Thomas Ruddiman

Although NLS does not collect paintings, there are six hanging in our George IV Bridge building (though not in public spaces) and now you can see them all through the BBC — Your Paintings website.  They all relate in some way to the history of the Library.

My favourite painting is this portrait of Thomas Ruddiman.Thomas Ruddiman  He joined the staff of the Advocates Library in 1702 and was appointed Keeper in 1730.  He retired — after almost 50 years in the job — in January 1752.  Arriving only 20 years after the first books were bought in 1682, he had a strong influence on the shaping of the Advocates Library, whose non-legal books and manuscripts were given to the nation in 1925 to help found the National Library of Scotland.

Ruddiman was a man of great energy and many talents.  Generations of school children knew his name as the author of The Rudiments of the Latin Tongue (1714) which in the 19th century was entitled Ruddiman’s Rudiments. He must surely have had this possibility in mind when he chose his original title!  You can get some idea of his reputation from the fact that James Boswell told Dr Johnson that he ‘had some intention to write the life of the learned and worthy Thomas Ruddiman’, to which Johnson replied ‘I should take pleasure in helping you to do honour to him.’ Unfortunately this never happened.

The digitisation of these paintings — 210,000 of them from over 2,800 collections all over the UK – is the work of the Public Catalogue Foundation, a registered charity set up for this purpose in