Discover Hugh Miller



Miller's birthplace museum has been enormously enriched during the Bicentenary year just passed by an unexpectedly large quantity of extremely valuable donations. The generosity of the donors is acknowledged here, together with details of the contents, and the story behind each gift.

It is sadly true that the Cottage possesses comparatively few artifacts belonging to him, and the National Trust for Scotland, its custodians, will greatly welcome and appreciate any further gifts which have a direct association in one way or another.


Systematic Account of the Geology of Tasmania, by Robt M Johnston, FLS; William Thomas Strutt, Government Printer, Hobart, Tasmania, 1888 (First Edition)

and R M Johnston Memorial Volume, 1921; Papers given by Johnston on the fishes of Tasmania and on fossil-bearing coal measures; Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 1880 and 1894-95; Observations on Accumulated Capital Wealth, etc; Geological Torchbearers of Tasmania, paper by Dr Maxwell Banks, Dept of Geology, University of Tasmania. The pictures above and below are copied from the Systematic Account, top Johnston and colleagues on an expedition into the interior, and below a "Jurassic Park" skeleton.

Donors: Dr David McPherson Duncan, of Kingston, Tasmania, and Dr Max Banks (on behalf of the Royal Society of Tasmania)

Johnstonís seminal study, as well as being the first source-book for the natural history of that state, bears witness to Millerís inspiration for those who followed him, as will be seen in the Bicentenary Citation presented to the Cottage by the Royal Society, to be found on the Honours page of this site.

The Cottageís acquisition of this rare and precious volume makes a story in itself. Property manager Frieda Gostwick, always in search of new evidence for Millerís legacy to earth scientists, met Dr Duncan, a mineral exploration consultant, when he was over from Tasmania and visited the Cottage, some five years ago. He told her about "The Hugh Miller of Tasmania," namely R M Johnston. This paved the way for the magnificent donations listed above. Frieda also came across an article about Johnston in the Inverness Courier, August 8th, 1998, by Highland freelance journalist Roddy McLean. This intimated that Johnston, born in the village of Ardersier, near Nairn, in 1845, had been encouraged in his youth by Millerís example and his books (then in the zenith of their popularity).

Reaching Tasmania in 1871, Johnston was to forge routes through its mountainous wildernesses, gathering and recording the first authoritative data on the interior botany, zoology, geology and palaentology. He and his companions often had to make their own tracks with axes through otherwise impenetrable scrub. Johnston was thus one of the last great 19th Century explorers of the Australasian continent, as well as becoming the stateís leading statistician, and formulator of its complex proportional representation electoral system. Truly a humbly born Scots polymath in the Miller vein. In his Systematic Account, he chose to close his chapters on "descriptive geology," by quoting the moving concluding passage from Millerís book Testimony of the Rocks on the history of creation. It was perhaps partly because of this, that he became known as "The Hugh Miller of Tasmania," although such a label might not give adequate due to his own original ventures over 40 years into previously unknown and uncharted territories.

The Systematic Account and related papers are now accessible to the public on request in the Cottageís newly-created Reading Room. It is difficult to express the value of such interconnections between the pioneering Scots of the "Old" and "New" Worlds, for both present and future generations.

Andersonís Guide to the Highlands, by George and Peter Anderson, John Murray, London 1834. First Edition.

Donor: Professor Michael Collie, Professor Emeritus, York University, Toronto, authority on the early Moray Firth geologists, and author of T H Huxley at Work, and Murchison in Moray.

This book, while it is an early example of the touristsí guidebook, containing a broad general introduction to the Highlands and Islands, was particularly valuable to Miller as a geological "primer." It was his first reference work on the natural history of the region, published when he had already been discovering and working on his Old Red Sandstone fossil fish, alone and unaided, for several years.

It was presented by Prof Collie at the International Bicentenary Conference held in Cromarty, October 10-12, 2000. It is an extremely rare volume, gifted with the express intention of augmenting the developing library at Hugh Millerís Cottage. It is particularly appropriate, since Miller himself was consulting the book.

