William Henry Playfair: Memoranda

Scope and Content

Memoranda of William Henry Playfair, 47 folios. The volume contains notes on bridge construction and on watercolour painting (fos 2-12); a journal of an excursion from Edinburgh to Arran and back, 1-9 May 1811, with notes of expenses (fos 13-20 and 44r-43r); undated notes of other travelling expenses (fo. 47r); pencil sketches, one of a crane at Bell Rock Lighthouse (fos 47v and 45); and addresses of London tradesmen (fo. 42v). Fos 42-47 are entered from the back of the book. Fos 20v-42r are blank.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Henry Playfair (1789-1857) was born in Russell Square, London, in July 1789, the son of James Playfair, a London architect. He moved to Edinburgh in 1794, and trained as an architect under William Starke of Glasgow (d. 1813). He designed part of the Edinburgh new town in 1815, and the Royal and Regent Terraces in 1820, and worked on the buildings of the city university in 1817-1824. His other work in Edinburgh included the design for the Observatory, the Advocates' Library, the Royal Institution, the College of Surgeons, St Stephen's Church, the Free Church College, Donaldson's Hospital, and the National Gallery of Scotland. Playfair favoured the classical and Tudor styles for much of his work, which also included many country houses and mansions. He died in Edinburgh on 19 March 1857.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Spencer George Perceval, 1921.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Playfair in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, Vol. XV (London, 1909), pp. 1301-1302.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Custodial History

The volume includes a loose note from Geo. W. Johnston to S.G. Perceval, 25 April 1892, stating that 'both' manuscripts were bought by him from the collection of the late James Gibson Craig, 1887.