Perthshire is unique in Scotland – perhaps unique in Britain – for containing two seventeenth-century public libraries, both still housed in purpose-built early modern buildings: the Leighton Library in Dunblane and the Innerpeffray Library in Innerpeffray.
The Leighton Library was established in 1684 under the terms of the will of Robert Leighton, Archbishop of Glasgow and sometime Bishop of Dunblane (1612-1684). Leighton, an eirenicist theologian in the tradition of the Aberdeen Doctors, bequeathed about 1,400 volumes of his own library, many of which had been extensively annotated by him, and a small sum for the erection of a building to house them (completed in 1687). The nearby Innerpeffray Library was established only a few years later under the terms of the will of David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, who died in 1692. Both were quasi-public from the beginning.
But that only scratches the surface of what makes the two collections so interesting. Two doctoral students at Stirling, Jill Dye and Maxine Branagh, have been doing outstanding work on the surviving borrowers’ registers at Innerpeffray, revealing a large and vibrant community of donors and readers active across the library’s history, while the riches of the archbishop’s annotated volumes in the Leighton await full exploration. Perhaps most interesting, I think, are the larger questions which remain unanswered. Why were these two foundations erected so near each other? What can they tell us about the intellectual culture of late seventeenth-century Scotland in general and southern Perthshire in particular?
To answer those questions requires much more research on both collections than currently exists, but already we can get a sense of the dynamic Early Enlightenment culture in which the libraries’ founders existed, the international and polymathic nature of their interests, and the care which the predominantly Episcopal, predominantly Jacobite Perthshire gentry took in sustaining and maintaining both collections over subsequent generations. Both libraries receive brief mentions in my current book project, but now that I’m based at Stirling and within easy distance of the two, I very much look forward to exploring them at greater length. Who can say what treasures await!
Copyright © 2016 Kelsey Jackson Williams
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