Halkett, Samuel (DNB00)

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HALKETT, SAMUEL (1814–1871), librarian, was born in 1814 in the North Back of the Canongate, Edinburgh, where his father carried on business as a brewer. He was educated at two private schools, and was apprenticed at the age of fourteen. For five years he was employed by Messrs. Marshall & Aitken, and afterwards by Messrs. Abernethy & Stewart, with whom he remained until he entered into business for himself. His spare time was devoted to study, and his ‘philological genius’ and ‘extraordinary attainments’ were spoken of by Sir William Hamilton and others in supporting his candidature for the keepership of the library of the Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh, in 1848. On being appointed to that office he found the library without an alphabetical catalogue, and at once commenced a slip-catalogue, which formed the basis of the valuable ‘Catalogue of the Printed Books in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates,’ Edinburgh, 1863–79, 7 vols. 4to. The printing was begun in 1860, but the labour was so great that at Halkett's death he had not proceeded further than the word ‘Catalogue.’ The work was completed on a scale somewhat less extensive than at first planned. A report by Halkett on the state of the library in 1868 is appended to a memorandum signed by J. Hill Burton on a proposed enlargement of the scope of the library (Edinburgh, 1868, 8vo). In 1856 Halkett wrote to ‘Notes and Queries’ (2nd ser. i. 129) that he had been collecting materials for a dictionary of anonymous English works; on his death his materials were handed over to the Rev. John Laing, librarian of the New College, Edinburgh, who continued the work until his death in 1880. The book finally appeared, with many additions, edited by Miss Catherine Laing, as ‘A Dictionary of the Anonymous and Pseudonymous Literature of Great Britain’ (Edinburgh, 1882–8, 4 vols. 8vo). Halkett contributed some articles to Chambers's ‘Cyclopædia.’ His knowledge of books and literature was very great, but he was chiefly distinguished for his remarkable linguistic acquirements. He died in April 1871, aged 57, and left a widow and four children.

[Death of Mr. Halkett, reprinted from the Edinburgh Evening Courant, 21 April 1871 (1871), sm. 8vo; Testimonials in favour of Mr. Samuel Halkett, Edinburgh, 1848, 8vo; Athenæum, 27 April 1871, p. 528; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vii. 381, ix. 271, 403, 5th ser. vi. 447.]

H. R. T.