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Correspondence and papers, including charters and legal instruments, of the family of Skene of Rubislaw and related families; including papers concerning Sir Walter Scott and the Scott family.

Identifier: Acc.12092/1-108

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of more than 3000 documents, dating from the 1420s to 1980s, mainly relating to the family of Skene of Rubislaw (near Aberdeen). At its centre are the papers of James Skene (1775-1864), artist and friend of Sir Walter Scott. Skene corresponded with notable individuals in the cultural circles of his day and was connected with such organizations as the Royal Institution, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institute for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland, the Board of Trustees for Manufacturers, and the Bannatyne Club, among others.

Folder 10 includes some letters of James Skene himself. Other related families (folders 22-36) include Moir of Stoneywood (the family of James Skene’s mother, Jane), the Forbes family (that of Skene’s wife, Jane, daughter of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo), Russell of Aden, Keith of Ludquhairn, Gordon of Balgown, Ramsay of Invernellie and Peterhead, and Skene of Halyards and Curriehill.

Later family papers (folders 37-39) include correspondence and other material of James Skene’s three sons: 1) George Skene (1807-1875), advocate and professor of law in Glasgow University; 2) William Forbes Skene, historian (1809-1892), author of (among other titles) 'Celtic Scotland: a History of Ancient Alban', and the 'Memorials of the Family of Skene' and historiographer royal for Scotland; and 3) James Hay Skene (1812-1886), author and Consul General at Aleppo.

Major Payne acquired - and in some cases extracted from the Skene papers - material relating to Sir Walter Scott and his family (folders 87-99). Of particular note are letters from Scott, his daughter and son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart (folder 89), and correspondence (more than 100 items) by or relating to Scott’s father, Walter Scott, W.S, written from 1774 to 1806. Dr J. C. Corson arranged this material and produced an index (located in folder 91). A further acquisition by Major Payne comprised two commonplace books of James Ellis (1763-1830) of Otterburn, poetical editor and associate of Sir Walter Scott. These volumes include an ‘Ode to the Genius of Scott’, accounts of visits to Scott, poetry, transcriptions of letters, and a collection of verse by Thomas Bedingfeld, whom Ellis edited.


  • Creation: Circa 1420-1989, undated.

Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal reproduction conditions apply, subject to any copyright restrictions.


108 Consultation units

Language of Materials



A part of Major Payne’s collection was inventoried by the National Register of Archives for Scotland in October 1969 [survey 0464]. As this ordering had not been fully retained at the time of accession, a more logical regrouping was implemented, bringing together papers of families and individuals and establishing a more consistent chronology.

Custodial History

The archive was formerly in the possession of Major P I C. Payne, of Minehead, in Somerset, who acquired the material by purchase from various sources. Some of Major Payne’s own papers relating to the collection from the 1960s, 70s and 80s are included (folders 102-107).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bought, 2002, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, London.

Related Materials

MSS.965. Relics of Correspondence with Sir Walter Scott, Explanatory Notes, and other Reminiscences, by J. Skene, Edinburgh, 1833. MSS.3854. Thirty-six letters of Sir Alexander Boswell, 1st Baronet of Auchinleck, to James Skene, of Rubislaw, referring largely to personal and family matters. MSS.20465-20476. Correspondence and papers of James Skene of Rubislaw (1775-1864), the artist and antiquary; including some earlier material concerning the Skene family. MSS.20477. Journal of James Skene of Rubislaw kept in French while travelling from Hanau through Cassel and Hamburg to London. MSS.20478-20479. Reminiscences and notes concerning the Moir family Bible which had belonged to Charles I. MSS.20480. Notebook, number 13 of a series, of James Skene. Acc.8518. Travel diary of an unknown Scotsman. Acc.9718. Printed circular of James Skene of Rubislaw, "Monumento a Walter Scott". Acc.10050. Copy of Felicia M F Skene "Use and Abuse", illustrated by eight tipped in watercolour views by the author`s father, James Skene, of Rubislaw. Acc.10608. Letters, 1829-1832, of Andrew Wilson to James Skene of Rubislaw. Acc.11068. Six letters of M de Pourtalès-Gorgier of Neuchâtel, to James Skene of Rubislaw. Acc.11537. 21 letters of James Henry Skene to his father, James Skene of Rubislaw and other members of his family.

Related Materials

Other James Skene and Skene family materials are located in the Edinburgh Public Library, Edinburgh University Library, the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland (GD244), Aberdeen University Library and University College, London.

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
National Library of Scotland
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Finding Aid Prepared Using Local Descriptive Rules
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Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

Archives and Manuscript Division
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EJ
0131 623 3700