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The Scottish Nation

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).

      Several barons of this name appear in the Ragman Roll as having sworn fealty to Edward I. in 1296.

KER, JOHN, 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 court.

      On the 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 subjoined:

[portrait of Robert Kerr]

The 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 notice.

KERR, ROBERT, 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. 1809, 8vo.

      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 Jameson.

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