Chapter 23 – The High Street (continued)., pp.204-212.

The Black Turnpike – Bitter Reception of Queen Mary – Lambie’s Banner – Mary in the Black Turnpike – The House of Fentonbarns – Its Picturesque Appearance – The House of Bassandyne the Printer, 1574 – “Bishop’s Land,” Town House of Archbishop Spottiswood – Its various Tenants – Sir Stuart Thriepland – The Town-house of the Hendersons of Fordel – The Lodging of the Earls of Crawford – The First Shop of Allan Ramsay – The Religious Feeling of the People – Ancrum House – The First Shop of Constable and Co. – Manners and Millar, Booksellers.

 

ON the south side of this great thoroughfare and immediately opposite to the City Guard House, stood the famous Black Turnpike. It occupied the ground westward of the Tron church, and now left vacant as the entrance to Hunter’s Square. It is described as a magnificent edifice by Maitland, and one that, if not disfigured by one of those timber fronts (of the days of James IV.), would be the most sumptuous building perhaps in Edinburgh. But, like many others, it had rather a painful history. [See view, p. 136.]

“A principal proprietor of this building,” says Maitland, “has been pleased to show me a deed wherein George Robertson of Lochart, burgess of Edinburgh, built the said tenement, which refutes the idle story of its being built by Kenneth III.” The above-mentioned deed is dated Dec. 6, 1461, and, in the year 1508, the same author relates that James IV. empowered the Edinburghers to farm or let the Burghmuir, which they immediately cleared of wood; and in order to encourage people to buy this wood; the Town Council enacted that all persons might extend the fronts of their houses seven feet into the street, whereby the High Street was reduced fourteen feet in breadth, and the appearance of the houses much injured.

There is evidence that in the 16th century the Black Turnpike had belonged to George Crichton, Bishop of Dunkeld, in 1527, and Lord Privy Seal. In 1567 it was the town mansion of the provost of the city, Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar, Balgay, and that ilk, ancestor of the Earls of Desmond in Ireland. It was to this edifice that Mary Queen of Scots was brought a prisoner, about nine in the evening of Sunday the 15th of June, by the confederate lords and their troops, after they violated the treaty by which she surrendered to them at the Carberry Hill.

On the march towards the city the soldiers treated Mary with the utmost insolence and indignity, pouring upon her an unceasing torrent of epithets the most opprobrious and revolting to a female. Whichever way she turned an emblematic banner of white taffety, representing the dead body of the murdered Darnley, with the little king kneeling beside it, was held up before her eyes, stretched out between two spears. She wept; her young heart was wrung with terrible anguish; she uttered the most mournful complaints, and could scarcely be kept in her saddle. This celebrated but obnoxious standard belonged to the band or company of Captain Lambie, a hired soldier of the Government, slain afterwards, in 1585, in a clan battle on Johnston Moor. Instead of conveying Mary to Holyrood, as Sir William Kirkaldy had promised, in the name of the Lords, they led her through the dark and narrow wynds of the crowded city, surrounded by a fierce, bigoted, and petulant mob, who loaded the air with hootings and insulting cries. The innumerable windows of the lofty houses, and the outside stair-heads – then the distinguishing features of a Scottish street – were crowded with spectators, who railed at her in unison with the crowd below. Mary cried aloud to all gentlemen, who in those days were easily distinguished by the richness of their attire, and superiority of their air – “I am your queen, your own native princess; oh, suffer me not to be abused thus!” “But alas for Scottish gallantry, the age of chivalry had passed away!” Says the author of “Kirkaldy’s Memoirs,” whose authorities are Calderwood, Melville, and Balfour. “Mary’s face was pale from fear and grief; her eyes were swollen with tears; her auburn hair hung in disorder about her shoulders; her fair form was poorly attired in a riding tunic; she was exhausted with fatigue, and covered with the summer dust of the roadway, agitated by the march of so many men; in short, she was scarcely recognisable; yet thus, like some vile criminal led to execution, she was conducted to the house of Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar. The soldiers of the Confederates were long of passing through the gates; the crowd was so dense, and the streets were so narrow, that they filed through, man by man.”

At the Black Turnpike she was barbarously thrust into a small stone chamber, only thirteen feet square by eight high, and locked up like a felon – she, the Queen of Scotland, the heiress of England, and the dowager of France! It was then ten o’clock; the city was almost dark, but fierce tumult and noise reigned without.

