Manuscript of Rev. James Wallace’s A Description
of the Isles of Orkney
The Reverend James Wallace graduated
from King’s College, Aberdeen in 1659. He was presented
to Lady Parish, Sanday ten years later and in 1672
he became minister in Kirkwall where he remained until
his death from fever in 1688. The monument he
erected in memory of his wife and children can be
seen against the south wall in St Magnus Cathedral.
He left 100 marks for the use of the church which
was used to purchase two communion cups for St Magnus.
It is suspected that it was James Wallace who suggested
to William Baikie that he should bequeath his library
to Kirkwall thus founding, in 1683, the Bibliotheck
of Kirkwall, the oldest public library in Scotland
and precursor of The Orkney Library and Archive.
This manuscript, dated 1684, is an early version of
A Description of the Isles of Orkney which
was published by James Wallace’s son in 1693, some
five years after the author’s death. It is 84 pages
in length and illustrated on thirteen pages by twenty-two
pen and ink drawings, including a full-page sketch
of St Magnus Cathedral. Inscriptions within indicate
that in 1698 it was in the possession of Mr Thomas
Baikie, minister of Kirkwall, ; was gifted by George
Baikie in 1833 to his friend Thomas Stewart Traill,
son of yet another minister of Kirkwall and later
editor of Encyclopedia Britannica.
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