Papers of Robert Kirk (c. 1641-1692)

Scope and Content

The collection consists of: dictates taken down in Latin by Kirk at Edinburgh University in 1660, in a volume that also includes later notes in English including Advices to myself 1671; notes of sermons preached by Andrew Cant, 1663; Miscellaneorum liber, or excerptions of others being writings intermingled with private meditations, 1664-1669; Ane eclogue of others' writings and my own thoughts intermixed, circa 1674; and, an eighteenth century transcript of The secret commonwealth.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Gaelic scholar Robert Kirk was born, probably in Aberfoyle, Perthshire, in 1641. He studied at Edinburgh University graduating with an MA in 1661, and then at St. Andrews. In 1664 he became the Minister at Balquhidder, Perthshire, and then Minister at Aberfoyle in 1685. Kirk was the author of the first complete translation of the Scottish metrical Psalms into Gaelic. These were published as Psalma Dhaibhidh an Meadrachd, Edinburgh (1684). In 1689 he went to London to supervise the printing of the Gaelic Bible prepared under the direction of Bishop Bedell. This was published in 1690. Kirk was a believer in fairy superstitions and wrote The secret commonwealth; or an essay on the nature and actions of the subterranean (and for the most part) invisible people heretofoir going under the name of faunes and fairies, or the lyke, among the low country Scots, as they are described by those who have the second sight (1691). Robert Kirk died at Aberfoyle on 14 May 1692.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Eighteenth century transcript, acquired May 1961, Accession no. E61.18.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 9. Kennett-Lluelyn. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

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 other references to Kirk related material (check the Indexes for more details): Occasional thoughts and meditations, at La.III.549; An account of some occasional meditations, resolutions and practices which concern a public or private station, at La.III.529; Sermons, conferences, opinions of the late transactions, with a description of London anno 1689, at La.III.545; The secret commonwealth and a work by Robert Campbell, A short treatise of the Scottish-Irish charms and spels, at La.III.551. There is also mention of Kirk's Gaelic dictionary in a letter from Sir R. Sibbald to Sir H. Sloane, at Dc.8.35, p.115. There is also mention of Kirk's Gaelic dictionary in a letter from Sir R. Sibbald to Sir H. Sloane, 1710, at Dc.8.35, p. 115. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters and papers, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD50 NRA 30103 Macgregor.