David Constable 1795-1867

From Book Owners Online

David CONSTABLE 1795-1867

Biographical Note

David Constable was born in 1795 to Mary Willison and Edinburgh printer Archibald Constable, who published several of Sir Walter Scott's novels. His younger brother, Thomas Constable, was also a printer.

Constable studied at the University of Edinburgh and qualified as an advocate in 1819. He was a founding member of the Bannatyne Club and married Helen Fosbery in 1828.

He passed away in 1867.


Constable sold his books at two auctions, the first with Sotheby's in 1827 and the second by D. Speare in Edinburgh in 1828. His collection of paintings was auctioned in Edinburgh in 1829. Constable sold his library because of financial difficulties Archibald Constable's printing company had faced during the years prior to his death.

The first auction catalogue for Sotheby's contains 1152 lots, consisting of 704 octavos, 334 quartos, and 114 folios. There are 7 incunabula (lots 314, 544, 558, 579, 803, 1058, 1136) as well as books printed by notable publishers such as William Caxton, Plantin Press, Foulis Press, Andrew Hart, and Jenson. The catalogue notes several volumes that are noted as 'rare' or 'extremely rare'

Additionally, John Stevenson of Edinburgh sold 7971 pamphlets belonging to Constable at auction in Edinburgh, 1827. These pamphlets covered a wide range of subjects including history, ecclesiastical matters, politics, Scottish topography, geography, and poetry.

The second auction was held in Edinburgh by D. Speare and contained 3032 lots, consisting of 337 folios, 634 quartos, 1288 octavos, 602 duodecimos, and 139 manuscripts. Among them are 12 incunabula (lots 405, 647, 667, 728, 825, 832, 833, 835, 1111, 1487, 1497, 1501) and books printed by notable publishers such as Wynkyn de Worde, Petrus Schoeffer, John Baskerville, Aldines, Robert Estienne, Robert Waldegrave. The subjects cover law, classics, dictionaries, poetry, history, American history, biographies, literature, theology, and 55 books printed privately for the Bannatyne Club. A list of buyers and book prices can be found in the NLS copy of the catalogue [NLS K.R.6.e.1(4)].

Additionally, 83 of Constable's books chronicling trials were sold at auction with the library of J. Stuart, Esq. of Dunearn in 1827.

Notable selections:

Abregement des statutes jusques au XXXI. Hen. VI. (London: Lettou et Machlinia) [lot 395]

Justiani institutiones (Mainz: Schoiffer, 1476) [lot 835]

Capgrave's Chonycle of Englande (London: Wynken de Wordes, 1520) [lot 2159]

Examples: University of Edinburgh Library La.III.654/1 (lot 535); Glasgow Univeristy Library Sp Coll Mu14-f.20

Characteristic Markings

Signature of David Constable (Glasgow University Library: SpColl Mu14_f.20)

Constable used 6 armorial stamps which were all variations of the following:

Arms: Quarterly gules and vair a bend or

Crest: A greyhound passant collared

Motto: Impeger et fidus or Impeger et fidus; Patria cara carior libertas

The auction catalogues note that several volumes were printed on vellum and were bound in black, red, or green moroccan. Some of his books are inscribed: 'David Constable'.


  • British Armorial Bindings
  • Catalogue of a curious collection of books rich in early English and Scottish history and poetry sold the 16th of January, 1827, etc. [From the library of David Constable, Advocate.] Sotheby's. London, 1827. [NLS Blk.268(1)]
  • Catalogue of the library of David Constable, Esq. Advocate. Containing an extraordinary assemblage of rare and curious books and manuscripts, particularly, in early and parliamentary law, English history, early American history; and Scottish history, antiquities, and literature, including a complete set of the books privately printed for the Bannatyne Club, with numerous other privately printed books; copies upon large or thick paper, of which the impression was very limited, &c. &c.which will be sold by auction, by D. Speare on Wednesday, Nov. 19. and twenty-one following lawful days. Edinburgh, 1828. [NLS ABS.2.205.002(1)]
  • Catalogue of a collection of tracts illustrative of British history, etc. Edinburgh, 1827. [NLS Blk.268(2)]
  • Lists of Members and the Rules, with a Catalogue of the Books Printed for the Bannatyne Club Since Its Institution in 1823. Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh. 1867. [NLS SCS.BC.116]
  • The following trials, &c. part of the library of D. Constable, Esq. Adv. were sold with the library of J. Stuart, Esq. of Dunearn. Edinburgh, 1828?. [NLS K.R.6.e.2(2)]
  • Hewitt, David."Constable, Archibald (1774–1827), publisher." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.