William Smellie, 1740 - 1795. Printer, naturalist and antiquary

Reference URL

William Smellie, 1740 - 1795. Printer, naturalist and antiquary about 1781
  • Scottish Art
Edinburgh-born printer and naturalist William Smellie is best-known for editing the first edition of the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’. The encyclopaedia’s publication, in 100 weekly instalments between 1768 and 1771, was a tremendous task and its success immediately led to a second edition. Even so, the first edition reflected some of Smellie’s strong opinions, misconceptions and occasional lack of expertise – his article on women, for example, simply says: "the female of man". Smellie is also known for his translation of the famous ‘Histoire Naturelle’ by French naturalist Leclerc, and his own ‘Philosophy of Natural History’. This portrait is one of several pencil drawings by John Brown, executed during the early 1780s and given to the Society of Antiquaries in April 1782.

Glossary Open


Relating to the study or collection of antiques, particularly from the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome. It is also used for a person engaged in this work.



  • Acc. No. PG 3588
  • Medium Pencil on paper
  • Size 49.80 x 34.00 cm (framed: 64.77 x 48.89 x ? cm)
  • Credit Gifted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2009