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William Smellie was an antiquary, natural historian and prolific writer. A real ‘man of parts’, he was also the first editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Trained as a printer, he printed the Edinburgh Editions of the poetry of Robert Burns. Another claim to fame close to Burns’s heart was that he was a founder of the Crochallan Fencibles, the Edinburgh drinking club, and introduced the poet to the delights of the club.

"Shrewd Willie Smellie to Crochallan came; the old cock’d hat, the grey surtout the same;

His bristling beard just rising in its might, ’Twas four long nights and days to shaving night:

His uncomb’d grizzly locks, wild staring, thatch’d, A head for thought profound and clear, unmatch’d;

Yet tho’ his caustic wit was biting-rude, His heart was warm, benevolent, and good."


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