Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Small, John (1828-1886)

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SMALL, JOHN (1828–1886), librarian of Edinburgh University, son of John Small and Margaret Brown his wife, was born at Edinburgh in 1828. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and the university, where he graduated M.A. in 1847. In the same year, on the death of his father, who was acting librarian of the university library, he succeeded to the post. In 1854 he obtained the full status of librarian, with an official residence. He held the office, also in succession to his father, of acting librarian to the College of Physicians (Edinburgh), for which he prepared a catalogue in 1863. He also served for many years as assistant clerk to the Senatus Academicus and editor of the ‘University Calendar.’ He was president of the Library Association in 1880, and on 21 April 1886 the university of Edinburgh gave him the degree of LL.D. He was for some time treasurer of the university musical society.

Small devoted his leisure to literary work. His first larger publication was a volume, ‘English Metrical Homilies … Edited, with an Introduction and Notes,’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1862. He was the chief associate of Cosmo Innes in editing the ‘Journal of Andrew Halyburton,’ published in 1867. Thereafter his chief labour was expended on editing, with careful glossaries and indices, the works of early Scottish poets, viz. ‘The Poetical Works of Gavin Douglas,’ 4 vols. 8vo, Edinburgh, 1874; Sir David Lyndesay's ‘Monarchie’ for the Early English Text Society (1865–6), and ‘The Poems of William Dunbar’ for the Scottish Text Society (1884–1892). In 1885 he re-edited Dr. Laing's ‘Remains of Early Scottish Poetry,’ prefixing a bibliographical notice of his predecessor. To the ‘British and Foreign Evangelical Review’ he sent an elaborate article on the authorship of the ‘Ode to the Cuckoo,’ and he contributed numerous papers to the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Society of Antiquaries. He also gave much assistance to Sir Alexander Grant in writing the ‘History of Edinburgh University’ (1884).

After a long illness he died unmarried in Edinburgh on 20 Aug. 1886, and was buried in the Grange cemetery.

Besides the works mentioned, Small wrote:

  1. ‘Some Account of the Original Protest of the Bohemian Nobles,’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1861.
  2. ‘Historical Sketch of the Library of the Royal College of Physicians,’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1863.
  3. ‘Biographical Sketch of Dr. Adam Fergusson,’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1864.
  4. ‘Biographical Sketch of Patrick Fraser Tytler,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1864.
  5. ‘A Hundred Wonders of the World in Nature and Art,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1876.
  6. ‘On Serfdom in Scotland,’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1878.
  7. ‘The Castles and Mansions of the Lothians,’ 2 vols. Edinburgh, 4to, 1878.
  8. ‘Queen Mary at Jedburgh in 1566 …’ 4to, Edinburgh, 1881.

He edited ‘The Indian Primer,’ by John Eliot, 12mo, Edinburgh, 1878; ‘The Image of Ireland,’ by John Derricke, 4to, Edinburgh, 1883; and ‘A Description of the Isles of Orkney,’ by J. Wallace, 8vo, Edinburgh, 1883.

[Obituary Notice in Scotsman, August 1886; notice of his life by Professor W. P. Dickson in Library Chron., December 1887.]

G. S-h.