The Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language by John Jamieson (1759-1838) is a good example of the increasingly ‘scientific’ approach to the study of language taking place during the 1800s. Jamieson, a Glasgow-born Minister’s son, started attending Glasgow University at just 9 years old – precocious even for an age when Scottish students enrolled at university far younger than today. At University he acquired an interest and considerable expertise in etymology and philology, eventually leading to his Dictionary, first published in 1818.
The Dictionary went through a number of revisions and additions over the following years – the copy shown here dates from 1867 and includes extra blank pages where the user can add his or her own notes and comments. Jamieson’s Dictionary was a valuable reference work for later generations of Scots students and authors including Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978), who apparently used a copy when creating his poems.