David Laing (antiquary)

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David Laing LLD (20 April 1793 – 18 October 1878) was a Scottish antiquary.

Portrait of David Laing by Sir William Fettes Douglas

Life[edit]

The grave of David Laing, New Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh

He was born in 1793, the son of William Laing (1761–1831), a bookseller in Edinburgh, and his wife, Helen Kirk.[1] They lived and worked from the head of Chessels Court on the Canongate.[2]

He was educated at Canongate Grammar School and then attended the University of Edinburgh. At fourteen he was apprenticed to his father. They formed W & D Laing Booksellers at 49 South Bridge, living at Ramsay Lodge at 66 Lauriston in 1830.[3] Shortly after the death of his father in 1837, Laing was elected to the librarianship of the Signet Library in replacement of Macvey Napier, a post he retained till his death. Apart from general bibliographical knowledge, Laing was best known as a student of the literary and artistic history of Scotland.

In 1864 he was awarded an honorary doctorate (LLD) by the University of Edinburgh.[4]

Laing was struck with paralysis in October 1878 while in the Signet Library, and it is said that, on recovering consciousness, he looked about and asked if a proof of Wyntoun had been sent from the printers. He died a few days afterwards, in his eighty-sixth year at his home, 13 James Street in Portobello.[5] He is buried in New Calton Burial Ground in east Edinburgh. The grave lies on the north wall near the north-east corner.

His library was sold at auction by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge over a period of thirty-one days, and realized £16,137. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts to the University of Edinburgh.[6]

Plaque in Portobello

Works[edit]

Laing published no original books but edited the works of others. Of these, the major ones are: William Dunbar's Works (2 vols., 1834), with a supplement added in 1865; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (3 vols.; 1841–42); John Knox's Works (6 vols.; 1846–64); Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson (1865); Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland (3 vols.; 1872–79); and Sir David Lyndsay's Poetical Works (3 vols.; 1879).

For over fifty years, Laing was a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and contributed over a hundred papers to their Proceedings. He was an original member of and the long-standing secretary to the Bannatyne Club, many of whose publications were edited by him.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grave of David Laing, New Calton Burial Ground
  2. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1794
  3. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1830
  4. ^ Cassells Old and New Edinburgh, vol II p.376
  5. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1878
  6. ^ "David Laing: our most important manuscript collection". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 22 January 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Biographical Memoir" prefixed to Select Remains of Ancient, Popular and Romance Poetry of Scotland, edited by John Small (Edinburgh, 1885)
  • Thomas George Stevenson, Notices of David Laing with List of his Publications, etc. (privately printed 1878).

External links[edit]