Alexander Hume Campbell 1675-1740

From Book Owners Online

Alexander HUME CAMPBELL, Lord Polwarth and 2nd Earl of Marchmont, 1675-1740

Biographical Note

He was the eldest surviving son of Patrick Hume of Polwarth, 1st Earl of Marchmont and his wife Grizel Ker, a daughter of Sir Thomas Ker of Cavers. Due to his father’s political and religious attitudes, he spent part of his childhood in exile in the Netherlands before returning to the Britain with William of Orange in 1688. He studied civil law at the university of Utrecht, and entered the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh in 1696. In 1697, he married Margaret Campbell, daughter of George Campbell of Cessnock, and added her surname to his. In the same year, he was knighted as Sir Alexander Campbell of Cessnock. On his brother’s death in 1709, he became Lord Polwarth. He served as an ambassador to the court of the King of Denmark between 1716 and 1725, and was an ordinary lord of the session, as well as lord lieutenant of Berwickshire, and governor of the Bank of Scotland from 1728.


Alexander had a large personal library with legal texts, the classics and history, well represented. His library also reflected his interests in landscaping and architecture, likely due to his involvement in the renovations of the family castle Redbraes, and his later decision to plan a new family home, which included planting Scotland’s longest tree-lined avenue.

In July 1717 he wrote to Mr Crawford asking him to “order some bookseller to make a collection for me of the newest and best books of gardening and waterwork, and if there are any good of architecture, and the newest and best plans of garden and houses; and pray add any books that are curious and that we have not easly as London.” (Paton, p.300)

Examples of books in his library which reflected these interests are:

John Evelyn’s A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions (Cardiff University SD391.E9)

John Darling’s The carpenter's rule made easy (London, 1727) (Cambridge UL 7250.e.1)

And a contemporary Italian botany book Compendium tabularum botanicarum by Giulio Pontedera (Harvard GEN Ka P77.5c 1718)

Other examples from Alexander’s library are:

Hector Boece Scotorum historiae a prima gentis origine (Paris, 1574) (Glasgow Mu8-a.19)

The works of Flavius Josephus Josephi Judei Historici pre clara opera (Paris, 1519) (UCL mocatta folio 1519 j6)

A legal text on the decisions of the Frisian Court Decisiones Frisicae sive rerum… (Leovardae, 1639), now in the library of Ham House.

His Library was inherited by his son Hugh Hume Campbell 1708-1794, part of which was sold at auction in London on 13th April 1761. Hugh bequeathed his father's books, and his own, to George Rose (1744–1818). It was catalogued for sale (1373 lots) and due to be sold at auction by R.H. Evans in London on 12 May 1830. However, the sale did not take place. In 1851, the surviving family papers and books were sold to Hugh Scott, of Harden and Lord Polwarth, and moved to Mertoun House, Berwickshire. The rarest volumes were sold by his successor Walter Scott, (Sotheby’s 15 February 1909), with some volumes possibly dispersed at the sale of all the family effects at in 1912 (Dowell’s Rooms in Edinburgh, 25th-27th March 1912).

Characteristic Markings

He used at least four armorial bookplates over the course of his life, dated 1707, 1721, 1722, & 1725 (as Earl of Marchmont).,

His 1707 bookplate has the motto “Crescam ut Prosim; Constanter et Faudenter” (“I will grow that I may do good; firmly and confidently”), which he signed as “The Right Hon[ora]ble Sr Alex[ande]r Campbell of Cesnok one of the Senators of the Colledge of Justice and one of the Lords of Her Ma[jes]ties most Hon[ora]ble Privy Counsell & Exchequer &c: 1707.”

Several of his bindings are gold tooled with one of two armorial stamps.

Alexander’s Elzevier editions of Roman classics were bound by Christopher Chapman in London in red morocco with gold tooling. The National Library of Scotland has identified six examples of this, including his copy of Seneca (NLS Bdg.s.861)


  • Barker, G., & Birkeland, M. “Campbell, Alexander Hume, second earl of Marchmont (1675–1740), politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • British Armorial Bindings
  • A catalogue of the entire and valuable library of the Hon. Alexander Hume Campbell, ... to be sold by auction, by Samuel Baker... on Monday the 13th of April, [London, 1761] [Note: this catalogue was not consulted during the research of this entry]
  • Catalogue of the valuable and extensive library of the late Earl of Marchmont...which will be sold by auction by Mr. Evans at his house, no. 93, Pall-Mall, on Wednesday May 12, and five following days, (Sunday excepted),[London] : Printed by W. Nicol, [1830] [Note: this catalogue was not consulted during the research of this entry]
  • Catalogue of an interesting collection of valuable and rare books & pamphlets selected from the library of the right hon. Lord Polwarth [sic] (of Mertoun House, Berwick), including an extensive series of civil war tracts and newspapers, rare americana ...; rare Old English black letter books ... engraved English and French portraits, etc. which will be sold by auction, by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge ... on Monday, the 15th of February, 1909, and following day, [London] : Dryden Press: J. Davy & Sons, 8-9, Frith-street, Soho-square, W. 1909
  • Catalogue of choice antique furniture ... and other valuables of the Rt. Hon. Lord Polwarth, removed from Mertoun House, to be sold by auction (by instructions of J. Hamilton Buchanan, Esq., C.A., trustee) by Mr. Dowell within his rooms, No. 18 George Street, Edinburgh on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 28th, 29th and 30th March 1912... [Edinburgh : A. Dowell, 1912] [Note: this catalogue was not consulted during the research of this entry]
  • Marchmont House
  • Report on the manuscripts of Lord Polwarth preserved at Mertoun House, Berwickshire, ed. Henry Paton. Vol.1, London, 1911-1961