Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood

This year I was put on a book budget by my wife. I had spent far too much money last year. But the good news is that I earned some money from a few awards this year and so we agreed that I could set aside this money to purchase books.

For the past few years, I have wanted to buy some antiquarian books, and, if possible, an authentic letter from one of the 18th-century evangelicals who I have studied. Manuscript letters for sale are almost always outrageously expensive, and usually outside the budget of a humble assistant professor's salary. However, I was able to purchase a letter from Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood to his publisher Thomas Cadell, dated July 1793, for a reasonable price. As a scholar who is interested in the history of the book, I found this letter to be particularly important. It provides the monetary arrangement between the two men for Moncreiff's edited volume of Robert Henry's History of Great Britain (1771–93). In the letter, Moncreiff acknowledges receipt of £420, a decent chunk of change (though by no means excessive) back then.

After purchasing the letter, I came up with the idea of mounting an image of Moncreiff next to the manuscript. I thought that I would simply print the TIFF image of a caricature taken from John Kay's Originial Portraits that I had scanned a few years ago. But first I decided to do a search on the web to see if there were any other images of Moncreiff available. To my surprise, I found an antique dealer in London selling a print of Moncreiff from 1812 for a pittance. Today, I had the pleasure of placing both images in frames that will hang in my office, beginning this Monday.

The image shown at the top of the page is the print that I purchased. It is taken from a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn. The original painting by Raeburn hangs over the fireplace inside Tullibole Castle (pictured above). I visited the castle several years ago, when I was doing research on John Erskine, the subject of my first book. The current Lord and Lady Moncreiff allowed me to look at Moncreiff's papers for information pertaining to Erskine. Moncrieff wrote an Account of the Life and Writings of John Erskine (1818), which was essential for my research on Erskine.

Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood is another influential early evangelical who has received virtually no scholarly attention. There is a mountain of manuscripts on Moncrieff held at Tullibole Castle awaiting a future scholar who is interested in writing a dissertation, book, or journal articles on this important Scottish minister and aristocrat.

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