New Form of Process before the Court of Session and Commission of Teinds; with a general account of the College of Justice, and a table of the fees payable to the Clerks and Officers thereof. By a Member of Court.

  • (Scott, Walter) [Russell, John]
  • Edinburgh: Printed by Alex. Chapman and Company; for Watson, Elder, and Company 1791
  • ESTC T78526.

£3,500

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Description

SIR WALTER SCOTT’S COPY, 8vo, pp. xv, [i], 275, [1]. Contemporary calf, spine ruled in gilt. Some light spotting and dustsoiling. Rebacked (somewhat crudely) preserving much of original backstrip, hinges relined, old leather scratched and worn at extremities, new label. Front flyleaf inscribed ‘Walter Scott, Advocate’.

Notes

The author, who identified himself on the title-page of the first edition of 1768, was John Russell, W.S., of Roseburne (1710-1796), and the text is a guide to the Scottish supreme court and the Court of Teinds, which dealt with tithes. All editions are scarce - perhaps naturally, as the practical guide would have been used rather than kept. ESTC locates just half a dozen copies (Advocates, BL, Cambridge, Glasgow, Oxford, and St Andrews).
This copy is of particularly important provenance: it was likely one of the first purchases made by Sir Walter Scott after he was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates. The teenaged Scott had trained as a solicitor under his father, but following a period of ill-health and the resumption of his studies he took aim instead at passing the bar to become an advocate. 'On 6 July 1792 he passed the Scots law examination of the Faculty of Advocates and was admitted as an advocate on 11 July', though 'as an advocate Scott was not a failure, nor was he a success' (ODNB). He did nonetheless make appearances before the Court of Session within his first decade, meanwhile using his free time to develop his literary pursuits and contacts, and sought other positions to supplement the modest income from his work as an advocate.
This guide to the Court of Session would have been an invaluable reference for a newly-qualified advocate, and it had been published just the year before Scott passed his exam. His signature on the endpaper is unusual in having the title 'Advocate' appended, and also in having a flourish incorporating the crossbars of the final letters of 'Scott', though the 'Walter' perfectly matches later signatures including the omission of a crossbar on the 't' there. It seems likely therefore that this was an early purchase by the newly-qualified advocate: the extras suggest a proud inscription by one who had recently achieved his goal of passing the exam, before his attention was turned to other fields. After Scott focussed on his other positions and his literary work, he would no longer have needed to sign himself 'Advocate', and he probably gave away or sold the book, no longer relevant for him, long before building his library at Abbotsford (from which few volumes have ever been released).

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