David Dalrymple ca.1665-1721

From Book Owners Online

Sir David DALRYMPLE, 1st bart ca.1665-1721

Sir David Dalrymple's bookplate (British Museum Franks Collection *569)

Biographical Note

Fifth son of James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair. MA Edinburgh University 1681, after which he studied at Leiden. He became an advocate in 1688, and was solicitor-general from 1701 to 1709; he held various other legal and state offices, including Lord Advocate in Scotland in 1709, and Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. He was a Burgess for Edinburgh and other Scots towns, and MP for Haddington 1708-21. He was made a baronet in 1700.


By the time of his death Dalrymple had assembled one of the largest private libraries in Scotland which consisted of at least 4,000 volumes and perhaps as many as 5,000. Such a collection required the addition of a dedicated library wing to his house at Newhailes which was constructed around 1718-1722. Initially the library consisted of a dozen presses labelled A-M (minus I/J) with 10 or 11 shelves per press. Sir David’s acquisitions are consistent with those of his peers and his profession and books of civil and canon law form the largest group within the collection, with the classics and works of antiquarian interest also well represented.

Dalrymple acquired books during his time at Utrecht and further evidence of acquisitions can be found in NLS MS.25818, which shows that he had accounts with booksellers in Edinburgh and London, including Robert Freebairn (fol. 106), James Ogston (fol. 109), David Freebairn (fol. 110) and E. Bell (fol. 122). Other accounts in MS.25818 show that Sir David was prepared to pay for carriage direct from France to have books delivered to Edinburgh. In 1700 he paid John Chancellor for an unnamed book by Jean Mabillon, plus the cost of bringing it from Paris to Edinburgh (fol. 105). A 1713 account with Paul Vaillant (fol. 113) includes books “Envoye dans la caisse de Mr. Graham”, and in 1718 an account with Mr Craig includes payment to “Harry Mills for fraught & expence of French books” and “Books from Calais” (fol. 123).

After Dalrymple’s death the library passed to his son James who appears not to have added a significant number of books. On James’s death the library passed to his son David who became Lord Hailes in 1766 and who added significantly to the collection. A Sotheby's sale of 453 lots in 1937 removed a number of significant works from the library including most of the incunabula. In 1978 the contents of the library were allocated to the National Library of Scotland by the Government in lieu of estate duty. Newhailes House passed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1997.


Books acquired by Dalrymple generally bear tripartite shelfmarks of the form press, shelf and place on shelf, e.g. D.9.21. Later acquisitions to the library were only shelfmarked by press and shelf. He wrote his name in a very few of his books and only 198 examples of his bookplate (an engraved armorial bookplate (Franks *569)) have been found in the collection now in the National Library of Scotland: appearing almost exclusively in classical works with only a few found in law books.


  • Information provided by Robert Betteridge
  • Betteridge, Robert L. “A library of books shall be the subject of my meditations”: the Library of the Dalrymples of Newhailes, The Journal of Edinburgh Bibliographical Society 8 (2013), 33-71.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903.
  • Sorensen, Janet. "Dalrymple, Sir David, first baronet (c. 1665–1721), politician." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • History of Parliament.