Charles Areskine’s Library

Lawyers and Their Books at the Dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment


In Charles Areskine’s Library, Karen Baston uses a detailed study of an eighteenth-century Scottish advocate’s private book collection to explore key themes in the Scottish Enlightenment including secularisation, modernisation, internationalisation, and the development of legal literature in Scotland.

By exploring a surviving manuscript dated 1731that lists a Scottish lawyer’s library, Karen Baston demonstrates that the books Charles Areskine owned, used in practice, and read for pleasure embedded him in the intellectual culture that expanded in early eighteenth-century Scotland. Areskine and his fellow advocates emerged as scholarly and sociable gentlemen who led their nation. Lawyers were integral to and integrated with the Scottish society that allowed the Scottish Enlightenment to take root and flourish within Areskine’s lifetime.

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Karen Baston, Ph.D. (2012), University of Edinburgh, has published on Scottish legal history and is a bibliographer whose publications include (with Ernest Metzger) The Roman Law Library of Alan Ferguson Rodger, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry (Traditio Iuris Romani, 2012).
“Baston has written a book rich in interesting detail and well worth having on one’s shelves. She is to be congratulated on this addition to the literature on private libraries and the history of the law in the Scottish Enlightenment.”
Brian Hillyard, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, Scotland. In: Library & Information History, Vol. 33, No. 2 (2017), pp. 143-144.

“This book is about much more than one man and his books. It is a profoundly scholarly study of the intellectual context of Areskine’s library that reflects the impact of Enlightenment culture on the life of a busy lawyer and judge. […] The British and European aspects of Areskine’s career that emerge from this thoughtful book demonstrate the importance of the painstaking research on which it is based, as well as what we might learn from future projects which could benefit from its example.”
Alexander Murdoch, University of Edinburgh. In: Reviews in History (review no. 2062).


Introduction: Scottish Lawyers in the Scottish Enlightenment

1 An Enlightened Advocate’s Library

2 Two Scholars: Areskine, Aikenhead, and their Books

3 Scottish Legal Scholars Abroad

4 A Flourishing Market for Books

5 Advocates’ Books in Early Eighteenth-Century Scotland

6 “Miscellaneous” Books: Charles Areskine’s Polite Learning

7 The Scottish Gentleman’s Library

8 The Fates of Books: The Alva Collections

Works Cited
All interested in the history of the book and the early Scottish Enlightenment and anyone concerned with the international dimension of Scottish legal thinking in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
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