CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 2131
TitleThomas Reid, Professor of Moral Philosophy papers (The Birkwood Collection)
Date18th century
Extent4 boxes (1.32 linear metres)
Creator NameReid; Thomas (1710-1796); King's College and Glasgow University
Administrative HistoryThomas Reid was born in Kincardineshire on 26 April 1710, a son of the manse and a descendant on his mother’s side of the famous scholarly Gregory family of Aberdeenshire. He graduated from Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1726 without having shown much promise, but obtained his licence to preach in 1731, before being appointed librarian at his old college in 1733. He resigned in 1736 and the following year was presented to New Machar parish, Aberdeenshire, where he struggled successfully to win over the congregation. He had by that time an interest in philosophy, and in 1751 became professor of philosophy at King’s College, Aberdeen. He was a keen reformer of the system of studies, increasing the scope of the philosophy course and the length of the session. Student discipline was also more strongly enforced. While he was there, he and his cousin John Gregory, professor of medicine, and others, founded the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. The Society’s debates and the papers read before it were of considerable merit. Reid, a ‘common sense’ philosopher, was recognised as a respected opponent of David Hume (1711-1776) and was awarded a DD by his old college in 1762. He was then appointed in 1764 to the chair of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow, where he taught such eminent pupils as Dugald Stewart (1753-1828). Despite being called upon as arbiter amidst his colleagues’ acrimonious disputes, he remained in post with a greatly increased number of students until 1780, when he retired. He remained extremely active in his scholarly pursuits until his death on 7 October 1796.
DescriptionThe collection comprises over 800 items relating to the writings and teachings of Thomas Reid and, along with MS 3061, represents virtually all of Reid's known, surviving manuscripts. They contain a great deal of material - both published and unpublished - pertaining to Reid, the Philosophy of Common Sense, and the "Aberdeen School", including discourses, abstracts and notes relating to the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. The manuscripts range from fair copies of papers on specific topics to miscellaneous research notes, abstracts of works read, and occasional mathematical calculations.
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementThe first interim listing provided for Aberdeen University Library was compiled by A. T. W. Liddell in 1958. The manuscripts had by this time already lost their original coherence, and Liddell 's identification of the relationship between different lecture notes and drafts of papers prompted the first efforts to re-establish a logical sequence within the collection. This work was continued by D. Fate Norton, to the extent that in 1977 a new location list was provided, relating the recent physical rearrangements of the papers to that described in Liddell's catalogue.

[The form of location symbols used has, necessarily, been based on the the Liddell and Norton precedents and does not, therefore, conform to the office's usual practices. Roman numerals were originally used to represent the contents of envelopes, in the three-fold description of each item in terms of Box, Envelope and individual item number. The present list retains these identifications, while simplifying the form. Thus, MS 2131/7/IV/2 now describes what was previously known as MS 2131, Box 7, Envelope IV, Item 2 in Norton's list (or MS 2131 Envelope II (10) in Liddell's catalogue). It is hoped that the simplified modern form will be used by scholars in any references to the collection. The lay-out of the present list has made it possible to provide, in some cases, evidence of the date of the document. It must be remembered that the nature of some of Reid's notes - his continuation, for instance, of sheets of paper at different dates and his use of old letters and printed materials bearing possibly unrelated dates - makes for difficulties in this area. The precise dating of some of the papers may need revision when further work is done. In the present listing, each item is given a note of pagination. This does not refer to Reid's own occasional page references, but is provided as an indication of the length of the document in question. It was felt that where items range from small notebooks to single sheets some such guidance would be useful. Note: the previous catalogues referred to remain in the Department of Special Libraries and Archives, and may be consulted if required.]
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe papers have been digitised and are available online.
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialMS 3061: Thomas Reid Papers (1738-1788).
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