William Smellie

Old and Smelly?

Auld_and_Smellie_Free_Masons_Pocket_CompanionI recently came across a book in our collection - The Free Masons Pocket-Companion - published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1765. The title page indicates that the book was "Printed by Auld & Smellie." I immediately sensed a printer's joke in this (just say "Auld & Smellie" aloud and see). It turned out, however, that this was a case of truth being stranger than fiction.

According to Cecil Adams's article, "The Freemasons' Pocket Companions of the Eighteenth Century," published in volume 45 of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (1932), "William Smellie (1740-1795) was a well-known Edinburgh printer, and for a time in partnership with Auld." Smellie was, in fact, well-known enough to warrant an entry in the 8th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Not coincidentally, Smellie was the driving force behind the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in three volumes from 1768-1771.

A biography of Smellie was published in 1811, just 16 years after his death. The partnership between Auld & Smellie is referred to in the text and the book even includes some correspondence from Auld to Smellie.

This was not William Auld's first publication of The Free Masons Pocket Companion. Four years earlier, in 1761, an edition of the same book was "printed by Ruddiman, Auld, and Company; and sold by William Auld."

Auld_and_Smellie_detailWhile Auld & Smellie are not - for better or worse - pseudonymous names for two eighteenth-century printers, there is a rich tradition of not only writers, but also printers, using pseudonyms. If you're interested in the topic, William Cushing's 1885 book Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises is a wonderful trove of pseudonyms and the names behind them.

(Many thanks to Martin Cherry at London's Library and Museum of Freemasonry for pointing me to the Cecil Adams article in AQC.)

Both images from:
The Free Masons Pocket-Companion. Edinburgh: Printed by Auld & Smellie, 1765.  
Call number: RARE 14.21 .F853 1765
National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives