knowledge of the Latin language.? On his recommendation a Mr. Duncan Nairn
Volume 5 Page 8
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print