Papers of Sir John Graham Dalyell (1775-1851)

Scope and Content

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

Administrative / Biographical History

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 include Fragments 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.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.5. Craik-Drake. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

For this collection, there is a list of the manuscripts with Gen. 350D. Otherwise, important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

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.

Geographical Names