Papers of Aberdeen Philosophical Society (1758 - 1773)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

GB 231 MS 0145 Notebook containing rules of Aberdeen Philosophical Society, with extracts of minutes, and list of questions proposed, 1758 - 1772. It is believed that the list of questions was copied from GB 231 MS 0539/1, by Thomas Gordon (1714 - 1797) and his grandson, Robert Eden Scott (1770 - 1811). Notebook containing rules of Aberdeen Philosophical Society, with extracts of minutes, and list of questions proposed, 1758 - 1772. It is believed that the list of questions was copied from GB 231 MS 0539/1, by Thomas Gordon (1714 - 1797) and his grandson, Robert Eden Scott (1770 - 1811). A transcript of the notebook, made by Bernhard Fabian in Nov 1962, is deposited with, and now forms part of, the collection (GB 231 MS 145/2)

GB 231 MS 0539/ 1 - 2 Minutes of Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758 - 1771 and 1769 - 1773 (2 parts)

GB 231 MS 0539/1, the formal Minute Book of the Society, contains the society's rules, minutes for 227 meetings from Jan 1758 - Mar 1771, a list of 123 questions proposed by the members for discussion, and an account of the society's finances.

GB 231 MS 0539/2 contains draft copies of the society's minutes, Dec 1768 - Mar 1773, but is without the additional material recorded in GB 231 MS 0539/1. It is the only extant source for the Society's minutes for the period Mar 1771 - Mar 1773.

A photocopy of the records is kept with the deposit for handling purposes

Administrative / Biographical History

Aberdeen Philosophical Society (1758 - 1773) fostered some of the most significant works of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Thomas Reid's An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (1764), and George Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric (1776) (Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773, ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University Studies, 158, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)). Its 6 founding members were George Campbell (1719 - 1796), Professor of Divinity and Principal, Marischal College; John Gregory (1724 - 1773), Professor of Philosophy, King's College, later Physician; Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796), Regent, King's College, later Professor of Moral Philosophy, Glasgow; David Skene (1731 - 1770), physician; John Stewart (c 1708 - 1766), Professor of Mathematics, Marischal College; and Robert Trail (1720 - 1775), Professor of Oriental Languages, later Professor of Divinity, Glasgow; and during its lifetime a further 9 elected members were invited to join the group. These were John Farquhar (1732 - 1768), Scottish church minister; Alexander Gerard (1728 - 1795), Professor of Logic and Moral Philosophy, Marischal College, later Professor of Divinity, King's College; Thomas Gordon (1714 - 1797), Professor of Humanity, King's College; John Ross (c 1730 - c 1800), Professor of Hebrew, King's College; James Beattie (1735 - 1803), Professor of Philosophy and Logic, Marischal College, philosopher, and poet; George Skene (1742 - 1803), Professor of Natural Philosophy, later Professor of Civil and Natural History, Marischal College, and physician; William Ogilvie (1736 - 1819), Professor of Philosophy, later Professor of Humanity, King's College; James Dunbar (1742 - 1798), Regent, King's College; William Trail (1746 - 1831), Professor of Mathematics, Marischal College, later minister of the Church of Ireland.

For further details about the society, its activities and members, see Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773, ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University: Studies, 158 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)

Arrangement

None observed

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

See Custodial History, above

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Alternative Form Available

Printed transcripts of GB 231 MS 0539 published in Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773, ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University: Studies, 158 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Sir William Forbes, one of James Beattie's literary executors claimed in An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie (Edinburgh: Constable, 1806) that he possessed the manuscript records of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society at that time. In The Scottish Philosophy, biographical, expository, critical, from Hutcheson to Hamilton (London: Macmillan 1875), James McCosh thanked Francis Edmond of Aberdeen for giving him access to the minutes of the Philosophical Society; but 2 years later, J. Veitch, in Philosophy in the Scottish Universities (in Mind 2 (1877), pp 74), identified Dr. John Webster of Edgehill as their present owner. The minutes were gifted to the University of Aberdeen on 11 Jun 1892, a year after Webster's death, by his son Alexander, who stated that his father had bought them at a book auction. It is understood that Webster's gift related to GB 231 MS 0593/1 only, and attempts to trace the provenance of GB 231 MS 0593/2 and GB 231 MS 0145 have proved unsuccessful. See Ulman for further discussion on this matter. Library correspondence confirms that all 3 items were deposited in the University prior to 1957.

Accruals

No accruals expected

Related Material

Personal papers for most members of the Society are deposited in Special Libraries and Archives. The papers of Thomas Gordon, David Skene, and Thomas Reid contain material which relates directly to the Society; those of other members does not tend do so. Separate collection level descriptions are available for each on the Archives Hub.

Papers of Thomas Gordon (GB 231 MS 3107). Thomas Gordon was one of the most active members of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, and served as secretary from 1761 - 1764 and again from 1767 - 1771. In addition to his own contributions, and his official duties to the Society, he also made copies of other members' discourses and abstracts. His personal papers contain copies of 22 discourses and 8 abstracts composed by other members, in addition to copies of all 9 of his own discourses and 9 of his abstracts.

Papers of David Skene (GB 231 MS 0037; GB 231 MS 0475; GB 231 MS 0480; GB 231 MS 0540). Skene's personal papers reflect his very varied research interests, as physician, natural historian, geologist, and philosopher. Like Thomas Gordon, he kept detailed records of the Society's activities, including drafts of discourses and abstracts of conversations on questions posed. Of his papers, GB 231 MS 0540 relates most directly to the Society and its activities, though most other papers in his collections contain complementary material.

Papers of Thomas Reid (GB 231 MS 2131; GB 231 MS 3061). These 2 deposits represent virtually all of Reid's known, surviving manuscripts. They contain a great deal of material - both published and unpublished - pertaining to Reid, the Philosophy of Common Sense, and the Aberdeen School , including discourses, abstracts and notes relating to the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. Following a successful application to the Carnegie Trust, work began in 1999 towards the creation of a new catalogue of the Reid manuscripts. Details of the project are available from the Department of Philosophy, http://www.abdn.ac.uk/philosophy/reid.hti#archive; and an interim catalogue of the papers with trial pages of digital images from the collection is available from the Historic Collections web pages http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/heritage/collects/reid/

Two copies of poster designed by Victor Davidson, for Aberdeen University Library exhibition, The Search for Enlightenment, to commemorate the work of Thomas Reid (1710-96), and the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1986 (GB 231 MS 3610).

Records of Aberdeen Philosophical Society (1840 - 1939), 1840-1939 (GB 231 MS 0597/ 1-6) (6 volumes). A second Philosophical Society was established in Aberdeen in 1840. It has no relationship to the 18th century society described here, though it may have shared similar objectives.

Bibliography

Extensive use has been made of this collection by researchers involved in work on the Scottish Enlightenment and/ or main contributors to the movement. Details of associated publications may be found by reference to Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758-1773 ed. by Lewis H. Ulman, Aberdeen University Studies, 158 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990), which is itself, one of the principal works based on these papers. See also, the University Library catalogue http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/.

Additional Information

This material is original