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Dennistoun correspondence

Call Number: OSB MSS 56

Scope and Contents

The Dennistoun Correspondence consists chiefly of letters addressed to James and Isabella Dennistoun. The letters span the dates 1785-1854, with a majority dating from between 1841 and 1854. The Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent; a small group of Other Papers is housed at the end of the collection.

The Correspondence contains primarily social notes, detailing plans for concert attendance, country outings, travel arrangements, and visits to and news of family members and friends. Letters by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks and George Grove concern exhibition of some of Dennistoun's collection at the Adelphi Institute; letters by Alexander Christie discuss an auction of paintings. Art collecting and Italian painting are also the subjects of letters by William Carnegie, 8th Earl of Northesk and William Sterling Maxwell. Sir George Lewis's letters concern copy of Dennistoun's articles for the Edinburgh Review. In addition, there is a letter of introduction for Dennistoun's first Italian tour by Sir George Canning and a lecture pass signed by John Ruskin.

Other Papers includes occasional poems by James Dennistoun and James Murray of Elibank; one folder of invitations and musical programs; and miscellaneous bibliographical information.


  • 1785-1855


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Dennistoun Correspondence is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn.


0.84 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Letters from various correspondents addressed to Dennistoun or to his wife, Isabella. Many are of a social nature. Letters from William Carnegie Northesk and William Stirling Maxwell concern art collecting.


James Dennistoun, the eldest son of James Dennistoun of Dumbartonshire, was born in 1803 and educated at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, becoming a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1824. His interest in art and antiquities, particularly the Italian masters, was strengthened during a tour on the Continent in 1825 and 1826.

After his father's death in 1834 he sold the family estate on the Clyde and purchased the farm of Dennistoun in Renfrewshire. In 1836 he left Scotland and spent the following 12 years primarily in Germany and Italy, pursuing research and collecting early Italian art, drawings and medieval antiquities. From 1847 on these were displayed in his Edinburgh home.

Dennistoun was a member of and contributor to the Maitland Club and the Bannatyne Club, editing several early texts for their publication series. The author of several works, he is perhaps best known for his Memoirs of the Duke of Urbino Illustrating the Arms Arts and Literature of Italy from 1440-1630 (1851), and Memoirs of Sir Robert Strange and Andrew Lumisden (1855). In 1853 he wrote an influential article for the Edinburgh Review criticizing the collecting policies of the National Gallery in London, and later that year appeared before the Select Committee on the National Gallery.

James Dennistoun died in Edinburgh on February 13, 1855. The greater portion of his collection was sold at Christie's & Manson's on June 14, 1855.

Guide to the Dennistoun Correspondence
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
June 1996
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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