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John Jamieson (1759-1839) - Philologist

He was born in Glasgow where he studied theology and was licensed to preach in 1781. The first 16 years of his ministry were spent in Forfar and in 1797 he was invited to become minister to the Nicolson Street congregation of the Secession Church in Edinburgh, a post he held until his retirement in 1830. Jamieson was an Anti-Burgher, a faction formed within the First Secessionist Church in 1745 after disagreements over the relationship of the Church to secular authority, but he was a party to the moves that led to the reunion of 1820. Several of his earliest published essays and sermons deal with scriptural interpretation, but his duties as a minister did not interfere with his antiquarian pursuits, his Treatise on the Ancient Culdees of lona being particularly admired. Through his studies Jamieson enjoyed the friendship of many of the leading writers and scholars of his day, including Sir Walter Scott. Jamieson edited THe Bruce by John Barbour and Wallace by Blind Harry, both of which were published in 1820, but his major work, which took 20 years of his life, is his two-volume Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, published in 1808 and 1809, with a supplement in 1825. It was originally conceived as a Scots wordbook, but Jamieson was encouraged by the Icelandic scholar Grim Thorkelin to enlarge the work to include as examples the quotations on which he based his definitions. Through his industry and single-minded endeavour, Jamieson collected together from the different cultural traditions in Scotland a wide range of words that might otherwise have been lost, and for many years, until the publication of the Scottish National Dictionary in the 20th century, his dictionary was the standard work of reference. It became a useful source book for many writers, including the poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who used it to enrich his own literary Scots.

WORKS: Socianism Unmasked (1786); A Poem on Slavery (1789); Congal and Fenella (1791); Sermons on the Heart, 2 vols. (1791); Vindication of the Doctrine of Scripture, 2 vols. (1795); A poem on Eternity (1798); Remarks on Rowland Hill's Journal (1799); The Use of Sacred History (1802); Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 2 vols. (1808-9); A Treatise on the Ancient Culdees of lona (1811); Hermes Scythicus (1814); Dissertations on the Reality of the Sprit's Influence (1844).

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