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Edinburgh, Lawnmarket, David Hume Statue

Statue (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Edinburgh, Lawnmarket, David Hume Statue

Classification Statue (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Bank Street; High Street; Statue Of David Hume

Canmore ID 179670

Site Number NT27SE 4357

NGR NT 2562 7359

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Architecture Notes

ARCHITECT: Alexander Stoddart [sculptor] 1997

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Nine-foot statue of the Scottish philosopher, historian, and essayist (1711-76), cast in patinated bronze. Set on a 5.5 foot plinth of honey-coloured stone, bearing on the front a carved inscription of the single word 'Hume', and on the back a plaque describing him as 'Philosopher and Historian: Scot and European: Man of the Enlightenment'. Cast by Powderhall Bronze. Total weight c.2 tonnes. Commissioned by the Saltire Society to celebrate its 60th anniversary, and completed in 11 months. Cost c.#120,000, raised by donations from the Society, Bank of Scotland (#25,000), Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust, the Advocates' Library, National Lottery, and the public. Positioned outside the old Sheriff Court, facing N side of the old Midlothian County Buildings, near the site of the Advocates' Library (where Hume was Keeper 1752-7) and St Giles', symbol of religious faith in Scotland. Erected 21 November 1997, unveiled by Sir Stewart Sutherland, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, 30 November 1997. Neo-classical in style, depicting an idealised version of Hume in the robes of an Ancient Greek philosopher, reclining on a seat featuring classical devices, and balancing on his right knee a blank tablet, intended to represent his scepticism. Sandy Stoddart (b.1959): Edinburgh-born sculptor based in Paisley.

Scotsman, Evening News [cuttings in Edin. Cent. Lib., Edinburgh Room]; PJM McEwen 1998; B Hillyard 1989; T Honderich 1996.


Project (1997)

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association ( set up a National Recording Project in 1997 with the aim of making a survey of public monuments and sculpture in Britain ranging from medieval monuments to the most contemporary works. Information from the Edinburgh project was added to the RCAHMS database in October 2010 and again in 2012.

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Edinburgh Sculpture Project has been supported by Eastern Photocolour, Edinburgh College of Art, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland, the Hope Scott Trust, The Old Edinburgh Club, the Pilgrim Trust, the RCAHMS, and the Scottish Archive Network.

Field Visit (25 August 2008)

Bronze semi-naked figure of David Hume, with drapery over his left shoulder and down his back, over his abdomen and legs, sitting on a low-backed seat. The seat has a cylindrical top (at Hume's waist level) out of each end of which protrudes a mastiff's head with open mouth. The cylinder rests on a three-clawed foot at each end. On the back of the seat is a medallion on which is the head of Helio-Medusa in relief. Issuing from each side of the head are snakes, and from the cheeks and chin extend five pointed rays. [Helios is the god of the sun and here represents the Enlightenment; Medusa turned everything to stone. This head therefore represents enlightenment twined round with philistinism.] Hume holds the top of a tablet in his right hand. The bottom of the tablet rests on his right knee. His left elbow rests on the cylinder top of the seat. He holds onto his drapery with his left hand. His left foot rests on a block. The statue is placed on a stone pedestal composed of blocks.

To mark its sixtieth anniversary, the Saltire Society organised a competition to produce a statue of David Hume. The Society requested a classical statue, which Stoddart interpreted as meaning a statue 'al'antica'. One inspiration was James Tassie's portrait medallion profile of Hume, where Hume was depicted with a bare left shoulder and drapery over his right.

David Hume (1711-1776)

Inscriptions : On front of pedestal (incised letters): HUME

On bronze plaque on back of pedestal (raised letters):

1711 DAVID HUME 1776 / PHILOSOPHER AND HISTORIAN : SCOT AND EUROPEAN : MAN OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT / This statue was commissioned by The Saltire Society to mark its Sixtieth Anniversary and unveiled as part of / The City of Edinburgh's Redevelopment of the Royal Mile on 30th November 1997 / by Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland FBA FRSE / Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the Universuty of Edinburgh.

Erected with the generous help of / Bank of Scotland, to mark its Tercentenary, / Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund. / The Faculty of Advocates, for which Hume was Keeper of the Library, 1752-1757 / The Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust / and Trusts, Corporate and Individual Sponsors, and Supporters in many countries.

SCOTLAND / SALTIRE / SOCIETY [logo on left of text]

BANK OF SCOTLAND / 1695 / 1995 / TERCENTENARY / 300 YEARS OF / BANKING SERVICE [logo on right of text]

THE SCOTTISH ARTS COUNCIL / National Lottery Fund [logo below text]

Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor Cast by Powderhall Bronze

Signatures : None Visible

Design period : 1995-1997

Year of unveiling : 1997

Unveiling details : 30 November 1997. Unveiled by Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland.

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN1466)


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