Material relating to Sir James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair (1619-1695)

Scope and Content

The material includes: the 'forme of process used before the Lords of Councell', 1666; Institutio juris; and, copies of Institutions of the law of Scotland and also Forme off process before the lords with a bookplate of John, Earl of Loudoun.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Dalrymple was born in May 1619 at Drummurchie, in Carrick. He was the son of the Laird of Stair. Dalrymple was educated at Mauchline in Ayrshire, and then he studied at Glasgow University, graduating in 1637. He then intended to study law at Edinburgh University but the civil war interrupted this. He served as a troop commander and remained in the army until 1641. He became a Regent at Glasgow University, teaching logic, morals, politics and mathematics. He remained there until 1647 when he went to Edinburgh, admitted to the Scottish Bar (becoming an Advocate). For a period he acted as a Commissioner for the Administration of Justice under Cromwell and negotiated with King Charles II in the Netherlands. In 1670, he sat on the negotiations to work out a treaty of union between Scotland and England but these broke down through the insistence of the Scottish side on maintaining the same numbers of representatives in a union parliament as they had in their own. In 1671, Dalrymple became Lord President of the Court of Session but in 1681 he left for the Netherlands in order to avoid signing the Test Oath, another chapter in the on-going persecution of the Covenanters. It was at this time he wrote his Institutions of the law of Scotland which illustrated legal links between Scotland and Europe and preserved Scots law during a time of great upheaval. He returned in 1688 as a supporter of the Glorious Revolution and was re-appointed to his post. He became Viscount Stair in 1690. James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair, died in Edinburgh on 25 November 1695. He was buried in St. Giles, Edinburgh's High Kirk.

Access Information

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


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. (2) Stephen,Leslie. and Lee, Sidney. (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 5. Craik-Drake. 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 local Indexes show various references to material related to 1st Viscount Stair in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): letters to the Earl of Lauderdale, 1663-1678, at La.III.354/1; transcript of Institutions of the law of Scotland, circa 1687, at La.III.416, a copy entitled Systema juris, 1677, at La.III.417, and another copy entitled The laws and customs of Scotland in civil matters, 1680, at La.III.418; a warrant of King Charles II appointing Sir James Dalrymple President of the Session, 1671, at La.II.521; and, in verse, a Remonstrant to president Dalrymple Stairs 1673 beginning 'Remonstrant guid mess James', at La.III.383/2.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspendence, Lord Melville, 1691-1692, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD26; correspondence with Duke of Lauderdale, circa 1671-1690, Buckminster Park, NRA 23003 Tollemache; letters to Duke of Lauderdale and Charles II, 1667-1680, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 23126-38, 23242-47 passim.