Who was Robert Sibbald?

Robert Sibbald (1641-1722) was a physician and geographer. He founded what became the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, and also the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Plans for an atlas

In 1682 Sibbald was appointed Geographer Royal for Scotland. In this role he intended to produce a natural history of Scotland, but his 'Scottish Atlas' was never published. He used some of the material in other publications – including John Slezer's Theatrum Scotiae.

We have a copy of Sibbald's incomplete Scottish Atlas in the National Library's collections (NLS shelfmark: Adv.MS.15.1.1). For details, see our main catalogue.

Text for 'Theatrum Scotiae'

Sibbald originally wrote the text for 'Theatrum Scotiae' in Latin, working with Slezer. But Slezer had it translated into English without Sibbald's agreement and published it without acknowledging him.

The themes of the text are typical of descriptive writings about regions (known as 'chorographies') from that time. They flatter the nobility and praise the advantages of places. Sibbald’s descriptions also show his keen interest in ancient times and relics.

With each Slezer engraving on this site you can read Sibbald's text as it appeared in 'Theatrum Scotiae' in 1693. Find images.

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