KER, or KERR,
a word signifying strength, the English form of which is Carr, the
surname of two noble families of Anglo-Norman lineage, Roxburghe and
Lothian, descended from two brothers, Ralph and Robert, sons of the
family of Kerr of Kerrshall in Lancashire, originally of the Kerrs of
Normandy, who came over at the Conquest. Which of the brothers was the
elder has not be ascertained. They are said to have come to Scotland
in the 13th century, and settling in Roxburghshire became
the founders of two separate races of warlike border chieftains, the
Kerrs of Ferniehirst and the Kerrs of Cessford. Of the former the
marquis of Lothian is the male representative, (see LOTHIAN, Marquis
of), and of the latter the duke of Roxburghe is the head (see
ROXBURGHE, Duke of).
barons of this name appear in the Ragman Roll as having sworn fealty
to Edward I. in 1296.
third duke of Roxburghe, a celebrated bibliomanist, was born in London
April 23, 1740, and succeeded his father, the second duke, in 1755.
Having acquired an extraordinary taste for old publications, he formed
the largest private collection of rare and curious books in the
kingdom. He died, unmarried, March 19, 1804, and was buried at Bowden,
near Melrose. The public sale of his extensive library, which
consisted of nearly ten thousand books, and was particularly rich in
old romances of chivalry and early English poetry, took place in May
1812, and created an unprecedented excitement among book collectors.
The catalogue was made out principally by Mr. G. Nichol, bookseller to
the king. The prices paid for some of the works were enormous. A copy
of the first edition of the Decameron of Boccaccio, printed at Venice
by Valdarfar, in 1471, was bought by the marquis of Blandford,
afterwards duke of Marlborough, for £2,260 sterling; a copy of the
first work printed by Caxton, with a date, ‘Recuyell of the Historyes
of Troye,’ (1461, folio,) was sold for one thousand guineas; and a
copy of the first edition of Shakspeare (1623, folio), for one hundred
guineas. In commemoration of this event, the Roxburghe club, was
formed for the collection of rare books, the preservation of curious
MSS., and the reprint of scarce and curious tracts, for the use of the
members of the club.
KERR, SIR ROBERT,
afterwards earl of Ancrum, an accomplished poet and courtier,
descended from Sir Andrew Kerr of Ferniehurst, in Roxburghshire, was
the direct male ancestor of the present noble family of Lothian, and
was born about 1578. He succeeded to the family estate on the
assassination of his father in 1609, and was one of the ordinary
gentlemen of the bedchamber, who attended James VI. on his accession
to the English throne. In 1619 he became involved in a quarrel which
arose between the Maxwells and Johnstones, respecting the wardenship
of the western marches, and having received a challenge from Charles
Maxwell, he unfortunately slew his antagonist in the duel that
followed, and was, in consequence, brought to trial for murder at
Cambridge, but acquitted. The king, however, showed his displeasure by
banishing him from court, on which he went over to the Continent,
where he formed a collection of paintings, which he afterwards made a
present of to Prince Charles. Through the intercession of some of his
friends, he was at length recalled, and restored to his place at
accession of Charles I. in 1625, he was promoted to be a lord of the
bedchamber, and in 1633 was raised to the peerage, by the titles of
earl of Ancrum, and Lord Kerr of Nisbet, &c. During the ensuing civil
commotions, his lordship continued steadfast in his loyalty and
attachment to King Charles, and on the execution of that unfortunate
monarch, he was compelled to take refuge in Holland, where, after
being reduced to great poverty, he died in 1654. His portrait is
[portrait of Robert Kerr]
only specimen of his poetical powers extant is a beautiful ‘Sonnet in
Praise of a Solitary Life,’ addressed to Drummond of Hawthornden, in
1624, which, with a letter accompanying it, is printed in the works of
that poet. The infamous favourite of James VI., Robert Kerr, or Carr,
created earl of Somerset, was the cousin of the subject of this
a mincellaneous writer and translator, was born in Roxburghshire in
1755. His father, Mr. James Kerr of Bughtridge, was a jeweller in
Ediburgh, and M.P. for the city, and his mother was the daughter of
Lord Charles Kerr, second son of the first marquis of Lothian. After
receiving his classical education at the High School, he studied
medicine at the university of Edinburgh; and, on being admitted a
member of the college of surgeons, he entered into partnership with a
Mr. Wardrope, whose daughter he afterwards married. In 1794 he
purchased and undertook the management of a paper-mill at Ayton, in
Berwickshire, by which he lost a considerable sum of money, and became
much reduced in circumstances. He died October 11, 1813, leaving one
son, a captain in the navy, and two married daughters.
His works are:
Elements of Chemistry, in a new systematic order; containing all
the Modern Discoveries. Illustrated with thirteen copperplates, from
the French of M. Lavoisier. Edin. 1790, 8vo. 2d edit. considerably
enlarged and improved. 1793.
Essay on the New Method of Bleaching by means of Oxygenated
Muriatic Acid; with an account of the Nature, Preparation, and
Properties of that Acid, and its application to several useful
purposes in the Arts. From the French of Berthollet. Edin. 1790, 12mo.
The Animal Kingdom, or Zoological System of the celebrated
Linnaeus; Class i. Mammalia, being a translation of that part of the
Systema Naturae, as lately published, with great improvements, by
Professor Embdin; together with numerous additions from more recent
Zoological Writers. Plates. Vol. i. p. i. Edin. 1792, 4to.
The Natural History of Oviparous Quadrupeds and Serpents;
arranged and published from the Papers and Collections of the court de
buffon, by the Count de la Cepède. Illustrated with copperplates.
Translated from the French. Lond. 1802, 4 vols. 8vo.
Statistical, Agricultural, and Political Survey of Berwickshire.
Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Correspondence of the late
Mr. William Smellie. Lond. 1811, 2 vols. 8vo.
General History and Collection of Boyages and Travels; arranged
in systematic order. Lond. 1811, 8vo.
The History of Scotland, during the Reign of Robert I., surnamed
the Bruce. Edin. 1811, 2 vols. 8vo.
Cuvier’s Essay on the Theory of the Earth, a translation.
Posthumous, Edin. 1815, With Introduction and Notes by Professor
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