And this was the queen of whom the scholarly Buchanan wrote thus, in his beautiful Epithalamium:-

“Behold the beauties that her brow adorn
More bright than beams when Sol illumes the morn;
Her graceful form and modest gait conspire
To light the torch of pure and chaste desire;
Her blooming cheeks with opening roses vie;
What gentle light darts from her lovely eye!
She perfect ease with elegance combines,
While tender youth in mild alliance shines;
She utterance bland with majesty unites,
Charms every eye, and all the soul delights;
Nor does her genius to her beauty yield,
Nurtured with care behind Minerva’s shield;
She every hour in useful lore improves,
And wanders far amid Pierian groves;
Her mental powers, bright as the star of day,
Her manners grace, and radiance round display.”

There, however, she spent the night, the last she was ever to spend in the capital of her kingdom – a captive, yet still queen. For 220 years after, this apartment, with its little window facing the High Street, was always regarded as an object of interest. “A woman, young, beautiful, and in distress,” says the gentle Robertson, “is naturally an object of compassion. The comparison of their present misery with their former splendour naturally softens us in favour of illustrious sufferers; but the people beheld the deplorable situation of their sovereign with insensibility; and so strong was their persuasion of her guilt, that the sufferings of their queen did not in any way mitigate their resentment, or procure her that sympathy which is seldom denied to unfortunate princes.”

At dawn on the following day there was a scuffle in the High Street, and under the walls of the Black Turnpike the helpless queen heard the clash of swords, and the war-cry of “A Home! a Home!”

As morning brightened she looked from the window of her prison, but the crowd was still there; she was greeted with the same yells and opprobrious epithets, while the same odious banner of Lambie’s mercenaries was displayed before her eyes. Overcome by tears and despair, a kind of delirium seized her; she rent her clothes, and, heedless of the pitiless crowd, she appeared at the window, with her hair dishevelled and her bosom bare.

“Good people!” she exclaimed, in accents of agony; “good people! either satisfy your hatred and cruelty by taking my miserable life, or relieve me from the hands of these infamous and inhuman traitors.”

To the honour of the citizens this appeal was not made in vain. Many of them pitied her, believing that the affection she was said to bear the now fugitive Bothwell was caused by the love-philters of his old paramour, the necromantic Lady of Buccleuch, “who knew the art that none may name.” Accordingly, many of the more respectable burghers and booth-holders began to take arms, and throng the streets in their helmets and armour; while some of the changeful rabble began to revile the treaty-breaking lords, and to clamour for their queen.

A dread of what might ensue led to her immediate transmission to Holyrood to appease the populace; but when midnight came she was deprived of her ornaments, disguised in a kirtle of coarse russet, and compelled to accompany two of the most savage of the confederate barons, armed and in close helmets – William Lord Ruthven and the grim misanthrope Lindsay – who conveyed her direct to the Castle of Lochleven.

In 1693, and also in 1697, there was a case reported by Fountainhall, an action brought by the trustees of Heriot’s Hospital against Robert Hepburn of Bearford, “for a ground annual out of the tenement called Robertson’s Inn,” afterwards mentioned as his tenement “called the Black Turnpike,” the property pf Robertson of Lochart in 1461. From documents then adduced, it would appear that the Bishop of Dunkeld had conferred the building on his two illegitimate daughters. About 164 years before its demolition, this edifice, universally said then to have been the oldest in the city, had been repaired, as the lintel of one of its doors in Peebles Wynd bore, according to the Edinburgh Magazine for 1788, the inscription – “Pax intrantibus . Salus . Exeuntibus . 1674;”* “a legend,” says a writer, “peculiarly appropriate for the scene of the poor queen’s last lodging in her capital, and probably the only thing to which the legend truly applied.” However that may be, the building was demolished in the year 1788.

IMAG0048

Lower down, on the same side of the street, was an ancient timber-fronted tenement, that remained unchanged in its external form till 1823. In its antique state it was one of the most perfect specimens existing of that picturesque French style introduced into Scotland in the years of the old alliance with France, and which characterised all the architecture of Edinburgh previous to the seventeenth century. The carved work beneath the eaves, in the projecting angles of the roof, was extremely beautiful.

This mansion was one of many built shortly after the last burning of Edinburgh, by the invaders under the Earl of Hertford in 1544, and in an investment in favour of John Preston, Commissary, dated 1581, is described as “that tenement of lands lying in the said burgh on the south side of the High Street, and on the entry of the wynd of the Preaching Friars, formerly waste, having been burnt by the English.” Thus it would appear to have been built between 1544 and 1581 – probably near the former date, as the situation being central it was unlikely to remain long waste.

