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William and Robert Chambers: A story of entrepreneurship & dedication

Chambers - this venerable publishing house was founded in ScotlandIt was the brothers William (1800-83) and Robert (1802-71) Chambers, both born in Peebles, who founded and gave their name to the publishing company that is now Chambers Harrap. Their story is one of entrepreneurship and dedication; unable to afford a university education, William nevertheless became Lord Provost of Edinburgh and Robert author of many learned books, including the anonymously published Vestiges of Creation which anticipated much of Charles Darwin’s work.

Robert’s breadth of learning was vast, ranging from history to poetry, from spiritualism to geology. The brothers became prominent figures in the Edinburgh intellectual scene in the middle of the 19th century and formed intimate acquaintances with Sir Walter Scott, Hugh Miller, Thomas Carlyle and James Hogg.

Chambers offices, Hopetoun Crescent, Edinburgh

From their first small bookshop on Leith Walk, opened in 1818, what became W&R Chambers & Co took on successive offices on the High Street, Cockburn Street, Thistle Street and Annandale Street before finding its current home on Hopetoun Crescent.

The company is best known for its English dictionaries but it publishes a wide range of reference titles that remain faithful to the brothers’ aim of producing educational books that are accessible to all.