Donald Macintosh 1743-1808

From Book Owners Online

Donald MACINTOSH 1743-1808

Biographical Note

Born near Killiecrankie, to a farming family on the Urrard Estate. At the age of 31 he was employed as a postman, working for Williamson’s Penny Post in Edinburgh. He later became a tutor to the family of George Stewart of Grandtully, and afterwards made a tour through Lochaber to gather material for his work A Collection of Gaelic Proverbs and Familiar Phrases (Edinburgh, 1785). Following the publication of this work, he worked as a clerk in the legal office of the deputy keeper of the signet. In 1786, he was elected to the honorary office of clerk for the Gaelic language to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. In 1801 he was appointed keep of manuscripts and translator of the Gaelic language to the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Macintosh began his career in the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1789, when he was ordained deacon and then priest by the Rev. James Brown (1739-1791), presbyter of Montrose. Mcintosh’s ordination was unconventional, as Brown had been irregularly consecrated bishop by Bishop Charles Rose of Dunblane, in an attempt to continue the nonjuring line of succession. Rose, Brown and Mcintosh all refused to conform with the clergy of the Scottish Episcopal Church in praying for the Hanoverians, after the death of Charles Edward Stuart. Though based in Edinburgh, Macintosh also ministered to remaining nonjuring congregations in the north of Scotland. When he died in 1808, Macintosh was the last nonjuring clergymen of the Scottish Episcopal Church. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars, Edinburgh.


On his death, Macintosh bequeathed his library of around 1200 books to the town of Dunkeld. His will states that he “being desirous to promote the advancement of knowledge so far as in my power, do hereby appoint my trustees, within six months after my death, to make over and deliver all my printed Books and Manuscripts – but not my MS sermons, as also excepting the copy-right of my Gaelic proverbs, - to Aeneas Mackintosh Esq. of Mackintosh, Hope Steuart of Ballechin, Esq. Robert Graham, writer to the Signet, Factor for the Duke of Atholl, the Present Minister of Dunkeld, and the Present nearest resident Episcopal Minister to the Town of Dunkeld, whom I hereby appoint as curators, for the purpose of establishing a Public Library in the Town of Dunkeld...”

He left no money to establish the library, and desired that the aforementioned curators should provide an appropriate place at their own expense or by subscription. His library thus became a subscription library, housed initially in the Royal School near the Cathedral, in a room devoted to the collection, and afterwards moved with the school to Culloden House. In 1811, over 200 additional works were added by subscription, and in 1823 a catalogue was printed.

Macintosh is described as “a very zealous, and unwearied Book Collector, and at the same time a most determined Jacobite” (1823 Catalogue). His library represents his interests as a Gaelic scholar, antiquarian, Jacobite and nonjuring priest. The majority of his books are works printed in the eighteenth century in English, though the Gaelic language is also well represented. He also owned a large collection of late seventeenth and early-eighteenth century pamphlets, concerned mostly with the 1688 Revolution, church government in England and Scotland, the union, and Jacobitism.

The library is especially strong in works on the Jacobite rebellion, historical accounts of the Stuarts (especially Mary Queen of Scots), Scottish and Gaelic poetry, as well as the Ossianic controversy. This includes a copy of Mackenzie’s Report on the Authenticity of Ossian’s Poems (Edinburgh, 1805), presented to Macintosh by the author, for his assistance in collecting materials for it (1823 Catalogue, p.16). Macintosh’s copy of Allan Ramsay’s poems is inscribed by him as having been “Given to me by the poet’s own hand.”

His theology books contain works typical for a nonjuring priest, such as Thomas Brett on the Liturgies (1720), Hicke’s Constitution of the Catholic Church (London, 1716), and Johnson’s Unbloody Sacrifice (London, 1714). Notably, from Bishop Charles Rose, Macintosh received the works of Bishops Thomas Rattray and Robert Keith, whose texts underpinned nonjuring Scottish Episcopal identity and theology in the eighteenthcentury. These include a copy of Keith’s Catalogue of Bishops (Edinburgh, 1755) (A.K Bell 981842 M.280.4) inscribed “From Bishop Rose July 16th 1788,” which is one of the few books in Macintosh’s library annotated with “Ex libris Donalde Mackintoshe.” Rose also gave him a copy of Rattray and Keith’s An essay on the nature of the church (Edinburgh,1728.) (A.K Bell 920644. M 262.12) and Rattray’s Some particular instructions concerning the Christian covenant (London, 1748) (A.K Bell 981671 M.238). Also of note is a Book of Common Prayer (Oxford, 1683) which had previously belonged to the nonjurors Bishop Alexander Rose of Edinburgh (d.1720) and Bishop Robert Forbes (1823 Catalogue, p.29).

Macintosh’s library is now housed in the A.K Bell library in Perth, where it is searchable by card catalogue. The collection encompasses additions made after Macintosh’s death, as well as borrowing registers and records for the library of Dunkeld.

Characteristic Markings

Macintosh did not regularly inscribe his books with his name, although there are examples of it, and some books are annotated (which is noted on the card catalogue).

On the inside front board books have either a label from when it was housed in Dunkeld, reading “McIntosh Library, Dunkeld. No. [x]” or a later bookplate with the emblem of the Scottish Episcopal Church reading “The Macintosh Collection.”


  • Based on information provided by Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams and Dr Mhairi Rutherford, with thanks to the generosity of staff at the A.K Bell Library in Perth
  • Bertie, David M. Scottish Episcopal Clergy, 1689–2000. Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 2000.
  • Catalogue of the Mackintosh Library, Dunkeld. Edinburgh, Printed by Murray and Mitchell, 1823
  • Howat, Gerald M. D. "Macintosh, Donald (1743–1808), Scottish Episcopal clergyman and Gaelic scholar." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Stewart, E. Dunkeld – an Ancient City, 1979