Papers of Professor James Beattie (1735-1803)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-295
  • Dates of Creation
      [ca. 1760-1803]
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      7 volumes.
  • Location
      Dc.2.63-65; Dc.8.28; Dc.5.116-117; Dk.3.2, pp.201-209; Dk.5.28

Scope and Content

The papers in the collection include: lectures on moral philosophy at Marischal College, 1777-1778, at Dc.64-65; observations on logic, at Dk.3.2, pp.201-209; principles of natural religion, 1778, at Dc.2.63; a view of the practical part of the moral philosophy of the Stoics, 1778, at Dc.8.28; a volume of poems including The Minstrel, at Dk.5.28; and, notes of lectures on pneumatology and ethics at Marischal College, 1760, at Dc.5.116-117.

Administrative / Biographical History

The poet, essayist and moral philosopher, James Beattie, was born in Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, on 25 October 1735. He studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, studying Greek and taking the degree of M.A. in 1753. After graduation he took up the post of schoolmaster and parish clerk at Fordoun, near Laurencekirk, and began writing and contributing to the Scots Magazine. Attendance at divinity lectures followed, again at Marischal College, and in 1758 he became a schoolmaster at Aberdeen Grammar School. To his surprise, in 1760, he was elected to the Chair of Moral Philosophy and Logic at Marischal College (now part of Aberdeen University). Beattie's publications include Original poems and translations (1761), Essay on truth (1770), The Minstrel (1771), Evidences of the Christian religion (1786), and the two volumes of Elements of moral science (1790 and 1793). Beattie declined the vacant Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University in 1773. After a long illness which struck him in April 1799, Professor James Beattie died on 18 August 1803.

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) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.2. Beal-Browell. 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.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to Beattie related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): letter to a bookseller in Edinburgh, 1783, at La.II.589; salary receipt, 1767-1768, at La.II.152; recommendation, 1771, at La.II.588; and, Latin epitaphs at La.II.417. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and biographical papers, 1761-1802, at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. Acc 4796 NRA 29136, and letters to Aaron Lithgow, 1758-1767, Ref. MS.2543 ff.1-13; correspondence and papers, Aberdeen University, Special Libraries and Archives , Ref. MS 30; and, letters (12), 1774-1792, at the Huntington Library.


Corporate Names