In 1572 it suffered greatly during the siege of the Castle, in common with the Earl of Mar’s mansion in the Cowgate, and Baxter’s house in Dalgleish’s Close.

Its proprietor, John Preston, in 1581, though the son of a baker, was an eminent lawyer in the time of James VI., who was raised to the Bench in March, 1594, as Lord Fentonbarns (in succession to James first Lord Balmerino) and died President of the Court in 1616. His mode of election was curious. “The King,” says Lord Hailes, “named Mr. Peter Rollock, Bishop of Dunkeld, Mr. David MacGill of Cranstoun-Riddel, and Mr. Preston of Fentonbarns, requesting the Lords to choose the fittest of the three to be an Ordinary Lord of Session. The Lords were solemnly sworn to choose according to their knowledge and conscience. In consequence of this, conjecti in pileum nominibus [by ballot], the Lords elected Mr. John Preston.”

Before his death he attained to great wealth and dignity; he was knighted by King James, and his daughter Margaret was married in this old house to Robert Nairn of Mackersie, and became mother of the first Lord Nairn, who was placed in the Tower of London by Cromwell in 1650, with many others, and not released till the Restoration, ten years after.

The senator’s son, Sir Michael Preston, succeeded him in possession of the mansion in 1610.

Preston, together with Craig and Stirling, is mentioned in a satirical production of Alexander Montgomery, author of “The Cherrie and the Slae,” and before whom he had become involved in a tedious suit before the Court of Session, and was at one time threatened with quarters in the Tolbooth. He wrote of Fentonbarns as –

“A baxter’s bird, a bluittter beggar born.”

The old house narrowly escaped total destruction by a fire in 1795, thus nearly anticipating that of later years. It was the last survivor of the long and unbroken range of quaint and stately edifices on the south side of the street, between St. Giles’s and the Nether Bow. An outside stair gave access to the first floor, the stone turnpike stair of which bore the abbreviated legend in Gothic characters –

DEO . HONOR . ET . GLIA.

A little lower down the street, and nearly opposite the house of John Knox, dwelt Thomas Bassandyne, in that tall old mansion we have already referred to in an early chapter as having had built into its front the fine sculptured heads of the Emperor Septimus Severus and his Empress Julia, and having between them a tablet inscribed, “In sudore vults tui veceris pane tuo,” which Wilson shrewdly suspects to have been a fragment of the adjacent convent of St. Mary, or some other old monastic establishment in Edinburgh.

Here it was that Thomas Bassandyne, a famous old Scottish typographer, in conjunction with Alexander Arbuthnot, undertook in 1574 the then arduous task of issuing his beautiful folio Bible, with George Young, a servant (clerk) of the Abbot of Dunfermline, as a corrector of the press; the “printing irons,” or types were of cast-metal. The work of printing the Bible proved a heavier task than they expected, as it had met with many impediments; and before the Privy Council, which was giving them monetary aid, they pleaded for nine months to complete the work, or return the money contributed towards it by various Scottish parishes. In this we see the first attempt to publish by subscription. Here, too, Thomas Bassandyne printed his rare quarto edition of Sir David Lindesay’s Poems in 1574. His will is preserved in the Bannatyne Miscellany, and from it it appears, that his mother was life-rented in that part of the house which formed the printer’s dwelling, the annual rent of which was eight pounds; while the remainder that belonged to himself, was occupied by his brother Michael. At all events, he leaves in his will “his thrid, the ane half thairof to his wyf, and the vthir half to his mother, and Michael and his bairnes,” in which says the memorialist of Edinburgh, we presume, to have been included the house, which we find both he and his bairns afterwards possessing, and for which no rent would appear to have been exacted during the lifetime of the generous old printer.

His house is repeatedly referred to in the evidence of the accomplices of the Earl of Bothwell in the murder of Darnley, an event which took place during the life of Bassandyne, beneath whose house was one occupied by a sword slipper, with whom it is said lodged the Black Joh of Ormiston, one of the conspirators, for whom the rest called on the night of the murder.

One of the most famous edifices on the north side of the High Street was known as “the Bishop’s Land,” so called from having been the town residence of John Spottiswood, Archbishop of St. Andrews in 1615, and son of John Spottiswood, Superintendent of Lothian, a reformed divine, who prayed over James VI., and blessed him when an infant in his cradle, in the Castle of Edinburgh. From him the Archbishop inherited the house, which bore the legend and date,

BLISSIT . BE . YE . LORD . FOR . ALL . HIS . GIFTIS . 1578.

