Viscount Stair Quatercentenary

May 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the Stair Society’s namesake, James Dalyrmple, Viscount Stair.

It is impossible to overestimate Stair’s importance in Scottish legal history. He is best known for his monumental Institutions of the Law of Scotland, first published in 1681, a work which became the foundation of modern Scots law. He is Scotland’s greatest jurist.

His Institutions systematised Scots law for the first time. It is cited in the Court of Session to this day.

As well as a second edition of his Institutions in 1693, Stair published the first printed law reports in Scotland, his Decisions of the Lords of Session in 1683 and 1687 as well as philosophical works.

Although his exact date of birth is not known, Stair died in Edinburgh on 25 November 1695 and is buried in the Kirk of St Giles in Edinburgh.

He is commemorated not just by our Society’s name but also the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia and the Stair Building at the University of Glasgow’s School of Law. There are memorial plaques to him in St Giles and at the University of Glasgow where he taught as a regent (tutor) in the 1630s and 1640s having been a student there.

Please see our ‘About’ page for more about Stair and his legacy: