The Edinburgh of John Kay

Eric Melvin Update


John Kay (1742 – 1826) was a self-taught artist and engraver who had come to Edinburgh as a young man to work as a barber and hairdresser. However in 1784 he abandoned his craft and for the next 38 years he sketched and engraved his contemporaries. Some 329 of his engravings, with accompanying notes, were published posthumously as Kay’s Portraits in 1837. This remarkable man has left us images of intellectual giants of ‘The Golden Age’ such as Adam Smith, the notorious Deacon William Brodie and a host of colourful characters who walked past his workshop behind St Giles in Edinburgh’s Parliament Close.

“Using artist John Kay’s years in Edinburgh as the window through which to view the tumultuous and stirring history of the capital is a clever device. Eric Melvin offers an entertaining, exceedingly well-informed account of the great diversions and events of the era that does credit to Kay’s wit and perception. A terrific read.”
Rosemary Goring (‘The Herald’)

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