Consequently it must have been built when the Superintendent (whose father fell at Flodden) was in his sixty-eighth year, and was an edifice sufficiently commodious and magnificent to serve as a town residence of the Primate of Scotland, who in his zeal to promote the designs of James VI. for the establishment of Episcopacy, performed the then astounding task of no less than fifty journeys to London.

The ground floor of the mansion, like many others of the same age in the same street, was formed of a deeply-arched piazza, the arches of which sprang from massive stone piers. From the first floor there projected a fine brass balcony, that must many a time and oft have been hung with gay garlands and tapestry, and crowded with the fair and noble to witness the state pageants of old, such as the great procession of Charles I. to Holyrood, where he was crowned by the archbishop King of Scotland in 1633. From this house Spottiswood was obliged to fly, when the nation en masse resisted, with peremptory promptitude, the introduction of the Liturgy. He took refuge in London, where he died in 1639, and was interred in Westminster Abbey.

In 1752 the celebrated Lady Jane Douglas, wife of Sir George Stuart of Grandtully, and the heroine of the famous “Douglas cause,” was an occupant of “the Bishop’s Land,” till she ceased to be able to afford a residence even there. Therein, too, resided the first Lord President Dundas, and there was born in 1741 his son, the celebrated statesman, Henry Viscount Melville.

There long abode, on the first floor of the “Bishop’s Land,” a fine old Scottish gentleman, “one of the olden time,” Sir Stuart Thriepland, of Fingask Castle, Bart., whose father had been attainted after the battle of Sheriffmuir, which, however, did not prevent Sir Stuart from duly taking his full share in the ’45. His wanderings over, and the persecutions past, he took up his residence here, and had his house well hung, we are told, with well-painted portraits of royal personages – but not of the reigning house. He died in 1805, and the forfeited honours were generously restored by George IV. in 1826 to his son, Sir Patrick M. Thriepland of Fingask, which had long before been purchased back by the money of his mother, Janet Sinclair of Southdun.

On the third floor, above him, dwelt the Hamiltons of Pencaitland, and the baronial Aytouns of Inchdairnie. Mrs. Aytoun was Isabel, daughter of Robert, fourth Lord Rollo, “and would sometimes come down the stair,” says Robert Chambers, “lighting herself with a little waxen taper, to drink tea with Mrs. Janet Thriepland (Sir Patrick’s sister) – for so she called herself, though unmarried. In the uppermost floor of all lived a reputable tailor and his family. All the various tenants, including the tailor, were on friendly terms with each other – a pleasant thing to tell of this bit of the old world, which has left nothing of the same kind behind it in these days, when we all live at a greater distance, physical and moral, from each other.”

This fine old tenement, which was one of the most aristocratic in the street till a comparatively recent period, was totally destroyed by fire in 1814.

Eastward of it stood the town-house of the Hendersons of Fordel (an old patrician Fifeshire family), with whom Queen Mary was once a visitor; but it, too, has passed away, and an unattractive modern block of buildings occupies its site. In “Lamont’s Diary” we read, that in 1649, Lady Pitarro, a sister of the Laird of Fordel-Henderson, “was delated by many to be a witch; was apprehended and carried to Edinburghe, where she was keiped fast; and after remaining in prison for a tyme, being in health att night, upon the morn was found dead. It was thought that she had wronged herselfe, either by strangling or by poyson; but we leave that to the judgment of the Great Day.” She had likely died of grief and horror.

On the same side of the street, and nearly opposite the head of Blackfriars Wynd, was the lodging or town house of the Earls of Crawford. It is mentioned in “Moyse’s Memoirs,” when occupied by David ninth Earl of Crawford, in 1588, about the time when Francis Stewart Earl of Bothwell was alternately the pest and terror of James VI. Sir Alexander Lindesay, brother of the Earl of Crawford (a gentleman who was created Lord Spynie and was slain in 1607 by Lindesay of Edzell), was promoted to the command of the Royal Guards, over the head of the Master of Glammis, who resented this bitterly. “Some bragging,” says Moyse, “followed thereupon betwixt him and the Earl of Bothwell, who took part with the Earl of Crawford and his brother against the Master of Glammis, and both parties having great companies attending them, some tumult was likely to have arisen. It happened by accident that the Earl of Bothwell, coming out of the Earl of Crawford’s lodging, was met by the Earl of Marr, who was coming out of the Laird of Lochleven’s lodging hard by; as it being about ten o’clock at night, and so dark that they could not know one another, he passed by, not knowing that the Master of Glammis was there, but thinking it was only the Earl of Marr. However, it was said that some ambushment of men and hackbuttiers had been duressed in the house by command of both parties.”

