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The Scottish Nation

RUDDIMAN, THOMAS, an eminent grammarian and scholar, the son of a respectable farmer, was born in the parish of Boyndie, Banffshire, in October 1674. He received the grammatical part of his education at the parish school, and, in November 1690, he obtained, by his superior knowledge of Latin, the first bursary in King’s College, Aberdeen. In June 1694 he took the degree of M.A., and soon after was engaged by Mr. Robert Young, of Auldbar, as tutor to his son. In February 1695 he was appointed schoolmaster of Laurencekirk, in Kincardineshire, where he remained about three years and a half. About the end of 1699, the celebrated Dr. Pitcairn being detained for a night by bad weather at the village inn, sent for the schoolmaster to partake of his dinner, and spend the evening with him, when he was so much pleased with his conversation and attainments, that he invited him to Edinburgh, with the promise of his patronage. Ruddiman accordingly repaired to the metropolis about the beginning of 1700, and on his arrival Dr. Pitcairn procured him employment in the Advocates’ Library. In 1701 he married Barbara Scollay, the daughter of a gentleman of Orkney, and May 2, 1702, he was formally appointed assistant librarian in the Advocates’ Library, with the insignificant salary of £8 6s. 8d. sterling per annum. He contrived to assist his income, however, by copying chronicles and chartularies for the university of Glasgow, and revising and editing works for the booksellers. His first publication of this kind was Sir Robert Sibbald’s ‘Introductio ad Historiam Rerum a Romanis Gestarum in ea Boreali Britanniae parte quae ultra Murum Picticum est;’ and he next revised ‘The Practiques of the Laws of Scotland,’ by Sir Robert Spotiswoode. In 1707 he published an edition of the ‘Animi Tranquillitate Dialogus,’ by Volusenus, or Wilson, with a new preface, and a sketch of the author’s life. The same year he commenced practicing as a book auctioneer, confining himself principally to the sale of learned works and school-books. In 1709 he published a new edition, with notes, of ‘Johnstoni Cantici Solomonis Paraphrasis Poetica,’ which he dedicated to Dr. Pitcairn. To an edition of the translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, by Gavin Douglas, published in 1710, Mr. Ruddiman added a glossary, explanatory of the difficult words, and serving for a dictionary to the old Scottish language. A vacancy happening soon after in the grammar school of Dundee, the magistrates invited him to fill the office of rector, but the faculty of advocates voluntarily increased his salary, and he declined the offer. In 1711 he aided in preparing for publication a new edition of the works of Drummond of Hawthornden, and assisted Abercromby in publishing the first volume of his ‘Martial Achievements of the Scots Nation.’ In 1713 he published a new and improved edition of the Latin Vocabulary of John Forrest; and, on the death of his friend, Dr. Pitcairn, the same year, in his character of auctioneer, he managed the sale of his library, which was purchased by Peter the Great, emperor of Russia.

In 1714 Ruddiman published his ‘Rudiments of the Latin Tongue,’ which at once superseded every work of a similar nature, and continues to be the standard elementary class-book for the Latin language in the schools of Scotland. In 1715 appeared his accurate and valuable edition of the works of Buchanan, with notes, in two volumes folio; but his free strictures on Buchanan’s character and political principles involved him in a lengthened controversy with various persons. In the same year (1715), he commenced printer, in partnership with his brother Walter, who had been brought up to the business, and the first production of their press was the second volume of ‘Abercromby’s Martial Achievements.’ IN 1725 he published the first part of his ‘Grammaticae Latinae Institutiones,’ and the second part appeared in 1732.

In 1724 he began to print ‘The Caledonian Mercury;’ and in 1729 he acquired the whole property of that newspaper, which continued in his family till 1772, when it was sold by the trustees of his grandchildren. In 1728 he was nominated, conjunctly with James Davidson, printer to the university; and in 1730, on the death of Mr. John Spottiswood, he was appointed principal keeper of the Advocates’ Library. In 1739 he edited the ‘Diplomata et Numismata Scotiae,’ a work left incomplete by the death of the author, Mr. James Anderson, to which he prefixed an admirable introduction in Latin. In 1745 he published a ‘Vindication of buchanan’s Version of the Psalms,’ in opposition to an English gentleman of the name of Benson, who had preferred the version of Dr. Arthur Johnston. During the summer of that year he retired from the disturbed scenes of Edinburgh to the sequestered quiet of the country, where he wrote, but without any view to publication, ‘Critical Observations on Burman’s Commentary upon Lucan’s Pharsalie.’ Which that eminent scholar had published at Leyden in 1740. He afterwards issued several small treatises on disputed parts of Scottish history, to which he was impelled by the abusive attacks of his adversaries. He contributed his assistance to various other works than those mentioned, and also printed many of the classics, which are still sought after. His portrait is subjoined.

