The History of Leith

August 9, 2012

Edinburgh University

OF the four Scottish Universities, the youngest
is Edinburgh, a perfectly Protestant foundation,
as the other three were established under the
Catholic regime; yet the merit of originating the
idea of academical institutions for the metropolis
is due to Robert Reid, who, in 1558, six years
before the date of Queen Mary’s charter, ” had
bequeathed to the town of Edinburgh the sum of
8,000 merks for the purpose of erecting a University
within the city.”
In 1566 Queen Mary entered so warmly into the
views of the magistrates as actually to draw up a
charter and provide a competent endowment for
the future college. But the unsettled state of the
realm and the turbulence of the age marred the
fulfilment of her generous desire ; yet the charter
she had prepared, acted, says Bower, in his ” History,”
so powerfully upon her son, James VI., that it
was inserted in the one which is now deemed the
foundation charter of the university, granted by the
king in 1582, with the privilege of erecting houses
for the professors and students. In recalling
the active benefactors of the university, we cannot
omit the names of the Rev. James Lawson, whose
exertions contributed so greatly to the institution
of the famous High School; and of Provost’
William Little, and of Clement Little, Commissary of
Edinburgh, the latter of whom gave, in 1580, ” to
the city and kirk of God,” the whole of his library,
consisting of 300 volumes—a great collection in
those days—it is supposed -for the use of the proposed
The teachers at first established by the foundation
were a Principal or Primarius, a Professor of
Divinity, four Regents or Masters of Philosophy,
and a” Professor of Philology or Humanity.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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