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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 .
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High Street.] MESSRS. W. & R. CHAMBERS. 225 fortyyfve years ago. This little work came out in the Augustan days of Edinburgh, when Jeffrey and Scott, Wilson and the Ettrick Shepherd, Dugald Stewart and Alison, were daily giving the producpublic victory, and in a few days the sale in Scotland alone was 50,000 copies, while No. 3 rose to 80,ooo in the Esglish market. Robert threw himself heart and soul into the successful periodical ; tions of their minds to the public, and while yet Archibald Constable acted as the unquestioned emperor of the publishing world.? In 1826 Robert published his ? Popular Rhymes of Scotland,? and the ? Picture of Scotland,? and shortly afterwards five volumes of Scottish history, for Consiable?s Miscellany. The brothers were now making money, and in tolerably prosperous c i r cu m s t a n c es, though they lost much of their hardwon savings by assisting their father in a piece of unsuccessful litigation. About that time William produced the ?Book of Scotland,? a work describing the institutions of the country, for which he got A30, while Robert got 6100 for preparing a ?Gazetteer of Scotland ;? and in I 83 2 William projected the great work ADVOCATES? CLOSE. which made the firm prosperous and famous wherever the English language is spoken-- Chambers?s Edinburgh journal, the vanguard of all that is wholesome, sensible, and unsectarian in cheap literature, as it ap peared six weeks before the famous Penny Magazin~ The first weekly number appeared on the 4th February, 1832. Robert thought the speculation a hazardous one, but William?s courage achieved a 29 and speaking of partnership with him, his brother writes : ?? Such was the degree of mutual confidence between us that not for the space of twenty-one years was it thought expedient to execute any deed of agreement.? While constantly contributing to the Journal, Robert, in 1835, completed his ?Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen,? in foul volumes. The brothers issued, in the preceding year, their ?? Information for the People,? and after this venture came a series of about a hundred school books-the ? Chambers?s Edu, cational Course,? still so familiar to many middle-class school-boys. While collecting information upon the subject of public education, William got together materials in 1839 for his ?Tour in Holland and the Rhine Countries i and about this time, twenty volumes of a series entitled ? Chambers?s Miscellany ? were issued by the firm, which had an enormous circulation j but the great and crowning enterprise of Messrs. W. and R Chambers was unquestionably their ?? Encyclopzedia, or Dictionary of Uni;ersal Information for the People,? a work begun in 1859 and completed in 1868-a work unrivalled by any in
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