Letters of Thomas Edward (1814-1886)

Scope and Content

Addressed from Banff the letters offer thanks for a note and papers, and acknowledge correspondence and a request. There is also a copy of an engraving of Edward as shoemaker.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Banff naturalist, Thomas Edward, was born in Gosport, Hants., on 25 December 1814. His father was a hand-loom linen weaver but was also a Private in the Fife Militia and temporarily stationed in England (emergency of the Napoleonic Wars). The early years of the younger Edward were spent in Fife and Aberdeen and his interest in the natural world began as a child. For a time he worked in a tobacco factory in Aberdeen before becoming an apprentice shoemaker, and then going into the army. At the age of twenty he settled in Banff, north-east Scotland, where he pursued his interest in natural history, alongside his shoemaking. He began a collection of animals and by 1845 had nearly two thousand specimens of plants and animals. Debts led to the sale of his collection but he started another one only to lose it too in order to support his family. A third collection had been accumulated by 1858 and he had also taken to marine biology. Indeed he discovered many (at that time) new species from the Moray Firth. In 1866 Edward was elected an Associate of the Linnean Society of London. A biography was written of him in 1876 and he became more widely known, and he received a pension from the Crown civil list. In this latter part of his life, better financial circumstances allowed him to pursue his interests with more zeal and he concentrated on the botany of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. Thomas Edward died on 27 April 1886.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Among miscellaneous Scottish letters, purchased E. Hall, Harrogate, October 1976, Accession no. E76.43.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.6. Drant-Finan. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

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 UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes several locations of Edward related material: correspondence and essays, 1883-1884, National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections, Ref. MS 2227, and 1878-80 : correspondence with David Douglas, 1878-1880, Ref. MSS 1661-1662; and letters to Samuel Smiles, 1875-1878, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds, NRA 25959 Smiles.