United Kingdom > University of Aberdeen Special Collections
Papers of William Douglas Simpson (1896-1968) historian and archaeologist
Scope and content
GB 231 MS 2229Collection of photographs, prints and drawings of Shetland antiquities, used by W.D Simpson in published proceedings of the Viking Congress, Lerwick, 1950
GB 231 MS 2230Correspondence of W.D. Simpson (1896-1968) and Alexander Burns Shand [1st Baron], relating to the Shand Memorial in Kintore Church
GB 231 MS 2285Collection of papers relating to the Brooch of Lorn, 1957-1959, including memorandum by Mrs MacDougall of Dunollie, re. circumstances surrounding rediscovery of the brooch in 1824, and typescript copies of related papers and newspaper cuttings, c 1822 - 1920, from Colonel Ian A. Robertson.
GB 231 MS 2398Papers (including photographs, prints and drawings) relating to Rothiemay Castle, Banffshire, 1961-2 Report on Rothiemay Castle, with plan, photographs and correspondence, 1961 - 1962
GB 231 MS 2498Notes (typescript) on the estate and house of Kinmundy, Aberdeenshire, 1966
GB 231 MS 2729Correspondence of W. Douglas Simpson (1896-1968), relating to archaeological excavations at Dundarg Castle, Aberdeenshire, 1949-64.
GB 231 MS 2818Papers of W. Douglas Simpson (1896-1968), archaeologist and University Librarian. This collection of material in manuscript and typescript, with related printed matter, photographs, plans, etc. includes notes for, and drafts of, lectures, addresses, articles, pamphlets and books by W. Douglas Simpson, c 1919 - 1967. In addition to his work on Scottish archaeology, there is material relating to excavations at Mitford Castle, Northumberland, n.d.; material assembled for a biography (unpublished) of Field Marshal Lord Raglan (1788 - 1855), n.d.; material re. organisation and publications of the First Viking Congress (Lerwick, 1950), and the Second Viking Congress (Bergen, 1953); and material relating to castles at Marienwerder, Lochstadt, and other sites formerly in East Prussia, n.d.
GB 231 MS 2968Collection of plans of Deer Abbey, Aberdeenshire, 1931-51
GB 231 MS 3042Account of Bodiam Castle, Aberdeenshire, 1943 (GB 231 MS 3042/1) and Account of Glenbuchat, Aberdeenshire, 1941 (GB 231 MS 3042/2)
GB 231 MS 3442Letters, 1939 and 1942, of Maud Storr Best (1873-1969), Sub-Librarian, and W. Douglas Simpson (1896-1968), Librarian, concerning Aberdeen University Library (photocopy)
Records creator's history
William Douglas Simpson (1896-1968) was Librarian and Clerk and Registrar of the General Council in the University of Aberdeen from 1926 - 1966. He was born in Aberdeen on 2 Aug 1896, son of H.F. Morland Simpson, Rector of Aberdeen Grammar School, and graduated from Aberdeen University, MA 1919 (first class honours) and DLitt 1924. He was appointed Assistant in History there, 1919 - 1920, Lecturer in British History, 1920 - 1926, and later, held the honorary positions of Rhind Lecturer in Archaeology (1941) and Dalrymple Lecturer in Archaeology (1950, Glasgow). He was an exceptionally popular extra-mural lecturer.
He directed excavations at Kildrummy Castle, 1919 - 1939; Coull Castle, 1923; Kindrochit Castle; 1925 - 1927; Doune of Invernochty, 1935; Esslemont Castle, 1938; Dundarg Castle, 1950 - 1951; and Finavon Castle, 1952 - 1953, and wrote numerous books and articles based on this and other research, through which he became well known as an authority on the castellated architecture of Scotland and Scandinavia. He held several appointments in relation to this work, including chairman of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland; member of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland; secretary of the Third Spalding Club (1928 - 1956); member of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery Advisory Board and Scottish Records Advisory Council, 1938 - 1955. He received an LL D from Aberdeen University in 1960, and was awarded an OBE in 1954 and CBE in 1962.
For details of his work and list of publications see Who was Who, 1961 - 1970, and A.T. Hall, A Bibliography of W. Douglas Simpson 1896-1968, in W.D. Simpson, . Dunollie Castle and the Brooch of Lorne(Aberdeen: Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen, 1991). See also, appreciation and obituary in Aberdeen University Review42 (1967-1968), 247 - 254; and 43 (1969-1970), 24 - 27
Certain volumes in GB 231 MS 2818 appear to have been used originally by other persons, including Dr Simpson's father, H.F. Morland Simpson, for note-making or collection of press-cuttings.
This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures
No accruals expected
Source of acquisition
GB 231 MS 2229: deposited by W.D Simpson. Accessioned in Aug 1970; GB 231 MS 2229: deposited by W.D Simpson. Accessioned in Aug 1970; GB 231 MS 2230: deposited by W.D Simpson. Accessioned in Aug 1970; GB 231 MS 2230: deposited by W.D Simpson. Accessioned in Aug 1970; GB 231 MS 2285: deposited by W.D Simpson, May 1957 - Feb 1959; GB 231 MS 2285: deposited by W.D Simpson, May 1957 - Feb 1959; GB 231 MS 2398: date and source not recorded. Probably deposited by W.D. Simpson c 1960; GB 231 MS 2398: date and source not recorded. Probably deposited by W.D. Simpson c 1960; GB 231 MS 2498: presented by W. D Simpson, c 1966; GB 231 MS 2498: presented by W. D Simpson, c 1966; GB 231 MS 2729: date and source not recorded. Probably deposited by W.D. Simpson pre-1966; GB 231 MS 2729: date and source not recorded. Probably deposited by W.D. Simpson pre-1966; GB 231 MS 2818: bequeathed to the University by W.D Simpson in 1968; GB 231 MS 2818: bequeathed to the University by W.D Simpson in 1968; GB 231 MS 2968: date and source not recorded; GB 231 MS 2968: date and source not recorded; GB 231 MS 3442: date and source not recorded.
