William Burnes’s copy of 'The Spectator'

A Stalker and R Urie, publisher 
Object Number:


To educate his young children, William would encourage them to read and discuss a variety of grown-up books, including this literary journal. The Spectator was a daily publication in London from 1711-1712 founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. The papers were collected into eight volumes and read widely later in the eighteenth century.

The Spectator wished to 'enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality... to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffeehouses.'

Magazines like The Spectator were a new literary medium through which current ideas and opinion were disseminated among a growing reading public during the eighteenth century. Although a working farmer, William Burns was an educated man. He is an example of the widespread literacy which existed in Scotland at that time.

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