Scottish Tartans Resources

The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland - 1850

Thomas Smibert

In his introduction to his 1850 publication, Thomas Smibert writes:

"The object of this present work is, to give the Gael, or Highlanders of Scotland, a succinct history of their various Clans, with representations of their respective Tartans, correctly delineated and coloured, the whole being presented, at the same time, in such a shape as to place the publication within the reach of nearly all interested. The books hitherto issued on the subject have been for the few and the wealthy, not for the community at large. The numberless Highland families, moreover, who have long left the native region of their sires, and have disused its language, will find that the present publication has been expressly so drawn up as to merit their acceptation, and to be universally intelligible. The Backwoodsman of the far western world may recall through it the memory of his fathers, and the Canadian draw thence the means of reassuming the Tartans by his distant lakes."

Fifty-five tartans are illustrated, in grid-like fashion, in this work. D. C. Stewart, in The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, quotes Smibert as saying, " was to ascertain and establish the genuine and oldest setts of the proper tartans of the Highland Clans, before the influx of such varieties rendered it impossible, that the present work was undertaken. The Highland chiefs themselves have of late thron the most serious obstacles in the way, seeing that they have been too ready to adopt changes at the mere dictation of fancy, with the view of improving, no doubt, the look of their family setts."

Smibert himself commented in his introduction on his sources for the tartans.

Most of Smibert's tartan samples were obtained from William Wilson & Sons of Bannockburn, weavers of tartan cloth since the mid-eighteenth century. The majority of tartans illustrated in this reference closely follow the descriptions in James Logan's The Scottish Gael (1831). D. C. Stewart also comments, "...only three [tartans] are found both in Smibert and in the Vestiarium but not in Logan, and these were probably being regularly manufactured by Messrs Wilson, who are known to have produced tartans for the Sobieski brothers as early as 1829.

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