Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Napier, James

NAPIER, JAMES (1810–1884), dyer and antiquary, was born at Partick, Glasgow, in June 1810, and started life as a ‘draw-boy’ to a weaver. Subsequently he became an apprentice dyer, and, being interested in chemistry, he with David Livingstone [q. v.] and James Young [q. v.], celebrated for his discoveries regarding paraffin, attended the classes in Glasgow of Professor Thomas Graham, who was later master of the mint. Subsequently Napier went to England, and lived several years in London and Swansea. About 1849–50 he returned to Glasgow, where he became closely associated with Anderson's college and the technical school founded by James Young; he died at Bothwell on 1 Dec. 1884.

Napier wrote:

  1. ‘A Manual of Electro-Metallurgy,’ 1851, 8vo (5th edit. 1876).
  2. ‘A Manual of the Art of Dyeing,’ Glasgow, 1853, 12mo (3rd edit. 1875, 8vo).
  3. ‘The Ancient Workers and Artificers in Metal,’ 1856, 12mo.
  4. ‘Stonehaven and its Historical Associations,’ 2nd edit. 1870, 16mo.
  5. ‘Notes and Reminiscences relating to Partick,’ Glasgow, 1873, 8vo.
  6. ‘Manufacturing Arts in Ancient Times,’ Edinburgh, 1874, 8vo.
  7. ‘Folklore; or Superstitious Beliefs in the West of Scotland within this Century,’ Paisley, 1879, 8vo.

By this last work Napier will be best remembered. It is an admirable example of folklore of a district, honestly collected, and narrated without ostentation. It is invaluable to any student of Scottish folklore. He also contributed various papers to the Glasgow Archæological Society, one paper on ‘Ballad Folklore’ to the ‘Folklore Record,’ vol. ii., and numerous others to the Glasgow Philosophical Society's ‘Proceedings’ (cf. The Royal Society's Cat. of Scientific Papers). He also published additions to Byrne's ‘Practical Metal-worker's Assistant,’ 1864, 8vo, and illustrated MacArthur's ‘Antiquities of Arran,’ 1861, 8vo.

[Brit. Mus. Cat.; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Athenæum, 1884, ii. 810; other newspaper notices, and personal knowledge.]

W. G. B-k.