This article assesses the importance of Allan Ramsay's Collection of Scots Proverbs (1737) in relation to his creative output and in the context of Enlightenment print culture, taking in later commercial and chapbook publication. The Scots Proverbs was Ramsay's final printed book in 1737, and was reprinted within his lifetime, yet it also had a significant afterlife following his death in 1758. Although previous editors of Ramsay have been dismissive of the proverbs as a commercially oriented collection of largely recycled sayings, Ramsay's Scots Proverbs is an important part of his oeuvre for a number of reasons. The first printing of the Scots Proverbs formed part of Ramsay's post-Union editorial and, more broadly, cultural project, particularly through a preface addressed 'To the Tenantry of Scotland'. This article explores how Ramsay's preface constructs a Scots pastoral image of labouring class auto-didacticism, and indeed positions its audience in a manner which is both consistent with and dependent on earlier works by the poet. In this context, the collection emerges as an act of cultural assertion, preservation and reinvention linked to the wider processes by which Ramsay (and indeed later writers) construct a synthetic post-Union literary vernacular and an assertively patriotic Scots print culture. The Collection of Scots Proverbs also experienced a significant afterlife, being republished across Scotland, and even further afield, throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Moving into the nineteenth century, I examine both the repackaging and reassessment of Ramsay's collection in Scottish print and in relation to the shifting concerns of paremiography during the Enlightenment, as shown by William Marshall's altered approach to the study of proverbs.


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pp. 19-48
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