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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
The Brothers Foulis as Book Auctioneers


"THE two Foulises," says Dr. Wodrow, "in spite of their poverty and birth, were pro nobile fratrum. They seem to have been made for one another. Though similar in their good disposition, they were totally opposite in different turns of mind. Neither of them when separated from the other could have done much for himself or the world: but, like the members of the human body, they were admirably fitted by an all-directing Providence, by their conjunction and union, to do much in their station for the honour of their country, and the general improvement of society."

Andrew had, during their long and celebrated career, laboured with the most slavish industry. After the establishment of the Academy of the Fine Arts in 1759, the superintendence of the printing, bookselling, and bookbinding departments of the business devolved upon him. Besides these occupations, they had every evening in winter an auction of books, when on many occasions the character of Robert Foulis appeared in rather an amusing point of view. Andrew generally officiated as auctioneer, but if prevented from attending, his brother took his place.

On these occasions, when a book was presented to him for sale, he not only announced the title, but frequently continued an extemporaneous harangue upon its contents. His candour, however, prevented him from universally praising the book. When the History of Tom Jones was one night handed to him, he exclaimed with considerable warmth:

How was this book presented? It is improper for the perusal of young persons ;" and having said this he returned it to the clerk.

On another occasion, having observed a student whose appearance did not indicate a superabundance of the good things of this world, offer several times for a copy of Antomnus, he asked whether he was anxious to have it? And being answered in the affirmative, he presented it to him. But such opportunities of his displaying his generosity were not often afforded him; for his brother, aware of his propensities, hastened to disengage himself, and exert in a, partly in jest and partly in earnest, an authority which on other occasions he rarely claimed, he would say:

"Robin, that place and that business are not for you." And thus was he dismissed from that employment.


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