C) Title-page from Robert Burns, 'Poems, chiefly in the...
C) Title-page from Robert Burns, 'Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect', Edinburgh, 1787 - Literature, History and Music
Encouraged by the success of the first edition of his poems printed in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, in 1786, Burns (1759-96) went to Edinburgh with the intention of launching a second and larger edition. He persuaded William Creech, the foremost Scottish publisher of the time, to sponsor the venture which soon attracted 1,500 subscribers. Within a short space of time the bard was being fÇ¦ted by the leaders of the social and literary scene in the Scottish capital.
Their appearance in a volume of secular poetry must have raised a few eyebrows at the time, but appears to have excited little comment since. It was no doubt the consequence of the poet's friendship with Bishop John Geddes (1735-99) who in addition to his pastoral duties found some time to be a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica and a founder member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Burns's popularity has never faltered in the two centuries that have passed since his arrival in Edinburgh and scarcely a year passes without the publication here or abroad of some of the works of Scotland's most famous poet. One interesting feature of the extensive subscribers' list is the somewhat unlikely inclusion among them of the Scottish Roman Catholic seminaries in Europe at Paris, Douai and Valladolid.