The Centenary of Hugh Miller, Robert Maclehose & Co, Glasgow, 1902

Donor: Archie Dudgeon, of Stockport, who said it had been in his family since the 1920s.

The official account of the Centenary Celebrations on August 22, 1902; its principal item of enduring interest is the assessment of Millerís enduring legacy by Sir Archibald Geikie. In his youth a protťgť of Millerís, Geikie went on to become a Director of HM Geological Survey and a renowned author.

The booklet also contained a short speech by the Scots-born American steel multi-millionaire and benefactor, Andrew Carnegie, who endowed Cromarty with the Hugh Miller Institute public library that year. Mr Carnegie attended by steam launch from Skibo Castle, the retirement home he had built for himself near Dornoch.


First Impressions of England and Its People, Gould and Lincoln, Boston 1855

Donor: James Secord, Reader, the History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University), author of Victorian Sensation (The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation).

Mr Secord presented the Cottage with this early American edition during the Bicentenary conference, October 11, 2002, at which he was a principal speaker. It is a valuable addition to the very few editions the Cottages possesses of works published in his lifetime.

John Knox's two-volume History of the Reformation, Smith, Elder, Edinburgh, 1816 

Donor: Mrs Agnes Samuel of Victoria Crescent, Glasgow.

The work is inscribed 'Hugh Miller, Cromarty', on the flyleaf of both volumes.

And the date of the edition, 1816, indicates Miller may have acquired the books while a very young man, still living in the Cottage. Miller would have been only 13 or 14 when Oliver and Boyd of Edinburgh published these volumes in 1816. His reading of Knox's works would have marked a significant step towards his own path towards evangelism which he reached in his mid-twenties. Miller later quoted one of Knox's most forthright statements on the masthead of his newspaper, The Witness - 'I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list (chooses)'."

The volumes contain some of Knox's most famous (or notorious exhortations) including his letter admonishing Mary Queen of Scots, his 'First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women' and his Reformation history.

Pencil marks in the margins highlighting various powerful passages may have been made by Hugh Miller.

Agnes Samuel commented: "In Hugh Miller's bicentennial year, it seems only right for me to gift the the Knox volumes, to Miller's birthplace museum.

"They belonged to my father and they probably found their way into his library from one of the Glasgow book barrows or second hand book shops in the forties or fifties," she added.

Footprints of the Creator, with Memoir by Louis Agassiz; Robert Carter and Brothers, New York, 1875.

Donors: Jack and Margaret Frost, of Akron, Ohio

Footprints of the Creator. Facsimile copy of the edition, with Memoir by Agassiz; Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh, 1861, republished by Gregg International Publishers Ltd, Farnborough, 1971.

Donor: Dr Gerhard C Cadee, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, during the Bicentenary Conference

Historical and Descriptive Account of South Australia (founded on the experience of a three yearsí residence in that colony) by J F Bennett, Smith and Elder & Co, London; A & C Black, Edinburgh, 1843. (Price two shillings)

Donor: Rosemary Airey, Millerís great great grand-daughter in the female line from Harriet.

Submitted by the publishers for review to Millerís paper, The Witness, this was one of many contemporary publications seeking to lure Britons to emigrate to Australia. The author said that while "seeking to avoid anything which could be construed as puffery," he pointed out that the pioneers had by then (1840s) done all the hard work, roads intersected the country in every direction, and the new emigrant could walk into a very comfortable house and in a very short time, fix on a location with buildings and improvements already in place, and stock of every kind, plentiful and cheap.

From Highland Croft to Canada Homestead.

Donor: Catriona Urquhart of Inverness. Mrs Urquhart kindly gifted photocopied extracts of her family history booklet describing her ancestorsí emigration to Canada from Cromarty, aboard the Cleopatra, on the occasionof the unveiling of the Emigration Stone on Cromarty Links, 10th October 2002.

Lydia, Wife of Hugh Miller of Cromarty, by Elizabeth Sutherland, Tuckwell Press, East Linton, 2002

Donor: Marian McKenzie Johnston

Complementary copy of the new and first biography of Millerís wife, Lydia Mackenzie Falconer Fraser, signed by author Elizabeth Sutherland and great great grand-daughter Marian Mackenzie Johnston.

