David Laing, 1793-1878

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David Laing, eminent historian, antiquary and bibliographer, was the second son of the Edinburgh bookseller William Laing (1764-1832) and was born on 20 April 1793. He was educated at the Canongate grammar school and later on attended Greek classes at Edinburgh University. At the age of fourteen he became apprenticed to his father who, at the time, was the only bookseller in Edinburgh dealing in foreign literature. Laing was able, occasionally, to travel abroad in search of rare or curious books. In 1821, he became a partner in his father's business and throughout his life he was an avid collector of manuscripts and rescued many from destruction. The first published work of his own was Auctarium Bibliothecae Edinburgenae sive Catalogus Librorum quos Gulielmus Drummondus ab Hawthornden D.D.Q. Anno 1627 (1815). Among other works, Laing also reprinted Thomas Craig's Epithalamium on the marriage of Darnley and Mary Stuart (1821). When Sir Walter Scott founded the Bannatyne Club in 1823 for the printing of material and tracts relating to Scottish history and literature, Laing - a friend of Scott's - became Secretary of the Club and chief organiser until its dissolution in the 1860s. Laing was also associated with the Abbotsford Club, the Spalding Club, and the Wodrow Society, each of which had been set up for the publication of manuscripts and for the revival of old texts. When the keepership of the Advocates' Library fell vacant in 1818, Laing was a candidate but was not elected. He became Keeper of the Library to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet, a post which he occupied from 1837 until his death. On his appointment to the post, he gave up his business as a bookseller and disposed of the stock in a public sale. Laing died at Portobello, in Edinburgh, on 18 October 1878.

From the guide to the The Laing Collection, 9th century - 19th century, (Edinburgh University Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf The Laing Collection, 9th century - 19th century Edinburgh University Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bannatyne Club Scotland corporateBody
associatedWith James IV King of Scotland 1473-1513 person
associatedWith James V King of Scotland 1512-1542 person
associatedWith Knox John c1514-1572 person
associatedWith Laing David 1793-1878 person
associatedWith Laing William 1764-1832 person
associatedWith Leslie John Earl of Rothes c1630-1681 person
associatedWith Margaret Queen consort of James IV King of Scotland 1489-1541 person
associatedWith Meer van Michael person
associatedWith Scott Walter Sir 1771-1832 person
associatedWith Signet Library Great Britain corporateBody
associatedWith Society of Writers to H.M. Signet Edinburgh corporateBody
associatedWith Thorkelin Grimur Jonsson 1752-1829 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Scotland History


Birth 1793

Death 1878

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