Some brawl or tragedy had evidently been on the tapis, for next day the king had the Earl of Bothwell and the Master before him at Holyrood, and committed the former to ward in the Palace of Linlithgow, and the latter in the Castle of Edinburgh, “for having a band of hacquebuttiers in ambush with treasonable intent.”

Passing to more peaceable times, on the same side of the street, we come to one of the most picturesque edifices in it, numbered as 155 (and nearly opposite Niddry Street), in which Allan Ramsay resided and began his earlier labours, “at the sign of the Mercury,” before he removed, in 1726, to the shop in the Luckenbooths, where we saw him last.

IMAG0049

It is an ancient timber-fronted land, the singularly picturesque aspect of which was much marred by some alterations in 1845, but herein worthy Allan first prosecuted his joint labours of author, editor, and bookseller. From this place he issued his poems in single or half sheets, as they were written; but in whatever shape they always found a ready sale, the citizens being wont to send their children with a penny for “Allan Ramsay’s last piece.” Here it was, that in 1724 he published the first volume of “The Tea Table Miscellany,” a collection of songs, Scottish and English, dedicated

“To ilka lovely British lass,
Frae Ladies Charlotte, Anne and Jean,
Doon to ilk bonny singing Bess
Wha dances barefoot on the green.”

This publication ran through twelve editions,** and its early success induced him in the same year to bring out “The Evergreen,” a collection of Scottish poems, “wrote by the Ingenious before 1600,” professed to be selected from thee Bannatyne MSS. And here it was that Ramsay had some of his hard struggles with the magistrates and clergy, who deemed and denounced all light literature, songs, and plays, as frivolity and open profanity, in the sour fanatical spirit of the age.

Religion, in form, entered more into the daily habits of the Scottish people down to 1730 than it now does. Apart from regular attendance at church, and daily family worship, each house had some species of oratory, wherein, according to the Domestic Annals, “the head of the family could at stated times retire for his private devotions, which were usually of a protracted kind, and often accompanied by great moanings and groanings, expressive of an intense sense of human worthlessness without the divine favour.” Twelve o’clock was the hour for the cold Sunday dinner. “Nicety and love of rich feeding were understood to be the hateful peculiarities of the English, and unworthy of the people who had been so much more favoured by God in the knowledge of matters of higher concern.” Puritanic rigour seemed to be destruction for literature, and when Addison, Steele, and Pope, were conferring glory on that of England, Scotland had scarcely a writer of note; and Allan Ramsay, in fear and trembling of legal and clerical censure, lent out the plays of Congreve and Farquhar from that quaint old edifice numbered 155, High Street.

The town residence of the Ancrum family was long one of the finest specimens of the timber-fronted tenements of the High Street. It stood on the north side, at the head of Trunk’s Close, behind the Fountain Well, and though it included several rooms with finely-stuccoed ceilings, and a large hall, beautifully decorated with rich pilasters and oak panelling – and was undoubtedly worthy of being preserved – it was demolished in 1873. Here was the first residence of Scott of Kirkstyle, who, in 1670, obtained a charter under the great seal of the barony of Ancrum, and in the following year was created Sir John Scott, Baronet, by Charles II.

In 1703 the house passed into the possession of Sir Gilbert Elliot, Bart., of Stobs, who resided here with his eight sons, the youngest of whom, for his glorious defence of Gibraltar, was created Lord Heathfield in 1787.

On the same side of the street, Archibald Constable, perhaps the most eminent publisher that Scotland has produced, began business in a small shop, in the year 1795, and from there, in the November of that year, he issued the first of that series of sale catalogues of curious and rare books, which he continued for a few years to issue at intervals, and which attracted to his shop all the bibliographers and lovers of literature in Edinburgh.

Hither came, almost daily, such men as Richard Heber, afterwards M.P. for the University of Oxford; Mr. Alexander Campbell, author of the “History of Scottish Poetry”; Dr. Alexander Murray, the famous self-taught philologist; Dr. John Leyden, who died at Java; Mr. (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott; Sir John Graham Dalzell; and many others distinguished for a taste in Scottish literature and historical antiquities, including Dr. James Browne, author of the “History of the Highland Clans,” and one of the chief contributors to Constable’s Edinburgh Magazine.