The Cottage has for several years past benefitted immensely from Mrs Mackenzie Johnston's gift of a copy of the portrait which appears on the front cover of the book, as well as from a Genealogical Chart relating to the Miller family, which she and her husband Henry spent many exhaustive years of research in compiling.


Hugh Miller, One Man Play by Stewart Conn, Diehard, Callander, 2002

Donor of signed copy: Stewart Conn, of Edinburgh.

Hugh Miller, Opera Programme of the two-act opera by Reginald Barrett-Ayres), with reviews

Donor: Miss R E Greig, Edinburgh, September 29, 2002.

"Hugh Who". CD-rom containing still pictures of the opera performed by the Children of Cromarty Primary School, October 4th and 5th.

Donor: GMG Productions, Glasgow

Scenes & Legends of the North of Scotland, 3rd Ed,Johnstone & Hunter, 1854, Footprints of the Creator, 12th ed, Nimmo 1870, and The Cruise of the Betsey, Gould & Lincoln USA, 1858.

Donor: Charles Smith, Great Ouseburn, Yorkshire


The Cottage has only three first editions of Hugh Miller's works - Poems in the Leisure Hours of a Journeyman Mason, The Old Red Sandstone, and Testimony of the Rocks. Any bookseller, or private individual who wishes to donate, or offer for sale, a first edition of a Miller title in good condition should contact Martin Gostwick. We are especially interested in finding copies of his best known, and still read works, such as My Schools and Schoolmasters, Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland, First Impressions of England and Its People, and Footprints of the Creator.



Hughmilleria socialis Sarle

Donor: Samuel J Ciurca, of Rochester, New York State, USA

A superb specimen of this Eurypterid fauna was kindly gifted by Sam Ciurca to mark the Bicentenary, and is now on display in the Cottage Reading Room. The genus was discovered by the American palaeontologist Clifton J Sarle in 1902/3, in a black shale bed along the Erie Canal, which at that time was being deepened by reexcavation. Sarle chose to honour Miller, whose centenary had taken place the previous year (1902) by naming this fish-like creature for him. Specimens are on permanent exhibition, together with an associated euripteryd, Euripterus pittsfordensis, at Pittsford Community Library.

The gift is the result of email correspondence following a "hit" by Sam Ciurca on this website.


Donor: Christine Matheson of Abriachan, by Loch Ness

One of the fossil fishes of Caithness, it is only known from Northern Scotland. Found by Christine Matheson at Achanarras Quarry, by Spittal, it is described as "tadpole-like", generally between 2cm and 3cm long, with a well-developed skull, vertebral column and tail fin. There is no scientific agreement on the zoological relationships of this fish.Cromarty Bay Old Red Sandstone fossil fish.

Cromarty Bay Old Red Sandstone fishes

Donor: Martin Tust, of Runcorn, Cheshire, England.

Consisting of a large box of specimens, primarily of the Coccosteus genus, collected by Mr Tust's late father, Dr Theodore Tust.

Collection of Minerals and Crystals

Donor: Mrs Maggie Holt, of Delny, Invergordon

A lifetimeís collection of more than 80 minerals, including rock crystals, amethyst, iceland spar, corals, garnets, quartz, beryl, jet, jade, bloodstone, moonstone, agates.

A retired schoolteacher, Mrs Holt wrote to the Cottage on the suggestion of a friend, hoping her collection of more than 40 years could find a good home. It includes specimens from her native Yorkshire, the Cairngorms, Washington USA, British Columbia and Quebec, Mexico, Hawaii, Brazil, India and other locations. One of the largest pieces is a gorgeous chunk of Scottish rose quartz. It is planned to use the collection for educational purposes, including giving younger visitors a "hands-on" contact.


Forester Mr Bryce Reynard, of Inverness, has donated a beautiful box, handmade in birch bark, for display in the Birthplace Cottage, September 2009. It replicates the box referred to by Miller as his "first library" in his autobiography.




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