David Laing (antiquary)

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David Laing (20 April 1793 – 18 October 1878) was a Scottish antiquary.


The son of William Laing, a bookseller in Edinburgh, where he was born, he was educated at Canongate Grammar School and then attended the University of Edinburgh. At fourteen he was apprenticed to his father. Shortly after the death of the latter in 1837, Laing was elected to the librarianship of the Signet Library, a post he retained till his death. Apart from general bibliographical knowledge, Laing was best known as a student of the literary and artistic history of Scotland.

Laing was struck with paralysis in 1878 while in the Signet Library, and it is said that, on recovering consciousness, he looked about and asked if a proof of Wyntoun had been sent from the printers. He died a few days afterwards, in his eighty-sixth year. His library was sold at auction by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge over a period of thirty-one days, and realized £16,137. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts to the University of Edinburgh.[1]

Plaque in Portobello


Laing published no original books, but edited the works of others. Of these, the major ones are: William Dunbar's Works (2 vols., 1834), with a supplement added in 1865; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (3 vols., 1841-1842); John Knox's Works (6 vols., 1846—1864); Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson (1865); Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland (3 vols., 1872-1879); and Sir David Lyndsay's Poetical Works (3 vols., 1879).

For over fifty years, Laing was a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and contributed over a hundred papers to their Proceedings. He was also the long-standing secretary to the Bannatyne Club, many of whose publications were edited by him.


  1. ^ "David Laing: our most important manuscript collection". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Biographical Memoir" prefixed to Select Remains of Ancient, Popular and Romance Poetry of Scotland, edited by John Small (Edinburgh, 1885)
  • Thomas George Stevenson, Notices of David Laing with List of his Publications, etc. (privately printed 1878).

External links[edit]