Precocious multi-talented beekeeper from Elgin

Title page of Russell's treatise

In 1822 Robert Russell of Elgin, at the age of 15, wrote a treatise on bees and beekeeping in two parts, the first a condensed translation of François Huber's 'Nouvelles observations sur les abeilles' (1792) and the second based on James Bonner's book 'A new plan for speedily increasing the number of bee-hives in Scotland' (1795). Not content with that, he designed and cast his own typeface, set the type, and then built his own press in order to print out his work. He was known to have made only two copies of his first edition; only one copy has been traced – in Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Between 1831 and 1834 Russell set about creating a 'much enlarged, corrected, and improved' edition, of which this exhibit is one of only six known copies.

Image: Robert Russell. 'A typographical curiosity, being a compilation on the natural history and management of bees, developed in a juvenile attempt at type-making by a native of Moray'. [Elgin?], 1834. [NLS shelfmark: MRB.209]

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