Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


412 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Mr. Sibbald was the son of a farmer at Whitelaw, in Roxbnrghshire, where he was born about 1747. He received his education at the grammar-school of Selkirk. Although fond of literary amusements, he does not seem to have contemplated following any other profession than that of his father. Accordingly, his first attempt to establish himself in the world was by becoming a lessee of the farm of Newton, which he held from Sir Walter Elliot of Stobbs. Here he carried on the business of farming for several years, relieving the monotony of rustic life by literary and scientific pursuits. In May 1779, however, finding the agricultural interest considerably depressed, he sold off his stock, gave up his lease, and, without any fixed purpose, repaired to Edinburgh with little more than a hundred pounds in his pocket. Having some acquaintance with Mr. Charles Elliot, an eminent and enterprising bookseller, he engaged for a short time as his shopman ; and, in about a year afterwards, bought the circulating library which had originally belonged to Allan Ramsay the poet.’ He then opened a bookseller’s shop in the Parliament Square, where, by a degree of enterprise surpassing his contemporaries, he soon obtained distinction. He was the first to introduce the better order of engavings into Edinburgh, many of which were coloured to resemble paintings. They were considered as altogether of foreign or English manufacture, and as such were extensively purchased ; but, having been one day detected in the act of colouring them himself, from that unlucky period his business in this line diminished. In 1783, Sibbald commenced the Edinburgh Magazine: which was exceedingly well received, and in which, as editor and principal contributor, he displayed much talent and great research. Anxious to devote his attention exclusively to literary pursuits, he formed an arrhngement .in 1791 with two young men, Lawrie and Symington, by which they were to have his stock and business on payment of an annual sum. Mr. Sibbald then entered into a newspaper speculation, the “ Edinburgh Herald,” which he conducted ; but it did not continue for any length of time. He next went to London: where he resided 1 It was from this librarp, originally established by the author of the “ Gentle Shepherd,” and we believe the oldest institution of the kind in the kingdom, that Sir Walter Scott, according to his own statement, read in his younger years with such avidity. The collection latterly contained above thirty thousand volumes. It was called the Edinburgh Circulating Library ; but the selection of books was very superior to what are usually to be met with in collections of that description. Almost all the eminent men of last century who studied in Edinburgh,’as well as many of a succeeding period (some of whom filled the first offices in the state), were readers of this library. After the death of Mr. Sibbald, it was purchased, and enlarged, by Mr. Alexander Hackay-of Blackcastle in Edinburghshire- who was then a bookseller in the High Street ; and who, upon retiring from business about the year 1832, and not finding a purchaser for the whole, sold it off by public auction. To this work Lord Hailea was a contributor. The Magazine wm subsequently conducted by Dr. Robert Andewon, author of the Lives of the Poets, and published by Mr. Mackay. While in London his Scottish relations altogether lost sight of him ; they neither knew where he lived, nor how he lived. At length his brother William, a merchant in Leith, made particular inquiry into these circumstances by a letter, which he sent through such a channel as to be sure of reaching him. The answer was comprised in the following words :-I‘ My lodging is in Soho, and my business is so-so.”
Volume 8 Page 573
  Enlarge Enlarge  
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 413 for a number of years, and produced a work, entitled “Record of the Public Ministry of Jesus Christ,” which was published at Edinburgh in 1798. Mr. Sibbald again returned to Edinburgh, where, in 1797, he brought out a musical publication, entitled “ The Vocal Magazine.” In a year or two afterwards the bookselling stock devolved into his own hands, and he continued to carry on business as a bookseller until his death. His next work, published in 1802, and by which he is best known, was a selection from the early Scottish poets, entitled ‘‘ A Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, with a Glossary of the Scottish Language ”- a work of taste and erudition, and a valuable accession to Scottish literature. Mr. Sibbald died at his lodgings in Leith Walk, at the age of fifty-six, in April 1803. “He was a man of eccentric but amiable character. He belonged to a great number of social clubs; and was beloved by so many of his associates in those fraternities, that for some years after his death they celebrated his birth-day by a social meeting.” The third figure, with a print of Martin the auctioneer in his hand, is GEORGE FAIRHOLME, Esq. of Greenhill, near Edinburgh, and of Greenknow, in Berwickshire. This gentleman, together with his younger brother William (of Chapel, in Berwickshire), had long resided in Holland as eminent bankers, where they realised a very considerable fortune ; and, on their return to their native country, they became extensive shareholders in the Bank of Scotland, and in other public securities. While in Holland, Mr. Fairholme had an opportunity of cultivating a strong natural taste for the fine arts ;’ and was subsequently well known as a keen and judicious collector of pictures and rare works of art. His collection of the inimitable etchings of Rembrandt was nearly complete ; and these, together with his cabinet of pictures, are now the property of his nephew, Adam Fairholme, Esq. of Chapel. Mr. Fairholme died on the 1st February 1800, aged seventy; and was interred in the family burying-place at Greenhill-which estate now belongs to Sir John Stuart Forbes, Bart. of Pitsligo. The fourth figure, behind hlr. Fairholme, represents JAMES KERR, Esq. of Blackshiels. His father, Alexander Kerr, having left Scotland to reside at Bordeaux, as a wine-merchant, he was brought up and educated along with his cousins, the Tytlers of ?Voodhouselee;2 and, at a proper age, was bound apprentice in the banking establishment of Sir William Forbes and Co. After the expiry of his indenture, having succeeded to an ample fortune by the death of his father, Mr. Kern went abroad on his travels, and remained a considerable 1 Mr. Fairholme’s taste for the fine arts has descended to his nephew, George Fairholme, Esq., now of Greenknow, who, during repeated visits to Italy, has acquired a small but extremely choice cabinet of pictures of the highest class, together with a valuable collection of original drawings by the old masters. Mr. Alexander Kerr maiTied Miss Craig of Dalmair, sister of MIX. Tytler of Woodhouselee. The last of the Dalmair family was Sir James Craig, Governor-General of British North America.
Volume 8 Page 574
  Enlarge Enlarge