Papers of William Kirk Dickson (1860-1949)

Scope and Content

The papers include: valedictory address by Robert Louis Stevenson to the Speculative Society, 1873; drawing of David Masson, drawn by William Hole; illustrations of the Men's Union building, and the Old Quad; notes on lectures of Henry Calderwood taken by Dickson; notes on Professor Masson's lectures, 1880; two letters to Dickson from John Ruskin, Honorary President of the Associated Societies of the University of Edinburgh, 1883; two letters and copy letters to Dickson from Robert Browning, Honorary President of the Associated Societies of the University of Edinburgh, 1885-1887; letter to Dickson from S.R. Crockett, Penicuik, 1895; bibliography compiled by Dickson, 1880-1934; and, two photographs of Dickson.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Kirk Dickon was born in Edinburgh on 24 November 1860. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School which he left in 1875. He studied at Edinburgh University where he obtained an MA in 1880. Dickson became an Advocate in 1887 and he was Keeper of the Advocates' Library 1905. He became the first Librarian of the National Library of Scotland, 1925-1931. He was awarded an Honorary LL.D. from St. Andrews University in 1912. His publications include The life of Major-General Sir Robert Murdoch Smith (1901), The Jacobite attempt of 1719 which he edited for the Scottish History Society, 1895, Historical geography of the clans of Scotland (1899), The surrender of Napoleon (1904), and The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland under the Commonwealth (1904) of which he was the joint editor. Dickson was appointed Rhind Lecturer for 1914, and lectured on The development of writing and printing in Western Europe. William Kirk Dickson died 14 July 1949.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Material purchased Myers, January 1978, Accession no. E78.1.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Who was who 1941-1950. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1952.

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 show other references to Dickson related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter of Dickson to A. Berriedale Keith, about a copyright book not in the Advocates ' Library, 16 January 1923, with copy of reply, 12 January 1923, Gen. 145/2/68; letters of Dickson to C. Sarolea, 1914, 1927, in Sar.Coll.14 and 225. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes these: memoirs, lectures and correspondence, 1913-1939, National Library of Scotland, Ref. MSS 2959, 2979, 3998, and autograph collection, 1771-1937, Ref. MS 9657, and correspondence with his son, Robert and miscellaneous papers, 1904-1949, Ref. MSS 13501-97.