One chapter of my new book is devoted to the reception of the historical-antiquarian works I study. As part of that I’ve been putting together a sprawling spreadsheet of the 4,000 or so persons known to have subscribed for scholarly texts published in Edinburgh between 1708 (when publication by subscription seems to have first been used by a Scottish printer) and 1740. This sort of data entry is not a glamorous exercise, by any means, but the reward of being able to see who cared about what book and when is well worth it.
Many heavy subscribers are unsurprising. David Freebairn the bookseller appears regularly, as do wealthy collectors like the Earls of Dundonald and Forfar or learned ones like Duncan Forbes of Culloden and James Erskine of Grange. Sometimes, though, you come across less familiar faces and it’s the reconstruction of their habits and contexts I’ve found most rewarding.
One name which appears on seven different subscription lists between 1708 and 1728, the heart of my period of study, is “Mr. David Drummond, Advocate”.
Drummond’s subscription history begins with volumes 1 and 2 of Mackenzie’s Lives and Characters (1708, 1711), continues with the two volumes of the Catholic historian Patrick Abercromby’s Martial Atchievements of the Scots Nation (1711, 1715), returns to the third and final volume of Mackenzie’s work (1722), and finishes off with James Freebairn’s translation of The Life of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scotland and France (1725) and a new edition of Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie’s History of Scotland (1728). Altogether, solid evidence of a man fascinated by the history of his country.
But who was Drummond? What sort of person was reading these books? The son of a minister, Drummond was a Jacobite and was imprisoned in the Edinburgh Tolbooth for “some time” beginning in December 1689. It may even have been during this imprisonment that he prepared a scribal copy of his cousin Viscount Strathallan’s genealogy of the Drummonds, early evidence of his historical interests. Although described as an advocate in the subscription lists, he had ceased to practice after refusing to take the Oaths of Loyalty to the Williamite regime, instead serving as treasurer to the Bank of Scotland and assisting in the management of the estates of his exiled kinsman, the arch-Jacobite Earl of Perth.
Drummond was also a friend of the Episcopal, Jacobite poet Archibald Pitcairne, who addressed several poems to him, as well being acquainted with Allan Ramsay and the other poets and gentlemen associated with the Royal Company of Archers, of which Drummond served as president in the fateful year of 1715. He died in February 1740, still treasurer of the Bank of Scotland, and left behind a son who he had sent to my own alma mater of Balliol College, Oxford, as a Snell Exhibitioner in 1717 (strongly suggesting the family were Episcopalians).
On the one hand, a two-paragraph biography such as this one may seem like pretty thin soup on which to sup. But on the other, even these fragments can tell us a great detail. They reveal a man who was at the heart of early Enlightenment Scottish culture, with links to poets, historians, and politicians whose contributions defined Scotland in this period. In many ways, Drummond represents the revisionary image of early eighteenth-century Scotland which my new book will be arguing for: Episcopal, Jacobite, well-educated, with links to the north of Scotland, and deeply fascinated by his country’s past. The pleasure and the reward of working through the subscription lists I mentioned above lies in the snapshots they offer of people like Drummond: a forgotten reading public who devoured the publications I study.
Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Jackson Williams