Edinburgh University | Information Services | Gallery Homepage | Search
Gallery of Benefactors - Edinburgh University Library

James Nairn

Librarian of the College and Minister of the Church of Scotland

The son of an Edinburgh merchant, James Nairn entered the Tounis College (now the University of Edinburgh) in 1646, graduating in 1650. Two years later he was appointed to the post of Librarian of the College which he held until December 1653, when he resigned to become Chaplain to the Countess of Wemyss. He held charges in a number of parishes near Edinburgh, in Lothian, and finally in Wemyss in Fife, where he died. Among his friends he numbered Robert Leighton, who became Bishop of Dunblane and Archbishop of Glasgow, and whose own library is still preserved in the former town; and Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury and author of "Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time" (published 1723-34).

Nairn bequeathed his own library of 1,900 printed items, of which 1,678 are known to survive, to the Library of the Tounis College, thus increasing its size by one-third. It is the largest surviving private library assembled by a professional man during the reign of King Charles II, and presents a picture of the intellectual interests of an indigenous educated Scotsman of the day. Subjects represented in the collection include theology, Biblical studies, and church history; history and geography; philosophy, psychology, science and medicine; language and literature; and law and political science. The books are listed in the University Library's guard-book catalogue, and a printed "Catalogue of the library of the Revd James Nairn" (1629-1688), compiled by Murray C. T. Simpson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Library, 1990) is available in the Special Collections Department, where the collection itself may be consulted.


Friends of EUL | Recent Donations | Islamic & Middle Eastern
1500-1699 | 1700-1799 | 1800-1899 | 1900-1949 | 1950-1999 | 2000-

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all material © The University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh University Logo