Collection SIB - Papers relating to Sir Robert Sibbald

Identity area

Reference code

GB235 SIB

Title

Papers relating to Sir Robert Sibbald

Date(s)

  • 2003 - 2011 (Accumulation)
  • 1670 - 1922 (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

Collection; ephemera, 1 box of misc. papers & 1 book

Context area

Name of creator

(1641-1722)

Biographical history

Born Edinburgh 1641; died Edinburgh 1722
Robert Sibbald was educated in Cupar, at Edinburgh High School, and at the university there when he was awarded an MA in 1659. From 1660 to 1661 he studied anatomy and surgery and botany and chemistry at Leiden before moving to Paris and then Angers where he graduated MD in 1661. Returning to Edinburgh to practise as a doctor he was appalled at the state of medicine in the city and initially established a private garden to cultivate medicinal herbs. In 1670, with his friend and distant cousin Andrew Balfour, he leased a small plot belonging to Holyroodhouse at St. Anne’s Yards to assemble a collection of between 800 and 900 plants. This, together with a second (physic) garden at the Trinity Hospital acquired 6 years later, became a major site for plants of use in material medica and a teaching resource for medical students. Sibbald was a joint founder of a medical virtuoso club which in 1681 became the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was knighted in 1682, appointed physician in ordinary to Charles II and made geographer royal for Scotland. In 1684 he produced a ‘Pharmacopeia Edinburgensis’ and the following year he became the first professor of medicine at Edinburgh University. However hostility to his conversion to Catholicism (which he later renounced) meant he had to flee temporarily to London. On his return to Edinburgh he developed a deepening interest in natural history, geography and antiquarianism and from 1682 became involved in compiling information from a range of sources on the geography and natural history of Scotland, resulting in the publication of ‘Scotia Illustrata’ in 1684, with a second edition in 1696. Drawing on his various interests, Sibbald contributed to early Enlightenment discourses on the economic potential of the nation. As a physician he explored the efficacy of botanical cures by extracted from Scottish plant life and his botanical work was admired by Linnaeus who named the genus Sibbaldia in his honour.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; HR Fletcher and WH Brown ‘The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1670-1970’; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; (R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists).
D.W.

Archival history

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

•1 box of papers and a study of the Life of Sibbald, Dr Archibald Pitcairne (The first professors of medicine in the University of Edinburgh) also Charles Alston and John Hope.
•Copy of Doctor of Medicine R.S. ‘Provision for the Poor in Time of Dearth and Scarcity.’ Second Edition, ECCO Prints (2011).
Temporary numbering and listing (M.R.):
Box 1 of 2
• GB235 SIB/1 Typescript copies and photocopies. Sources include Peel Ritchie, “Early Days of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh”; Sir Alexander Grant, “Story of the University of Edinburgh”; Alexander Bower, “History of the University of Edinburgh,” 1817; Andrew Dalzel, “History of the University of Edinburgh,” 1862. Subjects include the establishment of a medical school and Chair of Botany at the University of Edinburgh; history of the Royal College of Physicians; founding of the Edinburgh Botanic Garden; misc. descriptions of Edinburgh sites, including the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Arthur’s Seat, and the Physic Garden (extract from “Historical Description of the Monastery and Chapel Royal at Holyroodhouse”); life of Robert Sibbald; burning of Sibbald’s house; pensions paid to Papists; outcry against Sibbald’s desertion of the Protestant religion (extracts from Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall, “The Decisions of the Lords of Council and Session” and “Historical Observes”, 1685); nomenclature of plants referred to in Sibbald’s History of Fife (extracts from Scots Magazine, 1803–1804; extracts from Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata, with a description of the Edinburgh Physick Garden; transcript of letter from Sibbald on his “memoria Balfouriana,” June 1699; photocopy of note from W.W. Smith to J.T. Johnstone, on Sir Andrew Balfour, 1932; 2 photocopies of newspaper cutting on the unveiling of a plaque at Greyfriars Kirk to commemorate Sibbald, Sept. 1981.
• GB235 SIB/2 Ms. letter from Raymond Morris of Balgonie & Eddergoll to the Regius Keeper, on Robert Sibbald’s connections with Balgonie, Nov. 2003, and reply from Douglas R. McKean, Nov. 2003; postcard (aerial view) of Balgonie Castle, Fife; brochure with photographs and history of Balgonie Castle.

Box 2 of 2
• GB235 SIB/3 Binder, typescripts. Subjects include biographies of Sir Robert Sibbald, Dr. Archibald Pitcairne, Dr. Charles Alston, and Dr. John Hope; Charta Erectionis (in Latin), Charter of Ratification, and Regulations, Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, 1685; Regulations respecting Medical Degrees of the University of Edinburgh. “The Author has occasionally inserted in his work Biographical Notices of various eminent Physicians and Surgeons, both in these Islands & on the Continent, who were contemporaries and correspondents of the Professors whose lives he has attempted to record.”
Note: “See the MS. volume in library, letters in pocket at back, referring to the provenance of the original work,” Sept., 1966.

Access points:
History of RBGE
History of Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh

Name access points:
Charles Alston
Sir Andrew Balfour
John Hope
Raymond Morris of Balgonie & Eddergoll
Archibald Pitcairne

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  • Shelf: C:1:1