Collection of Correspondence of the Poet, Allan Ramsay (1684-1758)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-532
  • Dates of Creation
      18th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 notebook volume with letters fixed in; 1 manuscript Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.
  • Location
      Gen. 752; Gen. 2122/14

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: autograph MS of hymn beginning Father and friend of humane race with signed endorsement of Ramsay's son; and, The miller and his man, or self deed self fae. A tale.

Administrative / Biographical History

Allan Ramsay was a native of Leadhills, Lanarkshire. He came to Edinburgh in 1700 to start an apprenticeship with a wigmaker. He became absorbed in literature however and became a bookseller with businesses in Niddry's Wynd and in the High Street of Edinburgh. In 1725 he established a circulating library, probably one of the earliest in Britain. In 1736 he opened a theatre in Carruber's Close but this was closed by the city's authorities. Ramsay published his first poems in 1721 and a second collection was published in 1728. Earlier, in 1725, came the drama The gentle shepherd, a pastoral comedy. In 1724 he produced an anthology of earlier Scottish verse, The ever green and between 1724 and 1737 he brought out a five volume collection of traditional Scottish songs and ballads Tea-table miscellany. Ramsay had also been interested in the decorative and visual arts and encouraged his artistic son, Allan Ramsay (1713-1784), who would become one of Britain's finest portrait artists. The elder Allan Ramsay died in 1758.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

The miller ..., purchased from Sotheby catalogue, June 1964, Accession no. E64.28. Hymn, purchased from Sotheby catalogue, June 1982, Accession no. E82.64.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

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 Allan Ramsay, the poet, in the Laing Collection and elsewhere (check the Indexes for more details): letters and papers of the Easy Club, at La.II.212; also at La.II.212 (asterisk), The gentle shepherd; An elegy on Lucky Wood at JA 2035; dedication on blank leaf of Poems, at JA 3822-3823; an anthology of seventeeth century verse, at La.III.436; A session of poets calculated for the meridian of North Britain, 1738, at La.II.83/6; letter about Ramsay from A. B. Grossart to D. Laing, 1847, at La.IV.17; mention of The gentle shepherd by W. Shenstone to McGouan, 1761, at La.II.423/203; Macbeath the tragedy mentioned in a letter of G. Paton to J. Cumming, 1769, at La.II.82; mention of Tale of three bonnets by A. F. Tytler to G. Chalmers at La.II.453/2; edition of Ramsay's poems referred to by Tytler to W. Davies, 1799, at La.II.602; letter of Elizabeth Bell mentioning her father's belief that James Thomson assisted Ramsay with The gentle shepherd, 1829, at Dc.6.111, ff.145-146; elegy mentioned in a letter of R. Pitcairn to D. Laing, La.IV.17; letter from Grossart to Laing about the authorship of Defence of dramatical entertainments, 1847, at La.IV.17; letter of Grossart about his work on Ramsay and Ferguson, 1846, at Dc.4.101-103; and, life of Allan Ramsay the poet by Ramsay, painter, at La.II.212/41 and 42.

There are also references to Ramsay, the painter, in the Laing Collection and elsewhere: an enquiry into the situation and circumstances of Horace's Sabine Villa, at La.III.492; letter to Sir A. Lindsay, 1752, at La.IV.26; letter from Lord Balcarres, at La.IV.26; letter of A. Cochrane to J. Davidson about Ramsay's painting of the Duke of Argyll, 1750, at La.II.511/1; life of Allan Ramsay the poet by Ramsay, painter, at La.II.212/41 and 42; and, signed endorsement by Ramsay on his father's autograph MS of hymn Father and friend of humane race, at Gen.2122/14.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: Ramsay MSS are among the Cowie collection Autograph MS of The Roundell to her Health and Bogi-dow, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. Acc 3670, 3733, and literary papers, Ref. MSS 510, 582, 804-05, 2233, 2618, 5200, 9748-9749; poems and letters to Sir John Clerk, 1722-1755, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD18/4313-63 NRA 29182 Clerk; songs, Manchester University, John Rylands Library, Ref. Eng MS 748; papers, Huntington Library; and, literary papers, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Eg MSS 2023-24.