Lectures and Correspondence of Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (1747-1813)

Scope and Content

The collection consist of: lectures, 1798; lectures on universal history, 1800-1801; letter to W. Davies, 1802

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Fraser Tytler was born in Edinburgh on 15 October 1747. After education in the city he was sent to school in Kensington in 1763, and then attended Edinburgh University from 1765. Tytler was called to the Scottish Bar in 1770, and in 1780 he was appointed joint-Professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University. He became the sole Professor in 1786. In 1790 he was appointed Judge Advocate of Scotland and in 1792 he inherited the family estate at Woodhouselee. In 1802 he was appointed to the Bench at the Court of Session, and he took the title Lord Woodhouselee (pron. Woozlay) becoming a Lord of Justiciary. His publications include Piscatory eclogues, with other poetical miscellanies of Phinehas Fletcher (1771), The decisions of the Court of Session, from its first institution to the present time, abridged and digested under proper heads in form of a dictionary (1778), Plan and outline of a course of lectures on universal history, ancient and modern, delivered in the University of Edinburgh, 1783 (1783), Essay on the principles of translation (1791) , Ireland profiting by example, or the question considered whether Scotland has gained or lost by the union (1799,) Elements of general history, ancient and modern; to which is added a table of chronology and a companion of ancient and modern geography (1801), and Memoirs of the life and writings of the Hon. Henry Home, Lord Kames (1807). Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, died in Edinburgh on 5 January 1813.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Davies letter, purchased October 1972, Accession no. E72.51.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.19. Stow-Tytler. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

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 various references to Tytler related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): at La.II.602; autograph letter and collection of essays at La.II.67, La.II.197, and La.II.433; a parcel of lectures at La.III.518; letter to J. Davidson, 1792, at La.II.509; letter to George Chalmers, La.II.453; letter to Messrs Bell and Bradfute, 1796, at La.II.75; letter from Bishop G. Hay, 1797, at La.II.153; letter from J. Robson, 1797; letter to William Davies, 1797, at La.II.602; letter to William Murray, 1804, at La.II.185; letter to George Chalmers, 1812, at La.II.455; Tytler mentioned in a letter of P. F. Tytler to D. Laing, 1823, at La.IV.17; mention in a notice as having 'no intentions of going up with air balloons at present', circa 1784, at Dc.6.111, f.38; parcel of notebooks ot lectures and travels at La.III.517; and, letter about Tytler's Elements of general history, 1830, at La.II.647/300. There is also a drawing of Tytler by J. Lee at Dc.4.146, f.61, and a portrait at La.II.602.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: commonplace books, diaries and sketchbooks, with a memoir 'Remembrances of Woodhouselee' 1812, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. Acc. 11737; miscellaneous correspondence and papers including notes for 'life of Kames', Private, Ref. NRAS 1073 NRA 19084 Fraser-Tytler; and, letters to G. D. Home relating to 'life of Kames', 1803-1809, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD24/507 NRA 29367 Stirling Home