Rev. John Gray

1646 - 1717

Preacher, scholar and linguist. Born in Haddington, Gray entered the ministry in 1667. He was appointed to the parish of Aberlady in 1684 and began collecting books from around Europe. This grew into the perhaps the finest collection of early printed books in Scotland, consisting of some 1500 volumes. He was dismissed in 1689 for refusing to read a Parliamentary proclamation and not praying for the new rulers William and Mary. He returned to Haddington where he lived until he died. He bequeathed his collection to the town, together with 3000 merks to support charitable causes and support the upkeep of the library. The city fathers were rather embarrassed by the gift (they were hardly light reading) and didn't know what to do with the books, which lay dust-covered and forgotten, first in a school-room and later in the public library. The collection was not looked after and several of the books went missing. It was only in 1929 that the value of the collection was realised and a special extension to the library was built to hold them. The collection includes: an illuminated missal printed in Germany in 1497; a large Latin dictionary printed in Basle in 1605; a tiny reprint of Henry VIII's treatise against Martin Luther, a Bunyan first edition; an original copy of the sermons of English churchman John Donne, together with some of Gray's own sermons and notes. In 1961, the collection was moved to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, where it could be properly cared for and better made available to researchers. In 1983, East Lothian District Council formally transferred ownership of the collection to the National Library.

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