Record

CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
LevelFonds
Ref NoMS 3674
Alt Ref NoMS 3674/box numbers 1-9
TitlePapers of Professor William Robertson Smith, Professor of Oriental Languages and Old Testament Exegesis, Free Church College, Aberdeen
Date1866 - 1894
Extent9 boxes (31 volumes, 15 bundles and 255 items)
Creator NameProfessor William Robertson Smith (1846-1894), Professor of Oriental Languages and Old Testament Exegesis, Free Church College, Aberdeen; Chief Librarian at University of Cambridge from 1886; Adams' Professor of Arabic at Cambridge University from 1889 and Fellow of Christ's College Cambridge.

Rev. William Pirie Smith (1811-1890), father of Professor William Robertson Smith, Rector of West End Academy, Aberdeen; from 1845 Free Church minister in Keig and Tough.

Free Church College, Aberdeen. The collection relating to William Robertson Smith held by the Free Church College, later Christ's College Aberdeen, was transferred to the University of Aberdeen in 2001.

John Sutherland Black (1846-1923), author and translator, and Smith's biographer. Dr Black was a fellow student of theology with William Robertson Smith in Edinburgh and assisted him in editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica in Smith's Cambridge period. With George Chrystal (1880-1944), he wrote "The Life of William Robertson Smith" (London; A. & C. Black, 1912).

Faculty of Divinity, University of Aberdeen. The Faculty organised the events marking the centenary of William Robertson Smith's bith in 1946 and collected memories of Smith and related materials at that time. Professor William Johnstone BD, MA, DLitt (Glasgow), Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages, organised the 1994 Congress to mark the centenary of William Robertson Smith's death.
Administrative HistoryProfessor William Robertson Smith (1846-1894) (M.A. 1865, L.L.D. 1882), born in Keig, Aberdeenshire and son of Rev. William Pirie Smith (M.A. 1839, D.D. 1873). He was Professor of Oriental Languages and Old Testament Exegesis, Free Church College, Aberdeen from 1870 but was dismissed from the Chair in 1881 on account of his article 'Bible' and other Biblical criticism in the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. From 1883 he was Lord Almoner's Reader of Arabic, Cambridge; Chief Librarian at University of Cambridge from 1886; Adams' Professor of Arabic at Cambridge University from 1889 and Fellow of Christ's College Cambridge. There is a memorial window to Smith in King's College Chapel.
Custodial HistoryThe parts of the collection deriving from William Robertson Smith's family appear to have been gathered after Smith's death by his biographer, J.S. Black, and to have passed from him to the Free Church College; they are included in the Christ's College list of 1991 (MS 3674/3/2/7).

Other parts of the collection, mainly internal Free Church materials, were collected directly by the Free Church College and held there until 2001.

The 1946 commemoration of the centenary William Robertson Smith's birth was organised by Professor A.F. Findlay, University of Aberdeen and Master of Christ's College, Aberdeen, and the papers collected at that time appear to have been combined with the Christ's College collection. The collection relating to the 1994 centenary celebrations was made by the organiser of the Congress, Professor W. Johnstone, and deposited together with the Christ's College collection in 2001.
SourceTransferred from Christ's College Aberdeen via Professor William Johnstone and deposited by Professor Ian R Torrance, Master of Christ's College in 2001.
DescriptionThe collection is arranged in four sections as follows:

1. William Robertson Smith: personal and family papers.
Most of the material in this section derives from William Robertson Smith, his family and
friends, and appears to have been collected together after Smith's death by his biographer
James Sutherland Black.

2. William Robertson Smith: professional and academic activities
Including appointments to academic positions in Aberdeen and Cambridge, publications, reviews,
travel to Germany and the Middle East, position as editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
Burnett Lectures in Aberdeen.

3. William Robertson Smith: Free Church College case
Materials relating to the libel of heresy brought against William Robertson Smith by the
Free Church of Scotland authorities, arising from his article "Bible" in the Encyclopaedia
Britannica. This article effectively introduced the continental "Higher Criticism" to Britain,
and provoked an outcry among sections of the clergy in the Free Church of Scotland and
elsewhere by arguing that the first five books of the Old Testament had not been written
by Moses.

4. William Robertson Smith: memorials and celebrations
Obituaries and subsequent tributes and assessments, including materials from the conferences
organised in Aberdeen to mark the centenary of William Robertson Smith's birth in 1946 and
the centenary of his death in 1994.
ArrangementThe collection was rearranged in 2009 but the references to the original boxes have been retained in the AltRefNo field.
Access StatusOpen
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