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Class card of William Duncan (Gulielmus Duncan), Royal High School, Edinburgh, 1830-31

Identifier: Coll-1582

Scope and Contents

The card shows on one side an engraved view (by Gulielmo Lizars) of the Royal High School or Schola Regia Edinensis, 'Architecto Thoma Hamilton'. On the other side is an autograph signature, 'Gulielmus Duncan' followed by Scholae Regiae Edinensis / Alumnus / Ann 1830-31 / No. 208.


  • 1830-1831

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

Biographical / Historical

The Royal High School (RHS) of Edinburgh, today sited at East Barnton Avenue, in western Edinburgh, is a co-educational state school. It was founded in 1128 as the seminary of Holyrood Abbey and is one of the oldest schools in Scotland. By 1378, it was known as the Grammar School of the Church of Edinburgh, and it grew into a church-run burgh institution providing a Latin education for the sons of landed and burgess families, many of whom pursued careers in the church. In 1505 the school became the first in Britain to be designated a high school. In 1566, following the Reformation, Mary, Queen of Scots, transferred the school from the control of Holyrood Abbey to Edinburgh Town Council, and from about 1590 James VI accorded it royal patronage as the Schola Regia Edimburgensis.

In 1584 the Town Council informed the rector, Hercules Rollock, that his aim should be 'to instruct the youth in pietie, guid maneris, doctrine and letteris'. As far as possible, instruction was carried out in Latin. The study of Greek began in 1614, and geography in 1742. The egalitarian spirit of Scotland and the classical tradition exerted a profound influence on the school culture and the Scottish Enlightenment. By the 19th century, the RHS had earned an international reputation and an influx of foreign students. The Royal High School was used as a model for the first public high school in the United States, the English High School of Boston, in 1821

Greek ceased to be compulsory in 1836, and in 1839 mathematics became recognised. The curriculum was gradually broadened to include French (1834), after-hours fencing and gymnastics (1843), German (1845), science (1848), drawing (1853), military drill (1865), English (1866), gymnastics as a formal subject and swimming (1885), music (1908), and history (1909). By 1866 classical masters were confined to teaching Latin and Greek. A modern and commercial course was introduced in 1873. A school choir was instituted in 1895.

When William Duncan was a student in 1830-31, the RHS had just moved to the famous Regent Road building on Calton Hill (1829–1968).


1 card

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired by purchase June 2014. Accession no: E2014.72.

Processing Information

Catalogued by Graeme D. Eddie 23 April 2015
Class card of William Duncan, session 1830-31, Scholae Regiae Edinensis
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379