Letters of John Faed (1819-1902) and James Faed (1821-1911)

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: a letter from John Faed talking of 'a little relaxation - not at all for the purpose of art' and how his first work on returning will be 'Kilmeny and the other picture'. There is also a cutting of The eve of Flodden and illustration by Faed; and, a letter of James Faed from Comely Bank, Edinburgh, with instructions about what must be done to a piece of work, including a sketch to illustrate the instruction.

Administrative / Biographical History

Scottish artists John and James Faed were brothers of the oil and water-colourist Thomas Faed (1826-1900). Their sister, Miss Susan Bell Faed (1827-1900) was also a talented artist, and younger brother George Faed (1830-1852), an engraver and portrait painter. The Faeds were all born at Barley Mill, Kirkcudbright, in south-west Scotland.

John Faed was born on 31 August 1819, and James Faed was born on 4 April 1821. John was educated at Girthon Parish School until the age of eleven and was already painting miniatures at the age of ten. By twelve he was travelling in Galloway, painting the aristocracy and well-known people. He then studied at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. He painted in oil and Indian ink and did miniatures, genre, and historical subjects. He illustrated The cottar's Saturday night and Tam O'Shanter. In 1864 he moved to London but returned after five years to Gatehouse-of-Fleet. In 1899 he became President of the Kirkcudbright Fine Art Association.

James Faed showed himself as a fairly dextrous young man, able to make toys, musical instruments, salmon-flies, guns and boats. On the death of their father in 1843, he went to Edinburgh to join John and Thomas, helping John to do miniatures. He painted in oil and water-colour, and was an engraver. He did landscape, portrait miniatures, genre, and portraits. He went on to become the finest mezzotinter of his time. In 1850 he was invited by Queen Victoria to engrave Winterhalter's picture of The Queen and Prince Arthur. He moved to London but was back in Scotland in 1855.

John Faed died in Kirkcudbright on 22 October 1902, and James Faed died in Edinburgh on 23 September 1911.

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 Ed. Hall, October 1975, Accession no. E75.50.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) McEwan, Peter J. M. Dictionary of Scottish art and architecture. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, 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 a reference to John Faed related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter to Lumb Stocks, engraver, with detailed suggestions for the revision of some plates, 10 September 1857, at Dc.4.101-103.

The Archives Hub also contains a description of the Edinburgh University Library collection entitled Letters of Thomas Faed R.A. (1826-1900), also housed within the Special Collections Division.