Lost 18th Century degree returns to Glasgow University

Published: 6 February 2003

A three-hundred-year-old-degree parchment of a former University librarian is returned to the University.

A three-hundred-year-old-degree parchment of a former University librarian came home to the University this month. The degree scroll bestowed a Master of Arts on to Henry Stevenson of Dunlop, University Librarian in 1772-1773 and later minister of the parish of Blantyre in Lanarkshire. The document was saved by Mr E W G Newell of Oxford while working for a furniture removal firm. 'I was working clearing houses for an Oxford auctioneer when I found the document stuck in the back of a cabinet', recounted Mr Newell. 'It seemed worth keeping as it looked official and was in Latin but I have never know what to do with it. Returning it finally to the University seemed the best thing to do'.

Glasgow University Archives is delighted to have the document back in its possession. 'We have few examples of 18th century degrees', explained Lesley Richmond, the University Archivist. 'This one is in excellent condition and the wax University seal is attached, still intact in its original metal casing. At that time, all Professors and the Principal authorised the award of a degree by putting their signature to the parchment. That would be an impossible feat to arrange today - never mind the writer's cramp! On this document we have the signatures of such famous scholars such as John Anderson, 'Jolly Jack Phosphorous' Professor of Natural Philosophy and founder of Anderson's College, now the University of Strathclyde; Thomas Reid, the Father of the 'Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense', Professor of Moral Philosophy; and John Millar, 'the father of modern sociology', Regius Professor of Law. It is a wonderful addition to our collections.

The University of Glasgow is grateful for the gift of this document which gives a physical link to a past student and member of staff. The University Archives is interested in receiving any material from former staff and students that illustrate life on campus in any age, past or present. Such material along with other collections that the University Archives hold relating to the history of the University, Higher Education in Scotland, the Scottish business community, and Scotland's industrial heritage are open to public, Monday to Friday.

See the University Archives web site for further details and contact information.

Media Relations Office (media@gla.ac.uk)

First published: 6 February 2003