System of arrangement
GB 231 MS 2818: notebooks or manuscript volumes which contain material relating to more than one topic have been listed in order of date as far as known; they are followed by other papers in alphabetical order of subject or place; and by material added later, which had been originally shelved separately, including collections of photographs used, in some cases as illustrations for books or articles.
For other records described above, listing is in process
Conditions governing access
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Other finding aids
Descriptive list for GB 231 MS 2818 available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail:
Very brief collection level descriptions for this and other deposits described above, available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online
The papers described above should be considered as complementary to the Simpson Collection (Sim). One of several named library collections maintained by the University, this valuable resource represents the working collection of W. Douglas Simpson (1896-1968). This is a comprehensive collection of his own works as well as inscribed copies from scholars in the same field. It consists of some 250 mostly interleaved and annotated copies of his own very numerous publications and related material, plus c. 150 pamphlets. There are also c 5500 glass lantern slides used in his lectures, c 1750 postcards, and large-scale plans of buildings, produced in the course of his investigations. A collection level description is available on the Historic Collections web pages http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/ (select Special Libraries and Archives: Collection Level Description Database)
Several other collections with a similar field of interest (Scottish castles, architecture, and archaeology) are deposited in the University. Separate collection level descriptions for each of these collections are available on the Archives Hub. They include: Papers of William Kelly (1861-1944), architect, comprising notebooks, sketch-books, photographs, lectures, relating to castles and other buildings (GB 231 MS 2380) and his Collection of papers relating to Glenbuchat Castle, Aberdeenshire, with letters to J.M. Bulloch (GB 231 MS 2195) Papers of Thomas Ross, architect, n.d., 1890-1921 (GB 231 MS 2820; GB 231 MS 2910; and GB 231 MS 3169).These papers contain some material from W. Douglas Simpson; and a number of pre-publication proof copies of items from the major MacGibbon and Ross publications will be found in the Simpson printed collection (Sim).. Papers of Harry Gordon Slade, architectural historian, comprising plans, drawings, papers and printed articles, relating to the architecture of towns, villages, castles, stately homes and vernacular buildings, principally (though not exclusively) of the north east of Scotland, 1971 - 2001 (GB 231 MS 3127). Peter Rourke slide collection of Scottish castles, c 1960 - 1994 (GB 231 MS 3498). A much smaller collection than the Simpson Collection, but fully indexed, and comprehensive in its coverage of Scottish castles and fortified houses.
Several deposits accessioned in the University of Aberdeen institutional archive relate to W. Douglas Simpson's academic achievements, and to his work as University Librarian and Clerk to the General Council. These include: Gladstone Memorial Prize essay, 1919: The Political Value of the Principle of Nationality Considered, by W.D. Simpson (GB 231 MS U 214); Correspondence of General Council. (Simpson). 1949-54, 1955-57, 1961-64, 1965 (GB 231 MS U 450); Papers relating to the Dr. W. Douglas Simpson Portrait Fund, raised on his retirement from the posts of Librarian, Clerk of the General Council, and Registrar, 1966-67 (GB 231 MS U 627); 1-9-"University Charters" printed volume, University Commission "Appendix to returns of ... King's College" with MS annotation (1827, etc) & General Council material from Dr Simpson (1934-66) (GB 231 MS U 981); 1960 Centenary Celebrations correspondence between W. D. Simpson and W. S. MacDonald (GB 231 MS U 1035); Alumni enquiries (King's College & Marischal College) handled by Simpson etc (GB 231 MS U 1082); Correspondence between W. D. Simpson & George Davidson 1959-66 (GB 231 MS U 1098).
See also, letters from W. D. Simpson to Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford, 1941, 1951-56, deposited in Oxford University. (Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: Reference: MSS Crawford) (NRA 21553 Crawford)
Existence and location of copies
No copies known
Most of the papers described above were used by W. Douglas Simpson in his extensive historical and archaeological publications. See A.T. Hall, A Bibliography of W. Douglas Simpson 1896-1968', in W.D. Simpson,. Dunollie Castle and the Brooch of Lorne(Aberdeen: Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen, 1991), pp. 1-32. Full details of W. Douglas Simpson's publications held by Aberdeen University Library can be found via the Library catalogue, available on line ( http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/ )
Condition of the material
Other descriptive information
Existence/Location of Originals
This material is original
Historic buildings Scotland
Who was Who, 1961 - 1970
A Bibliography of W. Douglas Simpson 1896-1968
. Dunollie Castle and the Brooch of Lorne
Aberdeen University Review
. Dunollie Castle and the Brooch of Lorne
Language of the material
William Douglas Simpson (1896-1968) Aberdeen University Librarian, historian and archaeologist
University of Aberdeen