William Smellie, encyclopaedist

1740 (Edinburgh) – 1795 (Edinburgh)

The convivial Smellie (not to be confused with the obstetrician of the same name) was a leading figure in Edinburgh enlightenment circles. He printed the work of Burns, Hume, Smith, Cullen and Hutton, all of them friends of his (he attended Cullen’s lectures). Smellie learned French so he could translate Buffon’s great work, was with Black a regular at Monboddo’s ‘learned suppers’, and corresponded with Hunter. Burns immortalised the drinking club Smellie founded — the two had a particular taste for each other’s wit and company; Smith, Ferguson and Monboddo were also members. There is surprisingly little on him online.