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Laing, David, 1793-1878 (antiquarian, bookseller, and librarian of the Signet Library)



David Laing, eminent historian, antiquary and bibliographer, was the second son of the Edinburgh bookseller William Laing (1764-1832) and his wife Helen Kirk, and was born on 20 April 1793. He was educated at the Canongate Grammar School and later on attended Greek classes at the University of Edinburgh. At the age of fourteen, he became apprenticed to his father who, at the time, was the only bookseller in Edinburgh dealing in foreign literature. Laing was able, occasionally, to travel abroad in search of rare or curious books. In 1821, he became a partner in his father's business and throughout his life he was an avid collector of manuscripts and rescued many from destruction. The first published work of his own was Auctarium Bibliothecae Edinburgenae sive Catalogus Librorum quos Gulielmus Drummondus ab Hawthornden D.D.Q. Anno 1627 (1815). Among other works, Laing also reprinted Thomas Craig's Epithalamium on the marriage of Darnley and Mary Stuart (1821). When Sir Walter Scott founded the Bannatyne Club in 1823 for the printing of material and tracts relating to Scottish history and literature, Laing - a friend of Scott's - became Secretary of the Club and chief organiser until its dissolution in the 1860s. Laing was also associated with the Abbotsford Club, the Spalding Club, and the Wodrow Society, each of which had been set up for the publication of manuscripts and for the revival of old texts. When the keepership of the Advocates' Library fell vacant in 1818, Laing was a candidate but was not elected. He became Keeper of the Library to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet, a post which he occupied from 1837 until his death. On his appointment to the post, he gave up his business as a bookseller and disposed of the stock in a public sale. Laing died at Portobello, in Edinburgh, on 18 October 1878.

Found in 178 Collections and/or Records:

2 copies of Laing's article for the Encyclopaedia Britannica on George Chalmers / David Laing., 1842

Identifier: La.IV.6 fols 82-83
Scope and Contents From the Fonds:

After the death of David Laing, his private library was sold in an auction occupying thirty-one days. His collection of charters and other papers is of national importance and the most distinguished of its kind in any Scottish university. It is an essential source for the 18th century, and a much used one for all periods of Scottish history from the earliest times. The Laing Collection falls into five sections, designated as La.I., La.II., La.III., La.IV., and La.V.

Dates: 1842

Album of Arms, British and Foreign, with coloured plates, processions, battles, etc., chiefly in Dutch, also known as Michael Van Meer's Album Amicorum, 1614-1617

Identifier: La.III.283
Scope and Contents This exquisite manuscript of watercolour paintings gives a fascinating glimpse into the 17th century. Little is known of van Meer other than that he was a lieutenant in Hamburg who died on 13th October 1653. He clearly spent some time in London early in the century, as this album has numerous contemporary images of people and scenes in the capital city. The album amicorum (book of friends) is a kind of autograph book collected by early modern students or scholars from Germany or the Low...
Dates: 1614-1617

Bound volume containing bookplate designs (ex David Laing)

Identifier: Coll-1961
Scope and Contents Book containing twenty-one original designs for bookplates, dating from 1665 to the beginning of the 20th century, of which sixteen came from the collection of David Laing. Also contains the bookplates of the two owners of the book in the late 19th and early 20th century, Euphemia Davidson and William H. Booth. Bookplate of Euphemia Davidson, who owned the book before it was sold in 1899: 'Ex-Libris...
Dates: 1665-c 1900

E.Or Ms 644: Psalter, undated (c. 17th–18th cent. C.E.)

Identifier: E.Or Ms 644
Scope and Contents Ethiopic Psalter (CAe 2701), including, as usual in post-15th (?)-century times, (1) the Book of Psalms, (2) the Canticles of the Prophets, (3) the Song of Songs, (4) the Wǝddāse Māryām (‘Praise of Mary’, a Marian prayer divided into seven parts, one for each day of the week), (5) the ʾAnqaṣa bǝrhān (‘Gate of Light’, another Marian prayer).In column b. on the second-to-last folio, there is an ownership note, in which the name of the owner has been erased. On the third-to-last...
Dates: undated (c. 17th–18th cent. C.E.)

E.Or Ms 656: Maṣḥafa qǝddāse (Missal), undated (c. 19th–20th cent. C.E.)

Identifier: E.Or Ms 656
Scope and Contents

This is an Ethiopic Missal, a liturgical book that contains the instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year. It contains numerous anaphoras.

Dates: undated (c. 19th–20th cent. C.E.)

E.Or Ms 673: Ethiopic Scroll, undated (c. 19th cent. C.E.)

Identifier: E.Or Ms 673
Scope and Contents

This is a protective scroll. It begins with an illumination in yellow, blue, brown and black, featuring three figures and a type of ornate cross. There are five sections of text down the length of the scroll, each separated by an illumination. There are six illuminations in total. They feature human images, crosses and patterns. Specialist research is needed.

Dates: undated (c. 19th cent. C.E.)

[Facsimile of sonnet 'Damon to Alexis' in Drummond's hand, with accompanying letter dated 26 May 1622], 1857

Identifier: Coll-10/2/100
Scope and Contents

[Facsimile of sonnet 'Damon to Alexis' in Drummond's hand, with accompanying letter dated 26 May 1622]. Lithograph. 1857. Drummond, William, 1585-1649, Author; Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Publisher; Laing, David, 1793-1878, Editor.

Published in: Archaeologia Scotica, vol. 4 (1857).

Note: Numbered: 'Vol IV, Plate VIII'. Accompanies Laing's article 'A Brief Account of the Hawthornden Manuscripts …'.

Dates: 1857

Fragment of the Old Norwegian General Law of King Magnus IV, 1300-1320

Identifier: MS 211/XXXIV
Scope and Contents This is a leaf from an Old Norwegian codex of the General Law of King Magnus IV. It does not seem to belong to any of the other extant legal fragments/codices that survive in Scandinavian archives. The left margin of the leaf is significantly cut away, but the quality of it is still apparent. The vellum is good, and the hand is excellent. The leaf can be traced to Bergen, because of distinct use of vowels that is also found in charters from Bergen. ...
Dates: 1300-1320

La.III.75: Esther Inglis, "A Treatise of Preparation to the Holy Supper and of our only Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ", 1608 (dated)

Identifier: La.III.75
Scope and Contents The manuscript contains a prose religious treatise, copied by Esther Inglis as a gift for Sir David Murray of Gorthy (1567-1629), her friend and companion to the Prince Henry. Sir David Murray was the recipient of three of Inglis’ manuscripts, with this being the first; the others are a Book of Psalms prepared in 1612 (now Wormsley Library, Oxfordshire, BM 1851), and a miniature illuminated manuscript of the Quatrains of Guy du Faur (now British Library, MS...
Dates: 1608 (dated)

La.III.439: Esther Inglis, "Les Quatrains du Sieur de Pybrac", 1607 (dated)

Identifier: La.III.439
Scope and Contents This manuscript contains the popular religious and moral Quatrains written by Guy du Faur, Seigneur de Pybrac. This calligraphic copy of the Quatrains was produced by Esther Inglis as a gift for the New Year ("pour ses estrennes"), offered to Robert Cecil (1563-1612), 1st Earl of Salisbury. It is one of Esther Inglis’ floral, illuminated manuscripts, which she produces between 1600 and 1608. Within her corpus of...
Dates: 1607 (dated)