The works of some of these named were among the first issued from Constable’s premises in the High Street, where his obliging manners, professional intelligence, personal activity, and prompt attention to the wishes of all, soon made him popular with a great literary circle; but his actual reputation as a publisher may be said to have commenced with the appearance, in October, 1802, of the first number of the Edinburgh Review. His conduct towards the contributors of that famous quarterly was alike discreet and liberal, and to his business tact and straightforward deportment, next to the genius and talent of the projectors, much of its subsequent success must be attributed.

In 1804 he admitted as a partner Mr. Hunter of Blackness, and the firm took the name of Constable and Co.; and after various admissions, changes, and deaths, his sole partner in 1812 was Mr. Robert Cadell. In 1805 he started The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, a work projected in concert with Dr. Andrew Duncan; and in the same year, in conjunction with Longman and Co., of London, he published “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” the first of that long series of romantic publications in poetry and prose which immortalised the name of Scott, to whom he gave £1,000 for “Marmion” before a line of it was written. In conjunction with Messrs. Millar and Murray, and after many important works, including the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” had issued from his establishment in 1814, he brought out the first of the “Waverley Novels.”

Constable’s shop “is situated in the High Street,” says Peter in his “Letters to his Kinsfolk,” “in the midst of the old town, where, indeed, the greater part of the Edinburgh booksellers are still to be found lingering (as the majority of their London brethren also do) in the neighbourhood of the same old haunts to which long custom has attached their predilections. On entering, one sees a place by no means answering, either in point of dimensions or in point of ornament, to the notion one might be apt to form of the shop from which so many mighty works are every day issuing – a low, dusky chamber, inhabited by a few clerks, and lined with an assortment of unbound books and, stationery – entirely devoid of all those luxurious attractions of sofas and sofa-tables and books of prints, &c., which one meets with in the superb nursery of the Quarterly Review in Albemarle Street. The bookseller himself is seldom to be seen in this part of his premises; he prefers to sit in a chamber immediately above, where he can proceed with his own work without being disturbed by the incessant cackle of the young Whigs who lounge below; and where few casual visitors are admitted to enter his presence, except the more important members of the great Whig Corporation – reviewers either in esse, or at least supposed to be so in posse – contributors to the supplement of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’… The bookseller is himself a good-looking man, apparently about forty, very fat in his person, with a face having good lines, and a fine healthy complexion. He is one of the most jolly-looking members of the trade I ever saw, and, moreover, one of the most pleasing and courtly in his address. One thing that is remarkable about him, and, indeed, very distinguishingly so, is his total want of that sort of critical jabber of which most of his brethren are so profuse, and of which custom has rendered me rather fond than otherwise. Mr. Constable is too much of a bookseller to think it at all necessary that he should appear to be knowing in the merits of books. His business is to publish books; he leaves the work of examining them before they are published, and criticising them afterwards, to others who have more leisure on their hands than he has.”

IMAG0050

In the same “Letters” we are taken to the publishing establishment of Manners and Millar, on the opposite side of the High Street – “the true lounging-place of the blue-stockings and literary beau monde of the Northern metropolis,” but long since extinct.

Unlike Constable’s premises, there the ante-rooms were spacious and elegant, adorned with busts and prints, while the back shop was a veritable bijou; “its walls covered with all the most elegant books in fashionable request, arrayed in the most luxurious clothing of Turkey and Russia leather, red, blue, and green – and protected by glass folding doors from the intrusion even of the little dust which might be supposed to threaten a place kept so delicately trim. The grate exhibits a fine blazing fire, or in its place a fresh bush of hawthorn, stuck all over with roses and lilies, and gay as a maypole,” while paintings by Turner, Thomson, and Williams meet the eye on every hand; but we are told that “one sees in a moment that this is not a great publishing shop; such weighty and laborious business would put to flight all the loves and graces that hover in the atmosphere of the place.”

Millar was the successor of William Creech; but how little could Alexander Arbuthnot, or worthy old Bassandyne, when struggling with iron types to print their famous Bible, and the works of David Lindesay, in the edifice which was not a bow-shot distant, have dreamed of such places or such bibliopoles?

Inscription translates as “Peace adjoins. Health. Out. 1674.”
**  Scans of my copy of Ramsay’s ninth edition of ‘The Tea-table Miscellany: or, A Collection of Scots Sangs.’ (the three volumes in one, 1733 publication) can be found in the Scanned Pictures. It’s where I discovered Scotland gave the word “wow” to the world. It’s explained to English readers as meaning “wonderful! ah!”

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s