Alexander Geddes 1737-1802

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Alexander GEDDES 1737-1802

Biographical Note

Geddes, a Catholic priest and biblical scholar, was born in Rathven, Aberdeen to tenant farmers Alexander Geddes and Janet Mitchel in 1737. He first studied at the minor seminary of Scalan before attending Scots College in Paris and eventually the Sorbonne. He returned to Scotland in 1764 and served as chaplain to Traquair House, Peeblesshire and later parish priest in Auchinhalrig, Aberdeenshire. In 1781, he moved to London and came under the patronage of Lord Petre.

Due to Geddes radical views on the historicity of the Old Testament, he was suspended from holy orders in 1793. In addition to being a priest, Geddes is known as a poet, author, and skilled philologist.

Geddes died in London in 1802, having received absolution from a French priest just the day before. He is buried in St. Mary's churchyard, Paddington.


Geddes' library was sold at auction in 1804 by Leigh, Sotheby, and Son in London. The auction consisted of 1222 titles comprised of 235 folios, 344 quartos, 531 octavos, and 112 tracts and pamphlets. The subjects cover religion, poetry, history, dictionaries, and grammars. In addition to English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew versions of the Bible, many other translations can be found, including those in Arabic, Italian, Dutch, French, German, and Syriac.

The collection includes 7 incunabula (lots 279, 345, 752, 1154, 1184, 1193, 1204), several Aldines and Elzevirs, and books printed by notable early printers such as Ziletti, Planten Press, Daye, Barker, Zanetti, Barker, Robert Estienne, Rusconi, and Jenson.

Notable selections:

Lyndsay's Poems [Purfoot, London, 1581] (lot 750)

Sibbald's Scotia Illustrata [Edinburgh, 1684] (lot 1010)

Book of Common Prayer of Edward VI [1549] (lot 1029)


St Andrews University Library TypIR.B85BL; University of Edinburgh Library SC 3441/1

Characteristic Markings

Inscribed on title page of St. Andrews TypIR.B85BL: "A Geddes".


  • Carruthers, Gerard. Geddes, Alexander (1737–1802), Roman Catholic priest and biblical scholar. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • A catalogue of the entire, extensive and valuable library, of the late Alexander Geddes D.D. which will be sold by auction by Leigh, Sotheby, and Son on Monday, March 26, 1804, and five following days (Sunday excepted). London, 1804. [NLS: APS.4.86.34].