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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Geddes, Dr John (1735 — 99)

He was Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld and elder brother of the biblical critic Bishop Alexander Geddes. Burns first met Dr John Geddes at the house of Lord Monboddo in Edinburgh during the winter of 1786-7. Geddes took an interest in the poet's work, and was responsible for getting 5 Catholic Seminaries, including that of the Scots College at Valladolid, of which he had once been Rector to subscribe to the Edinburgh Edition of 1787. Burns took Geddes's own copy, bound with blank sheets at both ends, with him on his Highland tour, and delayed returning it for almost 2 years. Writing to Geddes from Ellisland on 3rd February 1789, the poet apologised for having kept the book so long: 'You will see in your book, which I beg your pardon for detaining so long, that I have been turning my lyre on the banks of the Nith. Some larger poetic plans that are floating in my imagination, or partly put in execution, I shall impart to you when I have the pleasure of meeting with you...'

On the death of Dr Geddes, the book passed into the hands of his sister, Margaret Geddes, who was married to John Hyslop, a Scots surgeon, and lived in Finsbury Square, London. On Hyslop's death, the book passed to their daughter, also Margaret Hyslop, who gave it to the English anatomist, Dr Henry Goadly when he left England for America in 1838.

In 1863, a Nairn man, James Black, who had settled in Detroit, and who had become friendly with Dr Goadly, bought the book from the Doctor's widow. It then passed into the hands of the American collector W K Bixby, President of the Burns club of St Louis, who, in 1908, had it photographed and 'reproduced by the lithographic and gelatine process' in a limited edition of 473 copies, distributed only to the members of the Bibliophiele Society of Boston. Unfortunately, however, Bixby erroneously attributed the original ownership of the book of Alexander, instead of to John Geddes. The facsimile has become known as the Geddes Burns.

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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