Hew Blair 1633-1690

From Book Owners Online

Hew or Hugh BLAIR 1633-1690

Biographical Note

Son of Hew Blair, incumbent of Tron Parish, Glasgow. He received his M.A from the University of Glasgow in 1655. Ordained in 1661 and appointed minister of Rutherglen in 1662. In 1656, he married Janet Elliot, first daughter of James Elliot, minister of Edinburgh. They had three daughters including Mary Blair, who married John Gray, incumbent of Haddington. Blair came under a sentence of deprivation after the 1690 Act of Parliament restoring Presbyterian Ministers.


The National Library of Scotland’s catalogue records almost 50 books with Blair’s inscription, under the shelf mark Gray. There are almost certainly more books within the collection which belonged to Blair but have not had their provenance recorded.

D.T Bird lists 11 sixteenth-century medical and botanical books in the possession of Blair. These include Jean Bodin (1530-1596) Universae Naturae Theatrum (Frankfurt, 1597) (Gray.869) and two books by the Dutch physician Levinus Lemnius (1505-1568) (Gray.1051(1-2)).

Blair was the father in law of John Gray (1646-1717), benefactor of the Haddington town library. Gray received many, if not all, of Blair’s books, which now reside in the NLS as part of the Haddington Library bequest. Further work is required to establish when Gray received Blair’s books, but several inscriptions demonstrate that some volumes were given when Blair was still alive, suggesting an intellectual exchange between the two men. For example, Blair owned a copy of de Interpretatione et Perfectione Scripturae (1663), by John Strang, a fomer Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow (Gray.521). The book is inscribed by Blair as having been received as a gift in 1664 from his brother in Holland and is later inscribed by John Gray in 1672. Additionally, Blair’s copy of De Conseruanda etudine (Frankfurt, 1591) by Heinrich Rantzau (Grey 33(1)), is inscribed with “Jo. Gray Past. Aberladien.” Gray was the incumbent of Aberlady between 1684-1689, thus he received the book while his Father in law was living.

Characteristic Markings

Blair inscribed his books on the title page with “Hugo Blarus” or “Hugo Blar[us]”

He also annotated books he had read with “perlegi” (I read), or “perlegi bis” if he had read them more than once. An example of this can be found on his copy of a biography of Leopold Wilhelm of Austria (1614–1662) by Nicola Avancini. Leopoldi Guilielmi, Archducis Austriae...Virtutes...descriptae (Antwerp, 1665), has a further inscription which states that Blair bought the book in “Ed[inbu]r[gh] June 12 1688.” (Gray.970).

Inscription of Hew Blair (NLS Gray.1144)


  • Bertie, David M. Scottish Episcopal Clergy, 1689–2000. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000.
  • Durkan, J. & Ross, A. Early Scottish Libraries. Glasgow, John S. Burns, 1961.
  • Scott, Hew et al. Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, 9 vols, new edn. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1915–61.