A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1846.
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The Proprietors of the Topographical Dictionary of Scotland feel they shall stand excused if they indulge in some expression of pride and satisfaction, on presenting their Subscribers with the concluding portion of their great undertaking in illustration of the Topography of the United Kingdom. Many years have now elapsed since they first circulated proposals for publishing Dictionaries of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, in succession, in Ten Volumes. Those years, they flatter themselves, have not been ill spent in endeavouring to make the Volumes more exact and comprehensive than they could possibly have been made in a shorter period; and the Proprietors of this almost National Publication can truly say, that they have spared no pains, and held back from no expense, calculated to render their labours worthy of the favour of their Subscribers. Whilst they have disbursed a fortune in the preparation of the several portions of the Work, they have borne in mind that they were engaged in no ordinary object of pecuniary investment.
So much has been said in the Prefaces to the former parts of the Work, that it is unnecessary to dwell here upon the plan laid down for its compilation. In Scotland, as in the other divisions of the United Kingdom, the aim has been, to procure as much original matter as possible; to correct the statements of books and manuscripts in public libraries by local examination and enquiry; and to bring the account of each place up to the present time. And as in the Prefaces to the Dictionaries of England and Wales, the Proprietors had to acknowledge the courtesy which their representatives had experienced in South Britain, so now they "beg to return their unfeigned thanks for the kind attention uniformly manifested, and the valuable information liberally communicated, to their agents," while in North Britain. To the assistance of the resident Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy, and of Persons holding official situations, must be ascribed much of the value of the following pages; and the Proprietors deem it a fortunate circumstance for them, that the love of country which has ever peculiarly distinguished the Scottish Nation, induced the intelligent inhabitants of its several localities to afford them such willing aid towards rendering this epitome of Scotland complete and accurate. The same spirit that led to the publication of the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland, two Works whose fame is European, has led to a favourable reception of the design of the Proprietors of this Work.
But while they consider it superfluous again to explain fully the plan upon which the Works on England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland were alike compiled, they may refer to one course, among others, which they adopted in preparing the two present Volumes. This was, to address the following Letter to the Clergy, resident Landed Proprietors, Literary Gentlemen, and others, a copy of it being sent to each parish in the country: "Sir, We take the liberty of forwarding to you a list of Queries, intended as the basis of our forthcoming Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, and shall be particularly obliged by your answers to them at your earliest convenience. We feel that in soliciting this favour we are trespassing upon your valuable time: yet, as our object is to afford an accurate and faithful description of your highly interesting country, we trust that you will pardon the obtrusion. We have the honour to be, &c. &c., S. Lewis and Co."
To this Letter was annexed the ensuing list of Queries, with a view to obtain information on some of the subjects intended to be comprised in the Work:—1, Name of the parish; in what county, and on what river or turnpike-road situated:—2, Name of the post-town, and the distance of the parish from it:—3, Number of statute acres, and whether by computation or admeasurement; the numbers or proportions of arable. pasture, woodland, &c.:—4, The distinguishing features of the surface and scenery:—5, The nature of the soil; chief agricultural produce, and the principal geological features of the parish:—6, What gentlemen's seats of importance; what villages, and the chief employment of their inhabitants:—7, What facilities afforded by railroad, navigable river, or canal:—8, What mines or quarries; their respective produce; and to what use applied:—9, What manufactories, mills, foundries, potteries, or other works; and the number of hands employed in each:—10, What fairs; when held, for what commodities. and how attended:—11, The name of the patron of the incumbency:—12, The style of architecture of the church or churches; the date and cost of erection, and from what funds defrayed; and any description of the building or buildings:—13, What places of worship for Seceders, and their several denominations:—14, Parochial and free schools: almshouses, or other charitable institutions; how supported; when and with what funds the buildings were erected:—15, Remains of religious houses; castles: when and by whom founded; present state of the edifice or ruins, and to whom belonging:—16, Antiquities: camps, cromlechs, barrows, tumuli, Druidical remains, &c.:—17, Natural curiosities, minerals, fossils; mineral springs; if used for medicinal purposes, their peculiar properties:—18, Names of eminent natives or residents of the place:—19. What title the place confers, and on what family.
Answers to these Queries were received from nearly every parish in Scotland, the communications generally affording the fullest details upon the topics in question, and largely contributing, from the immediate connexion of the Writers with the different localities, to the accuracy of the Work. The Proprietors consider it as not a little remarkable, that out of the great number of Circulars issued, a very few only were unanswered, and some of those few, they venture to believe, merely on account of the temporary absence of the Gentlemen addressed.