[portrait of Thomas Ruddiman]

In 1751, at the age of 77, his eyesight began to fail, a misfortune, however, which did not prevent him from continuing his correspondence with his friends, or pursuing his studies, with his accustomed ardour; and, in the course of the same year, he brought out at Edinburgh his edition of Livy, in four volumes 12mo, which Harwood declares is one of the most accurate ever published. He resigned his charge of librarian to the faculty of advocates, January 7, 1752, and was succeeded by David Hume. Ruddiman died at Edinburgh January 19, 1757, aged 83, and was interred in the Greyfriars churchyard, where a monument was in 1806 erected to his memory. His works are:

Voluseni de Animi Tranquillitate, Dialogus. To which he prefixed a Life of Volusenus (or Wilson). Edin. 1707, 8vo.
Johnstoni Cantici Solomonis Paraphrasis Poetica. Edin. 1709, 8vo.
New edition of Virgil’s Aeneid, by Gawin Douglas, with Corrections and a Glossary. Edin. 1710, fol.
He also published a valuable and accurate edition of George Buchanan’s Works, printed by R. Freebairn, 1715, 2 vols. Fol. This edition was republished, with a Preface, and a few additional Notes, by the learned Peter Burman, at Leyden, 1725, 2 vols, 4to.
Rudiments of the Latin Tongue with Notes, explaining the terms and rules of Grammar, Edin. 1714, 12mo. 17 edition. Edin. 1769, 8vo. With Additions by Mr. Moir. Edin. 1779, 8vo. New stereotype edition by J. Dymock. Grammaticae Latinae Institutiones, facili, atque ad Puerorum captum accommodate, methode perscriptae; additae sunt, in provectiorum gratiam, notae perpetuae; quibus non solum Latini sermonis praecepta plenius explicantur, sed et ea pleraque omnia, quae a summis grammaticis aliisque ad hanc artem illustrandum sunt observata, succincte simul perspicueque traduntur. Perfecit, et suis animadversionibus auxit, Thomas Ruddimannus, A.M., duobus partibus, Edinburgi; in aedibus auctoris. Edin. 1725-31, 2 vols. 8vo. Grammaticae Latinae Institutiones, (sine Notis perpetuis). Edin. 1740, 12mo. It has since passed through many editions.
Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiae. 1739. Begun by Anderson, but finished and published by Ruddiman, who wrote the admirable Introduction, a translation of which was published separately at Edinburgh, 1773, 12mo.
A Vindication of Mr. George Buchanan’s Paraphrase of the Book of Psalms, against the objections of William Benson, Esq. Edin. 1745, 8vo.
An Answer to the Rev. G. Logan’s late Treatise on Government. Edin. 1747, 8vo.
A Dissertation concerning the Competition for the Crown of Scotland betwixt Bruce and Baliol in 1291, wherein is proved that the right of Bruce was preferable to that of Baliol. Edin. 1748, 8vo.
Animadversions on a late pamphlet, entitled, A Vindication of Mr. George Buchanan, &c. Edin. 1749, 8vo.
An edition of Livy. Edin. 1751, 4 vols, 12mo. This is said to be the most accurate edition of Livy ever published.
Anticrisis; or, a Discussion of Mr. Mann’s scurrilous and malicious Libel published against him. Edin. 1754, 8vo.
Andi Alteram Partem; or, a farther Vindication of his edition of Buchanan’s Works, against Mr. James Mann. Edin. 1756, 8vo.
A Catalogue of his own Library, which, after his death, was sold by auction; ent. Bibliotheca Romana, Catalogus Auctorum Classicorum. Edin. 1757, 8vo.
Besides writing or editing the above works, Ruddiman contributed his assistance to a great many others, such as: Sibbald’s ‘Introductio ad Historium Rerum a Romanis gestarum,’ &c. – Spottiswood’s ‘Pratiques of the Law of Scotland.’ – Drummond of Hawthornden’s ‘Works.’ – Abercrombie’s ‘Martial Achievements.’ – Ame’s ‘Topographical Antiquities,’ &c. &c.

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