Reid, Thomas (d.1624) (DNB00)

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REID, READ, or RHÆDUS, THOMAS (d. 1624), Latin secretary to King James I, was second son of James Reid, minister of Banchory Ternan, Kincardineshire, a cadet of the Pitfoddels family. Alexander Reid (1586?–1643) [q. v.] was a younger brother. Thomas was educated at the grammar school, Aberdeen, and at Marischal College and University, where he appears to have graduated M.A. about 1600. In 1602 he was appointed to a mastership in the grammar school, which he resigned in the following year on being chosen one of the regents in Marischal College. After conducting a university class through the four years of their curriculum, he went to the continent, where he prosecuted his studies, at first in France, and afterwards at the universities of Rostock and Leipzig. While at Rostock, where he was admitted a ‘docent’ in December 1608, he ‘taught philosophy and humane letters for several years with distinguished reputation,’ and carried on a disputation on metaphysical subjects with Henningus Arnisæus, professor of medicine in the university of Frankfort. Reid's contributions to the discussion are characterised by Sir William Hamilton as displaying elegant scholarship and great philosophical talent. He matriculated at Leipzig in the summer of 1613. Returning to England he was associated with Patrick Young in the translation into Latin of James I's English writings, and in 1618 was appointed Latin secretary to the king, an office which he retained until his death in 1624. He lived in habits of intimacy with the most distinguished men of his age, and ‘had hardly his match for largeness of knowledge of foreign courts.’ In 1620 he was, with his brother Alexander [q. v.], incorporated M.A. Oxon. Several of his poems appear in the ‘Delitiæ Poetarum Scotorum’ (Amsterdam, 1637).

It is, however, neither as a poet, nor as a diplomatist, nor as a metaphysician, that Reid is now remembered, but as the founder of the first public reference library in Scotland. By his will he bequeathed to the town and new college of Aberdeen his collection of books, and six thousand merks to endow a librarian who ‘sall hold the door of the librarie patent and oppin four dayes of the weeke the whole yeir.’ Reid's collection, which included ‘the fairest and largest editions of all the classics that were printed from the time of Aldus Manutius until the year 1615 … and many valuable and curious manuscripts,’ now forms an integral part of the library of the university of Aberdeen; but his endowment, which at first made the librarianship the best paid office in the college, was frittered away through the mismanagement of the town council, and now yields only about 12l. 10s. per annum. From 1733 to 1737 the librarianship was held by Reid's eminent kinsman and namesake, Thomas Reid (1710–1796) [q. v.], the philosopher.

An oil-painting of Reid, the property of the university of Aberdeen, has been reproduced in photogravure in the New Spalding Club's ‘Fasti Academiæ Mariscallanæ,’ and in stained glass in one of the windows of the Mitchell Hall, Marischal College.

Reid's chief works are:

  1. ‘De Accidente Proprio Theoremata Philosophica,’ Rostock, 1609.
  2. ‘Pervigilium Lunæ de Objecto Metaphysicæ,’ Rostock, 1609.
  3. ‘De Ente,’ Rostock, 1610.
  4. ‘De Proprietatibus Entis,’ Rostock, 1610.
  5. ‘De Veritate et Bonitate Entis,’ Rostock, 1610.
  6. ‘De Diversitate Entis,’ Rostock, 1610.
  7. ‘De Objecto Metaphysicæ Dissertatio Elenctica,’ Rostock, 1610.
  8. ‘Pervigilia Metaphysica Desideratissima,’ Rostock, 1616.
  9. ‘Dissertatio quod regibus et licitum et decorum sit scribere’ in Thomas Smith's ‘Vitæ,’ London, 1707.

[Aberdeen Town Council Minutes; Aberdeen University Buik of Register; Ayton's Epicedium in obitum Thomæ Rhædi; Blackwell's Account of Marischal College; Cal. State Papers (Dom.); Dempster's Historia Ecclesiastica; Devon's Issues of the Exchequer; Thomas Smith's Vitæ quorundam Eruditissimorum Virorum: William Smith's Academiæ Marischallanæ Mæcenates; Wood's Fasti Oxonienses; Franck's Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiques; information kindly furnished by the librarian of the University of Rostock.]

P. J. A.