Adam Smith project

To save circuity, I intrude myself thus on your correspondence My Brother having communicated to me the desire you had expressed of his choosing for you some modern English publications, I recommend to him, besides some of these which are accordingly sent to you, the Edinburgh Review and the Monthly Magazine, as being in by far higher estimation and more extensive circulation than any others in their respective classes . . . .

— Jeremy Bentham to Pavel Chichagov,
between 20 and 25 May 1809;
EE letter ID: bentjeOU0080029a1c

There seem to have been at least three manifestations, published between the 18th and 20th centuries, of a journal using the name Edinburgh Review. That cited above — in a letter from Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) to the Russian naval officer and government minister Pavel Chichagov (1767–1849) — is actually the longest-lived (1802–1929) and the best known of the journals to be published under that name. An earlier and much more short-lived journal with similar purposes, called the Edinburgh Magazine and Review, was published monthly between 1773–1776.

Adam Smith (1723–1790) wrote to the earliest Edinburgh Review (1755), founded and edited by his friend Alexander Wedderburn, 1st earl of Rosslyn (1733–1805), Scottish lawyer, politician and friend too of David Hume. This earliest instance of an Edinburgh Review is not well documented and little discussed, though there is the suggestion that its quick demise was down to the unorthodox theological opinions of some of its articles.

Robert V. McNamee
Director, Electronic Enlightenment
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

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