Centre for the History of the Book

Dr Iain Gordon Brown

Dr Iain Gordon Brown is is Honorary Fellow at the National Library of Scotland.

Dr Iain Brown (FSA FRSE)

Honorary Fellow

  • National Library of Scotland

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George IV Bridge

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Dr Iain Gordon Brown, a graduate of the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh was, until his retirement in 2011, Principal Curator of Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland where he is now an Honorary Fellow. Over a period of thirty-four years he was responsible for many acquisitions of literary and historical manuscripts and for dealing with innumerable enquiries from scholars all over the world in a range of academic disciplines. He mounted many significant exhibitions and published extensively on the history of the Library and its collections, notably Building for Books: the Architectural Evolution of the Advocates’ Library (1989) and Rax Me That Buik. Highlights of the Collections of the National Library of Scotland (2010); he also contributed chapters to the Library’s tercentenary volume and wrote the Advocates’ Library essay in The International Dictionary of Library Histories. In 2000 he published a 150th anniversary study of the development of the Library’s Walter Scott collections.

Scottish literary figures with whom Iain has long been particularly involved are Allan Ramsay, David Hume, James Boswell, Robert Burns, Walter Scott, James Hogg and Thomas Carlyle. He has written or mounted exhibitions on all of them. He is author of Poet & Painter: Allan Ramsay, Father & Son (1984) and editor of Scott’s Interleaved Waverley Novels: an Introduction and Commentary (1987) and Abbotsford and Sir Walter Scott. The Image and the Influence (2003). He contributed to the Aberdeen History of Scottish Literature and to the Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland (of which he is on the advisory board). He has studied in detail the making of several major eighteenth-century books and the evolution of published and unpublished manuscript narratives. His most recent work is his edition of David Hume’s My Own Life, published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014.

Iain has also worked on British antiquarianism, collecting and taste in the age of the Grand Tour: The Hobby-Horsical Antiquary (1980), Monumental Reputation. Robert Adam and the Emperor’s Palace (1992) and Allan Ramsay and the Search for Horace’s Villa (2001) are among his more significant contributions in this field. In total he has written or edited twelve books and monographs and has published more than 250 scholarly articles, essays, book chapters and reviews.

A former President of both the Old Edinburgh Club and the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, he also served as a Trustee of Edinburgh World Heritage from 2011 to 2014. He is a Trustee of the Penicuik House Preservation Trust, a Curatorial Expert Adviser to the Abbotsford Trust and the Faculty of Advocates, and Vice-President of the Edinburgh Decorative and Fine Arts Society. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals. In 2012 he was elected Curator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has recently (2014) been appointed Consultant to the Adam Drawings Project at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

His interests range from classical archaeology to the literary and cultural history of Britain in the long eighteenth century (especially the Scottish Enlightenment); and from the art and architecture of the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries in Britain, France and Italy, to the military history of the same period, and beyond.