John Brown Manuscripts, East Lothian Archives EL192
A famous and influential figure in the history of Haddington, the Reverend John Brown was born in Carpow in Abernethy. Orphaned at the age of 11, he educated himself while working as a shepherd. Not only did he pick up reading and writing but he also went on to learn Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He worked as a schoolmaster and was a soldier in the defence against the Jacobites before becoming a preacher. He was the first student of divinity for the burgher branch of the secessionist church he was ordained and preached at Haddington where he lived until his death.
Click here if you want to learn more about the United Secessionist church and the rather complicated history of the burghers and anti- burghers
A prolific author as well as being an inspirational preacher he wrote several texts on religion which were widely popular and it was said that there was hardly a house that did not have a copy of his most famous work – the Self Interpreting Bible. Robert Burns himself makes mention of Brown’s literary talent in his poem ‘An Epistle to James Tennant’ when he says
‘My shins, my lane, I sit here roastin’
Perusing Bunyan, Brown and Boston,
As well as Burns, Brown is also said to have met and influenced two further famous Scots – the poet Robert Fergusson who he met in Haddington cemetery and the philosopher David Hume who said Brown preached ‘ as though Christ were at his elbow’
Like a lot of our records, the manuscripts have found their way to the archives by accident. Deposited with a local solicitor some time ago they were only found last year when the firm closed down. East Lothian Archives were given a large black metal box stamped with ‘Manuscripts of the Reverend John Brown’ on the lid which contained the original handwritten drafts of several of Browns works –including the ‘The Dictionary of the Holy Bible’, ‘Scripture Key Part 2 A View of the Prophecies therein contained concerning Adam and Noah and their families’ and ‘Tracts for Self Improvement’
Below are some images of the material firstly as it was donated in its rather fancy box and then some individual pages from John Browns Dictionary of the Bible.