Francis Napier ca.1702-1773

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Francis NAPIER, 6th Lord Napier of Merchistoun ca.1702-1773

Armorial bookplate of Francis, Lord Napier (private collection)

Biographical Note

Francis Napier, 6th Lord Napier of Merchistoun, was born about 1702 as Francis Scott, the eldest son of Sir William Scott of Thirlestane, 2nd Baronet, by his first wife, Elizabeth, Mistress of Napier. His mother was the only child who left issue of the Anglo-Scottish diplomat John Brisbane by his wife Margaret, Baroness Napier. Upon his grandmother's death in September 1706 he succeeded to the barony of Napier and assumed that surname in lieu of Scott. In 1725 he succeeded his father in the baronetcy and in 1731 or earlier travelled abroad. Subsequently he served as a volunteer in the allied army under the Earl of Stair in 1743, was a Scottish Commissioner of Police from 1761, and died 11 April 1773 at Lewes, Sussex. His first wife was Henrietta Hope, herself from a bibliophilic family, and daughter of Charles Hope, 1st Earl of Hopetoun. Her uncle was the major collector James Johnstone, 2nd Marquess of Annandale.


Lord Napier regularly subscribed to historical and antiquarian works published by subscription during his lifetime, including George Crawfurd's Peerage of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1716), Alexander Nisbet's Essay on the Use of Armories (Edinburgh, 1718), the first volume of Nisbet's System of Heraldry (Edinburgh, 1722), James Freebairn's Life of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scotland and France (Edinburgh, 1725), James Ogilvie's translation of Giannone's Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples (London, 1729), and Robert Keith's History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1734). The precocious age at which his name begins to appear on these lists suggests some involvement from his father, himself a friend of the poet and collector Archibald Pitcairne and well-known in Edinburgh literary circles. At least one of these volumes, Nisbet's Armories bears an early woodcut bookplate bearing his arms (see below). His brief will makes no mention of books, but makes his second son Charles his executor and universal legatee.

Examples: Nisbet's Essay on the Use of Armories (private collection).

Characteristic Markings

Lord Napier used a small (52 x 64 mm) woodcut bookplate bearing his arms, supporters, motto, and a blank name cartouche. This bookplate does not appear in Franks, though the latter notes three others (21540-21542) which are attributed to "Lord Napier" and likely belong either to him or to his son or grandson, the 7th and 8th Lords. The one book which can be securely attributed to him is bound in a contemporary panelled binding, probably of Scottish or English provenance.


  • Balfour Paul, Sir James. The Scots Peerage. Edinburgh, 1904-14. vi. 432.
  • Cokayne, George E., et al. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. London, 1910-59. ix. 457-458.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903-4.
  • Will of the Right Hon. Francis Lord Napier, The National Archives PROB 11/1010/7.