ADAM SMITH'S SCHOOLBOY TEXTBOOK ON LEARNING GREEK ON DISPLAY AT KIRKCALDY'S MUSEUM
I received a message from Craig Smith, a co-editor with Chris Berry and Maria Paganeli of “The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith”, (Oxford University Press), who with Nicholas Phillipson (author of “Adam Smith An Enlightened Life” (Yale) visited the Museum in Kirkcaldy, Fife, birthplace of Adam Smith.
The illustration of the Greek primer school book, inscribed with Adam Smith’s signature, unfortunately did not reproduce on the blog (readers who email me I can try to send it back -it arrived by email...).
Smith attended Kirkcaldy Burgh School in Hill Street from 1731-1737, where among other subjects he studied Greek and Latin. He must have been an attentive student because when he went to Glasgow University in1737 he went straight to the third-year Latin class and as an adult he was a fluent Latin speaker and reader (see Ian S. Ross. “The Life of Adam Smith”, p. 18. Oxford University Press).
The Kirkcaldy Musem has several items of interest to Adam Smith scholars and visitors are welcome to see and ask questions about them. The Museum is to be congratulated for carefully collecting and displaying what limited materials are available, including the above book.
Numerous local Kirkcaldy folk have taken a close interest in their town’s most famous son. A couple of years ago, I joined local historians on a excellently well-informed, conducted tour of places of interest in the town, including the Kirk that he attended with his mother up to 1737 (he was born 5 June, 1723).
The Kirkcaldy Burgh School was situated a hundred yards or so down Hill Street (its now a tarred-over car park) and further down it joins the High Street, where opposite Hill Street stood his Mother’s house in its garden that fronted onto the shore line of the Firth of Forth, a short distance from Kirkcaldy’s seaport, where is father was for some time a Customs Official at the harbour before he died in January 1723.
While his mother’s house was demolished in the 19th century, the garden and its walls remain much as they were when Smith lived there from 1767 to 1773 to compile his manuscript of the Wealth Of Nations, published in 1776 (he had started writing parts of what became its text for his Glasgow lectures before 1762). Another three years were spent in London completing his famous book and guiding it through the press, as well as him being “very zealous” in debating on American affairs with politicians prior to The Declaration of Independence - see Ian Ross, above, pp. 265-84).
There is an ambitous plan to restore an 18th century building at the end of his mother's garden into an exhibition centre of all things related to Adam Smith and to present public and well-researched history events, conferences with leading world speakers.
Should readers be in Scotland, I recommend a visit to Kirkcaldy (short rail c. 25-minute journey from Edinburgh across the Forth Bridge - in Smith’s days the journey by boat and on horse-back took much longer and was far less comfortable.)
[Craig Smith and Nicholas Phillipson are to be congratulated on their initiative in visiting the Museum, as are the Trustees of Kirkcaldy Museum for displaying their Adam Smith collection.]