The facilities afforded by the present system of Postage also enabled the Proprietors to send Printed Proofs of the Articles on the parishes and other important places, to all parts of Scotland, accompanied by the following Letter:—"Sir, Being engaged in preparing for publication a Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, and desirous to render the descriptions of the various places comprised in it as accurate as possible, we take the liberty of forwarding for your perusal the accompanying rough Proof, and shall esteem it a particular favour if you will kindly correct any error you may detect, and return the paper by an early post, as the Press is kept standing at very considerable inconvenience. In the hope that you will pardon this obtrusion, we have the honour, &c. &c., S. Lewis and Co." Thus nearly every page of the Work was forwarded to the spot to which it related, during the passage of the sheets through the Press; and of the entire number of Articles, as many as twelve-thirteenths were duly returned, with, in some cases, very important emendations. To Ministers of parishes and the Town-Clerks of almost all the burghs, especially, the Proprietors' thanks are due for the promptitude with which the Proofs submitted to their perusal were revised. All responsibility, however, connected with the Dictionary of Scotland, it is scarcely necessary to state, rests with the Editors; for, while they have endeavoured in every possible way, consistently with the plan of the Book, to meet the views of those who favoured them with information, or with corrections of the Proofs, they have, of course, often been compelled to use their own discretion, and have not lost sight of the fact, that it is to Publishers that readers look as the accountable parties.
For the Seals and Arms that embellish the Work, the Proprietors are chiefly indebted to the Town-Clerks of the several Burghs, who obliged them with the wax impressions from which most of the engravings have been executed. Their best acknowledgments are also due to the Principals of King's College Aberdeen, of Marischal College Aberdeen, and of Glasgow College; the Reverend the Librarian of the University of Edinburgh; and the Reverend C. J. Lyon, M.A., of St. Andrew's, Author of the valuable History of that city; for copies of the Official Seals of the five great Universities of Scotland, and for other favours.
It may be well to remind the Reader, that the statements of Acres refer to the Imperial standard measure, unless otherwise expressed. The amounts of the parochial Ministers' stipends are the average of several years, and are derived from a Parliamentary Return, generally, however, corrected by local information; the rateable annual value of each parish is inserted also on the authority of a Parliamentary Paper, compiled for the purposes of the Income tax.
It is likewise proper to observe that the Work, as denoted in the Title-page, simply comprises separate Articles upon the Islands, Counties, Cities, Towns, Parishes, and Principal Villages; the rivers, mountains, lakes, seats, and such objects, being (unlike the manner of a general Gazetteer) described under the heads of parishes, &c. Thus, Abbotsford, the seat of Sir Walter Scott, is noticed in the article on Melrose. The arrangement of the places is strictly Alphabetical, each being given under its proper name, and the epithet, if any, by which it is distinguished from another locality of the same designation, following after the chief heading. In this way, all such terms as St., East, West, North, and South, Great and Little, Old and New, will be found to come after the real names; as Andrew's, St.; Berwick, North; Cumnock, Old; Monkland, New.
At the end of the First Volume will be found a copious Index of the Places described in the Work, whether under their own heads or incidentally. At the end of the Second Volume is placed a large Map of Scotland, in Six Divisions, on a scale of five miles to an inch, which has been prepared by the Proprietors at a great expense, although their proposals contained no promise of such an addition to the Work. Before the execution of this Map, it had been suggested by a few of their Subscribers that maps of each county, of the size of the Work, would form a valuable accompaniment; but the Proprietors soon found that it would be extremely injudicious to bring such widely-extended districts as Inverness and Argyll, with their irregular boundaries, into the same space as the small. compact shires of Kinross, Linlithgow, and Renfrew. The Reader would probably have been misled if one Plate should present a scale of fifteen miles to an inch, while the scale of another was but three; and no uniform plan could have been laid down as to what places should be inserted, and what excluded. Prefixed to the Map of Scotland is a Table showing the Contents of each of its Divisions.
In conclusion, the Proprietors have to request the kind indulgence of the Subscribers with regard to any errors they may occasionally detect. No Topographical work can be wholly free from errors. To complain that inaccuracies have crept into a Compilation of this nature, would be only to say, in other words, that the hand of time may be stayed, that the fugitive and varying circumstances of a country can be always the same, and that perfection is attainable by man. The Proprietors have used every means to ensure correctness, and they trust that any slight faults the Work contains will be leniently regarded.