top of page

The Hill Collection

William Henry Hill was a collector from an old Glasgow family who left a large part of his collection of books and manuscripts to the library. His collection included letters and writs relating to the Guild of Bonnetmakers and Dyers, the Clan MacFarlane, and Newbattle Abbey; notes made by Thomas Hutcheson in the course of his theological studies; and several royal letters of note. Also in his collection, and now in the library's, were two chests, one of which he had inherited through a family connection to the Hutchesons, "an old Dutch-built spring-lockit kist, woven of strips of yron in comlie forme." The chests in the library contain some of the oldest manuscripts in the Hill Collection.

[1] the oak chest and the iron chest fro

The oak chest and the iron chest were given to the Faculty by William Henry Hill in 1912.

[2] the oak chest with its contents on d

The oak chest contains a collection of some of the oldest manuscripts in the Hill Collection.

Christiana of the Isles charter

One of the oldest documents in the Hill Collection is this charter, dating from around 1314, which transferred ownership of several lands, including Moidart, Arisaig and Morar, from Christiana of the Isles to Artúr Caimbéal. Christiana, who was known to be alive between 1290 and 1318, was a noblewoman, the daughter of Ailean mac Ruaidhrí and the sister-in-law or aunt of Iseabail, the wife of Robert the Bruce. Little is known about Christiana's life, as there are few surviving records, but it is known that she was among the Scottish nobles who signed the Ragman Rolls pledging fealty to Edward I of England in 1296 - she is recorded as "Christyn de Mar la femme Dunkan de Mar". This charter is particularly significant, not only as a record from Christiana's life, but also for wider Scottish history, as it is one of the earliest records of a woman owning land in her own right in Scotland.



Royal Letters

Several letters from monarchs of Scotland form part of the collection which was left to the Faculty by William Hill. Some of these letters were written during times of extreme political turbulence in Scotland, such as the Rough Wooing and the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, and concern important alliances and the transfer of political power. These correspondences provide valuable insights into the lives of those in power during some of the most dramatic political events in Scotland’s history, making them an invaluable resource for understanding Scotland’s past.

Mary, Queen of Scots letter

This letter was written by James Hamilton, Earl of Arran and regent of Scotland, in October 1546 on behalf of Mary, Queen of Scots when she was three years old. The letter grants respite to Duncan MacFarlane of Arrochar for the crimes of “remanyng fra oure oist raid and army” and “resetting of oure auld Inimyis of Ingland," meaning that Duncan did not participate in a raid which he had agreed to, and he harboured Mary’s English enemies. At the time the letter was written, Scotland was caught up in rising religious tension, as Protestant and Catholic factions were fighting over the future of Scotland, and the religious education of the Queen. Following the death of her father, King James V, Queen Mary was crowned in 1542 at just six days old, which meant that a regent was needed to rule the country on her behalf until she came of age. Selecting a regent was a contentious matter, as they would have the authority of a monarch over the country, and would be partially responsible for the monarch’s education and training, and religious affiliation played a large part in considerations. The two men who acted as regents in the early part of Queen Mary’s life were the Protestant James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, and the Catholic Cardinal David Beaton. By the time of the writing of this letter, however, James Hamilton had converted to Catholicism, and was leading a siege of St Andrews Castle, where Cardinal Beaton had been assassinated by a group of Protestants in retaliation for the murder of George Wishart by Beaton. Also at this time, the Scottish Government had rejected the Treaty of Greenwich proposed by Henry VIII of England, which would have betrothed Queen Mary to Henry’s son and heir, Edward. Following the rejection of the treaty, Henry initiated the Rough Wooing, a period of intense military conflict between Scotland and England, intended to bend Scotland to his will. Soon after this, the regent Arran would take up the offer of Henri II, King of France, to shelter Mary in the French Court and betrothe her to the Dauphin of France, François. It is understandable that at this time, Mary’s English enemies were of great concern to the rulers of Scotland. However, this is a letter of remittance, which pardons MacFarlane and prohibits any punishment for these crimes for nineteen years. It is possible that a letter of respite like this could have been bought by MacFarlane.

King James VII letter

Many years later in Scottish history, after religious conflicts, the union of the crowns and the execution of Charles I and restoration of the monarchy, James VII, the great-grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots, writes this letter to the Laird of MacFarlane in March 1689 requesting his support a few months after having been deposed. James writes from Dublin Castle, where he was staying at the time and attempting to rally support for his cause. He asks MacFarlane to send men and threatens that he will be punished if he does not do as instructed. However, James had little authority with which to threaten MacFarlane, as he was no longer recognised as king, and, despite his best efforts, had limited support. Shortly after this letter, James was defeated in the Battle of the Boyne by William of Orange, who became William III of England. There is no record of MacFarlane sending military support to James in Ireland. In another letter, MacFarlane mentions making troops available to ‘His Majesty’ in 1689, but it appears that the king he is referring to is William, and the MacFarlane clan does not appear to have supported the Jacobite cause.

Other letters of interest

Also in the Hill Collection are numerous maps, mostly from the 19th century, which show areas of Glasgow and its surroundings. The maps show the development of Glasgow from a small town of a few streets clustered around the river and surrounded by agricultural land, to a large and well-connected port city and industrial hub. The development of Glasgow from the 18th century to the early 19th century was especially rapid, as it was at this time that Glasgow's involvement in transatlantic trade was at its height, and merchants were making immense profits from tobacco and sugar plantations. These maps show that between the 1770s and the mid-1800s, Glasgow roughly doubled in size.


Several of the maps highlight certain features: a few show proposed railway lines and termini, some show new water systems, while others show the development of new districts. Other maps show buildings which have since been destroyed: one particularly notable example is the Old College of Glasgow University, and its accompanying gardens and observatory. On a few maps, the current site of the Royal Faculty building can be seen, before and after its development. On maps before the RFPG was built, where it is labelled, it is marked as a wood yard. A more recent map, from around the 1920s, shows the location of the RFPG marked as ‘Faculty Hall’.

Rare Books

John McUre was a member of the Faculty in the 18th century, and he wrote the first history of Glasgow, of which the library owns a first edition. The book gives an account of the early history of the city, the establishment of the institutions of the city, and the various trade guilds active in the city, as well as several appendices with supplementary information and stories. As it was written in the early 18th century, it reflects the religious and political divisions of the time – John McUre stresses Glasgow’s support for Presbyterianism and the monarchy.


Apostolicarum Epistolarum Explicatio Analytica is a small book of notes, handwritten by Thomas Hutcheson. The book, written in neat, minuscule script contains notes made by Hutcheson in the course of his theological studies at university. The book contains Hutcheson's signature on the inner cover, and the back page is signed by Rev. Laurence Hill in 1720, during his own theological studies. Laurence Hill was the great-great-grandson of Thomas Hutcheson, and the great-great-grandfather of William Henry Hill, who gave his collection to the library.


There are a couple of students' notebooks in the library's collection which are handwritten copies of an identical text: Thomas Hope's Minor Practicks. The book was copied by Skene and by Watson, and it is particularly interesting to examine identical texts to compare differences in handwriting styles. In the past, students had to copy out textbooks by hand in order to have a personal reference copy, which had the added benefit of aiding study. Hope's Minor Practicks was a common book which would have formed a basic part of education in law.

bottom of page