Skip to main content

Papers of Sir John Graham Dalyell

Identifier: Coll-244

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of some 158 volumes of notebooks of manuscript notes and printed matter. The subjects of the notebooks are wide and varied: antiquities, superstitions, human society, tours, musical practice, natural history, rare and remarkable animals, properties of animals, terabella littoralis, ichthology, the will of the creator, the power of the creator, experiments and observations, punishments, and extracts from records. There are references and bibliographies too. The printed matter includes: brief analysis of the records of and chartularies of Moray, Cambuskenneth, Ibbotson's Practical view of an invention for protecting banknotes against forgery (1820), Kay's Descriptive catalogue of original portraits (1836), and the instructions for Edinburgh of the city police. There are also 4 packets of original drawings for Rare and remarkable animals and The powers of the Creator. For this collection, there is a list of the manuscripts with Gen. 350D.


  • Creation: 19th century

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open. Please contact the repository in advance.

Biographical / Historical

John Graham Dalyell, antiquary and naturalist, was born at Binns, near Linlithgow, in West Lothian, in August 1775. He was educated at St. Andrews and then at Edinburgh University and became qualified for the Scottish legal system and, in 1796, a member of the Faculty of Advocates. He also acquired a knowledge of antiquarian lore and of natural history. In 1797, Dalyell was elected to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and became the first vice-President of the Society. He was also a member of the Society of Arts for Scotland, serving as president in 1839-40. His publications includeFragments of Scottish history (1798), the two volumes of Scottish poems of the sixteenth century (1801), the illustrated Observations on several species of planeriae (1814), the engraved two volumes of Rare and remarkable animals of Scotland (1847), and The powers of the Creator displayed in the Creation, or, Observations on life amidst the various forms of the humbler tribes of animated nature (1851). Dalyell was a member of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, and he was also one of the original promoters of a Zoological Gardens for Edinburgh. Dalyell was knighted on 22 August 1836, and on 1 February 1841 he succeeded to the family title as 6th Baronet of Binns. Sir John Graham Dalyell died at Great King Street in Edinburgh on 7 June 1851.


2 boxes, circa 150 volumes (2 linear metre).

Physical Location

Gen. 350-516D

Outsize items (Gen.517, 518, and 506D) in 505.24.6.6

Custodial History

The original manuscript handlist included the following note by Professor J. H. Ashworth (1874-1936), a British marine zoologist who was Chair of Invertebrate Zoology and then Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh:

Note on the Dalyell Collection by Professor J. H. Ashworth copied from the original in the possession of Mrs Ashworth. 27th Feb. 1936. Every Scott[ish] H[istor]ian should be familiar with Sir J.G.D.’s [John Graham Dalyell’s] R. & R.A. of S. [Rare and Remarkable Animals of Scotland] & The Powers of the Creator. By the great goodness of Sir J.G.D [John Graham Dalyell] & Lady D. [Dalyell] I have been fortunate enough to obtain for the University. A large proportion of the original plates – which in due course will I hope be available for reference.
Last Sat[urday] I have [brought] in all Sir John’s notebooks about 180 in no. [number]. I have 3 of these here. This is what we may call his daybook of sketches for the R & R.A [Rare and Remarkable Animals of Scotland] – The book in which he placed his drawings as he made them from time to time [&] arranged them so as to have all the hydroids together, all the [Idyzoa] together & so on. The most interesting and important of these were afterwards cut out for use in the published work. A number still remain - a very good drawing of the [greenish] var.[iant] of Act. Mes.

Related Materials

The local Indexes show other references to Dalyell letters (check the Indexes for more details): at Gen. 1790, no. 10; and, in La.IV.17. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence with Archibald Constable, between 1788-1827, at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Reference MS 671.

Processing Information

Older manuscript handlist keyed into ArchivesSpace by Stephen Willis in January 2021.

Papers of Sir John Graham Dalyell (1775-1851)
Language of description
Script of description

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