Walter Macfarlane d.1767

From Book Owners Online


Armorial stamp of William MacFarlane (British Armorial Bindings)
Armorial stamp of William MacFarlane (British Armorial Bindings)

Biographical Note

Antiquary and chief of clan Macfarlan. Born sometime after 1689, probably at Arrochar, the second son of John Macfarlan of Arrochar and Helen Macfarlan, daughter of Robert, second Viscount Arbuthnott. Married Lady Elizabeth Erskine in 1760. Antiquarian of Scottish history, particularly ecclesiastical records. Owned a sugar plantation and 791 enslaved people in St Elizabeth and St Thomas-in-the-East Jamaica from 1756 with his half-brother Dr. William Macfarlane. Died in Canongate, Edinburgh.


His library and 'some other collections of books lately purchased' were sold at auction over 19 days from 21st November 1768, below Balfour's Coffee-house in Edinburgh. The exact extent and disposition of his library are unknown. The sale contained 3278 lots, and comprised mostly 16th-18th century European, and particularly Scottish, history and literature. It included Rymer's Foedera in 10 folio volumes, 27 volumes of "ancient and mod. univ. hist.", "Bibli polyglotta, cum lexicon heptaglotton" in 8 volumes, and several bound collections of pamphlets and tracts. In the auction November 29 was devoted mostly to science and mathematics, December 3 mostly to divinity, and December 5 and 9 mostly to law and politics.

In 1785 the Faculty of Advocates purchased his manuscript collection of Scottish historical document transcripts, many made for him by Tate, a copyist.

Characteristic Markings

MacFarlane used two similar gilt binding stamps, pictured above.


  • A catalogue of the library of the late learned antiquarian, Walter Macfarlane of Macfarlane, Esq; and of some other collections of books lately purchased; which will begin to be sold by auction, on Monday the 21st of November 1768, in the Auction-Room below Balfour's Coffee-house. ... Catalogues to be had at the shop of A. Kincaid and J. Bell. (Edinburgh, 1768). [2],106p. ESTC T163758 - National Library of Scotland: 5.540 [also K.R.32.d?]
  • Pollard, A. F., and Alexander Du Toit. "Macfarlan, Walter, of Arrochar [of that ilk] (d. 1767), antiquary and chief of clan Macfarlan." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 7 Jul. 2023.
  • Whyte, Donald. Walter MacFarlane: Clan Chief and Antiquary. Aberdeen: Aberdeen & North East Scotland Family History Society, 1988.
  • "MacFarlan, Walter (1698-1767)," British Armorial Bindings. [Accessed 17/07/2023]
  • "Walter Macfarlane." Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. [Accessed 07/07/2023]
  • Information from Brian Hillyard.