Papers of Robert Kaye Greville (1794-1866)

Scope and Content

The papers consist of: a letter to Professor W. Wallace requesting contributions for an encyclopaedia; and, letters to Sir W. Jardine, mainly on natural history matters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Kaye Greville was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, on 13 December 1794. Although he become very interested in plants as a boy, rather than study botany he followed medical studies in London and Edinburgh. He did not proceed to taking a medical degree however. After marriage in 1816, he settled in Edinburgh and studied anatomy. In 1819 he joined the Wernerian Society and submitted a number of botanical papers both to it and to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. In 1823 Greville began the publication of the monthly Scottish cryptogamic flora illustrated with his own drawn and coloured plates. Other publications included Flora Edinensis (1824), Icones filicum, and Algae Britannicae (1830). In 1834 he made a tour of Sutherland and again toured in Scotland in 1837, each time collecting specimens for the Botanical Society. Greville was an active opponent of slavery and he served as an anti-slavery delegate from Edinburgh to the then Colonial Office. He was also an advocate of temperance, publishing Facts illustrative of the drunkenness of Scotland with observations on the responsibility of the clergy, magistrates, and other influential bodies (1834). Greville was a Secretary of the Sabbath Alliance and was vocal against the 'legalised desecration' of Sundays by the Post Office, railway companies, and public houses. In 1856, he was elected MP for Edinburgh. Robert Kaye Greville died at his home in the Murrayfield area of Edinburgh on 4 June 1866. He was buried in the city's Dean Cemetary.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Letter to Professor W. Wallace purchased February 1979, Accession no. E79.9.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. And Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

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

Other Finding Aids

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.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes another reference to Greville related material (check the Indexes for more details): his mention in various letters of G. Johnston to Sir W. Jardine, at Dk.6.20/161-186. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and papers, Natural History Museum; letters (59) to Sir William Hooker, 1820-1856, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives; letters to Sir William Jardine, 1822-1837, National Museums of Scotland Library, NRA 24275 Jardine; letters to Sir Walter Trevelyan, c. 1826-1843, Newcastle upon Tyne University, The Robinson Library, Ref. WCT NRA 12238 Trevelyan; and, letters, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division.