William Chambers

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Chambers, William (1800–83). Publisher and author born and educated in Peebles and apprenticed to an Edinburgh bookseller. Chambers set up his own bookselling business in 1819 and went into printing, entering the lucrative business of writing and publishing cheap, popular, improving periodicals. With his brother Robert, he made his reputation with Chambers' Edinburgh Journal, a 1½-penny weekly begun in 1832. Crammed with entertaining and wholesome stories about Scottish history and biography, often written in vernacular Scots, it soon reached an English market. Chambers published a steady flow of periodicals and encyclopedias for the next four decades, made his fortune, and was an active and influential lord provost of Edinburgh in the 1880s. His interest in civic improvement and conservation left a permanent and wholly beneficent mark on the city's architectural development. He accepted a baronetcy from Gladstone but died before it could be awarded.

Nicholas Phillipson

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William Chambers, 1800–1883, and Robert Chambers, 1802–71, Scottish authors and publishers. Their firm of W. and R. Chambers is best known for Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, which William started in 1832 and for which both brothers wrote, and Chambers's Encyclopaedia (10 vol., 1859–68), which has gone through several editions. Robert published several books on history and in geology, including the anonymous Vestiges … of Creation (1844), a forerunner of Darwin's Origin of Species. William, always interested in public improvement, was lord provost of Edinburgh, 1865–69.