Long serving librarians

The next two librarians spent rather longer in the Library’s employ, with James Archer in charge during the move to Bromley House, and then being the first of several of our librarians who left the Library rather precipitously.

1820 – 1834 James Archer

 The previous librarian, Valentine Kirk, had left in June 1820 and Archer was certainly appointed well before 1/3/1821 when all books were to be returned prior to the move to Bromley House which opened in April 1821. The Librarian’s salary had been confirmed as £35 per annum (3/10/1820) and he was to be on duty from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a break for his dinner from 2 to 3 p.m. and another break of 30 minutes for tea to be taken on the premises.

A minute of 3/10/1820 records a gift of the 4th volume of Walpole’s works from the Librarian this having been damaged by a subscriber. On 4/9/1826 he was allowed 3 weeks leave to go to Edinburgh, but was to be back by Goose Fair, and this pattern of release was repeated over the years. In 1826 his place filled by Robert Hardy and Thomas Hawkesley who was appointed on a short term basis and who received 1 guinea on 4/12/1826.

From about 1820 up to about 1830 he was the witness to 78 signatures on the Library Rules document. He produced the Appendix to the Library Catalogue for 1824 and a supplement for 1825. Thomas Jowett supervised Archer’s production of the Appendix to the Library Catalogue for the present year (1826) and an Appendix to the Standfast Catalogue of 1817. Archer seems not to have been involved with the 1829 catalogue.


  • a map of Edinburgh – From his visit to Scotland (9/10/1826);
  • a biography of the bank robber, James Mackcoull;
  • Bertholet: Essay on Chemical Statics (5/2/1827);
  • The Scottish Tourist (4/6/1827)
  • Chalmers: Traditions of Edinburgh (2 vols.) (19/9/1827).

He again had three weeks leave granted on 1/8/1831 and on subsequent occasions but was expected to return before Goose Fair at the start of October.

The Interest Book has a number of receipt slips pasted inside its covers.
These acknowledge payments by James Archer (librarian) of interest on Bromley House Building shares.

On 25/7/1834 he was brought before a special meeting of the Committee as he had absented himself and ‘conducted himself in a highly improper manner’ and he was found to be ‘unfit to retain his office’. He was discharged.

On 4/8/1834 the Committee received a letter from Archer asking to be reinstated.
On 5/11/1834 a special sub-committee wrote to members urging them not to support Archer, and shortly after that he wrote to state that he would not apply for the vacant post of Librarian.

A letter to James Archer
A letter to James Archer from a Willie Cameron dated ‘Edinboro 21st Nov. 1813’ was discovered in the Library in February 2008. In it Cameron exhorts Archer to come soon to Edinburgh and the two men were obviously great friends and drinking companions.

The letter is addressed to Archer at ‘Mrs Harpham’s, Fletcher gate’. Curiously the letter was written more than two years before the foundation of the Library and some seven years before Archer began his employment there.

 1834 – 1857 John Walton

 He was described as ‘of Grantham’ when appointed rather quickly as Librarian to replace James Archer (25/7/1834).

He and his wife were provided with a residence, but had to provide a £100 security payment, which was offered by Thomas Burgess of Grantham (7/12/1835). He was granted two weeks leave (3/8/1835) and agreed to whitewash the dwelling (5/6/1837).
His salary, initially £50 per annum, rose to £65 in 1846 and to £70 in 1849. In 1845 the Committee agreed to increase his ‘Christmas box’ from £5 to £10 (7/4/1845).

In 1849 the Committee decided that his kitchen was to be cleaned (2/7/1849).

An innovation in the Library organisation occurred in 1851 when he was entrusted with £20 as petty cash (7/7/1851). He was responsible for the preparation of three catalogues in the 1850s and received an extra payment of £3 3s 0d for his work on the revised catalogue on 7/2/1853.

The poor quality of the 1857 supplement to the catalogue may be an indication of his failing health (Hoare, 1991). His sudden death was reported on 19/10/1857.


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