- 1539-1832 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
John Anderson (1726-1796) was born at Rosneath, Dunbartonshire, the grandson of the Reverend John Anderson (1668-1721), Preceptor to the Duke of Argyll and first minister of St David's Ramshorn Church in Glasgow and son of the Reverend James Anderson, minister of Rosneath. Following the early death of his father, Anderson was brought up by an aunt in Stirling and later attended Glasgow University, where he graduated in 1745. Following employment as tutor to several young gentlemen, Anderson was appointed Professor of Oriental Languages at the College or University of Glasgow in 1755 and transferred to the Chair of Natural Philosophy in 1757.
Anderson had a wide range of interests - in natural philosophy, natural history, antiquities and ballistics and military engineering - and was a prolific writer and inventor. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and many other scientists of the day. He installed the first lightning conductor in Glasgow, on the College steeple.
Glasgow in the 18th century was a centre of the Industrial Revolution and Anderson realised the need to encourage technical education. He gave an evening class in experimental philosophy open to the mechanics in the city, which proved to be so popular that the lecture room had to be twice extended to accommodate the numbers wishing to attend. He was an inspired teacher and was nicknamed 'Jolly Jack Phosphorus' by his students. He was associated with James Watt and encouraged the latter's revolutionary work on the steam engine.
Anderson found himself often at odds with his colleagues in Glasgow University over matters of governance and their hostility, as he saw it, to new ideas, and some of these disputes ended in lawsuits. In 1795 he drew up a detailed plan in his will for a new University to be founded in Glasgow, which would be 'a place of useful learning'. Even women would be welcome to attend classes. After his death in January 1796 his trustees, although left with insufficient funds, were able to establish Anderson's Institution, which evolved into the present day University of Strathclyde.
Name of creator
John Anderson bequeathed the whole of his library to the institution he founded under his name and directed that none of the books should be taken out of the buildings of the institution. The library was administered by a president, secretary and treasurer and, in order to extend its usefulness, the trustees combined it with a subscription library and reading room. The books consisted of standard works and periodical publications in science and general literature. They were purchased by subscription or acquired by donation and circulated amongst the subscribers. The subscribers were divided into two classes: science and general literature. Each class appointed a committee of five of their number to select the books. In addition, the professors of natural philosophy, chemistry and natural history and the president, secretary and treasurer were ex officiis members of the committees.
The collection was used as working stock for the original library of Anderson's Institution.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
John Anderson bequeathed his personal library to the University founded by his will - Anderson's Institution, the original antecedent of the University of Strathclyde. Further additions were made to the collection up until 1832. Anderson's own books can be identified by the presence of his bookplate.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Collection of books, papers and lecture notes grouped in classes of theology, philosophy, literature and history.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The collection is arranged by subject order as listed in 'A catalogue of the library of Anderson's University, Glasgow.' (Glasgow, Printed for the University, by Edward Khull, 1832) although not all items listed are still present in the collection.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
All the books in this collection are catalogued on SUPrimo the University of Strathclyde Library's integrated search service.