Fifteen letters from David Brewster to various recipients, 1821-1867.

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Volume containing fifteen letters from Sir David Brewster to various recipients.

  • ms1617: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to an applicant for a university medical post at the University of Edinburgh.Thanking him for his testimonials and noting various of his publications which Brewster has read.Signed D Brewster.10 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, 20 June 1821. (3pp.)
  • ms1618: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to an unknown recipient concerning a publishing project.Signed D Brewster.10 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, 22 July 1824. (2pp.)
  • ms1698: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to 'My Dear Miss Emma'.Concerning the Camera Lucida, the Camera Obscura and phrenology. Enclosure: Printed notice of meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 2 April 1827 (communication 'On Phrenology, considered in its Constitution' by Sir William Hamilton marked with a 'x'). Attached to it is a handwritten four line verse on phrenology.Signed D Brewster.10 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, 31 March 1827. (Letter 4pp, enclosure 2pp).
  • ms1619: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to Dr William Gregory.Concerning the properties of Nitrous and Nitric Acid.Signed D Brewster.Allerly, 30 December 1832. (3pp.)
  • ms1701: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to William Jerdan at the Literary Gazette Office, Wellington St, London.Concerning various mutual acquaintances - Lady Charlotte Guest 'the most remarkable woman in England', Lord de Tabley, Lord Brougham. Observations on the present low temperatures, with details of thermometer readings, with a lowest reading of 10 degrees Fahrenheit.Signed D Brewster.Allerly, by Melrose, 12 January 1837. (4pp with wax seal intact.)
  • ms1075: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to 'Gentlemen'.Concerning a forthcoming publication by Brewster.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 5 December 1843. (2pp.)
  • ms1620: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to Robert Cooke.Concerning a draft on sales of recent publication of Brewster.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 18 March 1845. (2pp.)
  • ms1076: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to Adam Black.Regretting his inability to attend the public meeting on National Education to be held at Edinburgh in April as he will be on the Continent.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 21 March 1850. (3pp, paper with broad black border.)
  • ms1077: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to an unknown recipient.Regrets his inability to attend a meeting in Edinburgh.Signed D Brewster.St Andrews, 30 March 1850. (4pp, paper with broad black border.)
  • ms835: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to F G West.Advises him that a copy of the inaugural address of [George Douglas Campbell, 8th] duke of Argyll may be obtained from David Page of Cupar [Fife], proprietor of the Fifeshire Journal.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 9 April 1852. (2pp, paper with narrow black border.)
  • ms1758: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to an unknown recipient.Concerning aspects of the kaleidoscope and the manufacture of a recent instrument by Mr Darker of Lambeth.Signed D Brewster.Allerly, by Melrose, 3 October 1867. (2pp, embossed headed notepaper 'University of Edinburgh'.)
  • ms878: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to Mr Stark.Concerning the submission of a paper by Stark [for publication ?].Signed D Brewster.np, nd. (2pp.)
  • ms1817: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to David Milne.Informs Milne that the meteorological station at Kingussie is managed by Rev Mr Rutherford and that at Inverness by Thomas McKenzie, teacher at Rainings School [Inverness]. An anemometer is to be erected there under the supervision of Mr Gray, Rector of the Royal Academy [Inverness]. Details of observational methods to date. Dr Edmonstone keeps observations on Unst, Shetland. Proposals for further experiments on atmospheric electrostatics. Report of a conversation with Hugh Miller [author].Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 18 July 1842. (7pp.)
  • ms1956: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to Messrs Oliver and Boyd.Requesting copies of his treatise on the Kaleidoscope.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 24 March 1858. (2pp.)
  • ms1816: Autograph letter signed, Sir David Brewster to David Milne.Offering to provide specimens of the 'red sandstone with white spots from Inchture' [Perthshire]. Robert Brown's observations on certain stones from Angus. Concerning subscriptions to a chair of chemistry and government responsibilities in the same.Signed D Brewster.St Leonard's College, St Andrews, 18 October 1842. (4pp.)

Administrative / Biographical History

David Brewster was born in Jedburgh on 11 December 1781. His father was James Brewster, rector of Jedburgh Grammar School. At the age of twelve, in 1793, Brewster began following classes at Edinburgh University with the ambition of going into the Church. In 1799 he became tutor to the Horsbrugh [sic] family in Pirn, Peebleshire, and in 1802 he was the editor of the Edinburgh magazine. Licensed to preach by the presbytery of Edinburgh, Brewster gave his first sermon in March 1804 but nervousness led him to abandon this career. In 1804 he became tutor to a family in Dumfriesshire and he remained there until 1807 while he pursued scientific studies and the study of literature.

In 1807, Brewster was a candidate for the Chair of Mathematics at St. Andrews University, but without success. In 1813, he submitted a paper to the Royal Society of London on Some properties of light and the same year he published a Treatise on new philosophical instruments. In 1814, illness prompted him to visit Paris and Geneva and on his return to Britain he continued publishing. In 1815, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1816, Brewster invented the kaleidoscope and although he patented the invention, it was quickly pirated because of a fault in the registration. He published his Treatise on the kaleidoscope in 1819. Together with the mineralogist Professor Robert Jameson, he edited the Edinburgh philosophical journal, previously called the Edinburgh magazine , and in 1819 when the name changed again to the Edinburgh journal of science he was the sole editor. In 1820, Brewster became a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, and in 1821 he was active in the formation of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts of which he became director. In 1822, he became a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Arts and Sciences.

It was at this time too that Brewster edited a translation of Legendre's Geometryand Euler's Letters to a German princess. Other published work to 1829 includes On the periodical colours produced by grooved surfaces, The optical nature of the crystalline lens, and The colours of film plates. In 1827, he published his account of a new system of illumination for lighthouses. In 1831, in York, he was among those who set up the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The same year, Brewster was knighted.

In December 1837, he became the Principal of the United College of St. Salvator and St. Leonard at St. Andrews University. In 1859 he became Principal of Edinburgh University.

Sir David Brewster died from an attack of pneumonia at Allerby, Melrose, on 10 February 1868.

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment with the Keeper of Manuscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

ms835: Purchased for 15s from Myers, 13 December 1948.

ms878: Purchased for half a guinea from Rogers, 6 May 1949.

ms1617-ms1620: Purchased for five guineas from Myers and Co, 27 April 1954.

ms1701: Purchased for three guineas from Myers, 12 January 1955.

ms1758: Purchased for 1.10s. from Abbots Bookshop, 5 October 1955.

ms1816, ms1817: Purchased for three guineas from Sotheran, 26 March 1956.

ms1956: Purchased for 15s from A Rogers, 7 February 1957.

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Binding, quarter calf and cloth boards.

Paper: various sizes between 11.3x18.2cm and 19.2x24.8cm.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Accruals

None