|Birth Place:||Pleasance (Edinburgh)|
|Main places of activity:||
Smellie taught himself French in order to translate Buffon's Histoire naturelle, a book he first came into contact with when working on the articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica.
The Natural History was Smellie's life project and only undertaking as a translator. He did make some corrections to Buffon's original text in order to tone it down, rejecting the most controversial antireligious ideas. But Smellie's version still departs from a conservative Baconian approach and does justice to Buffon's deductive and systematic philosophical approach. Smellie's translation confirms his commitment to the democratisation of knowledge and its diffusion.
secondary bibliography references
R. Kerr, ed., Memoirs of the life, writings, & correspondence of William Smellie, late printer in Edinburgh, secretary and superintendent of natural history to the Society of Scotish antiquaries, 2 vols., Edinburgh and London, 1811.
J. Loveland, 'French Thought in William Smellie's Natural History: A Scottish Reception of Buffon and Condillac', in D. Dawson and P. Morère, eds., Scotland and France in the Enlightenment, London, Associated University Presses, 2004, pp. 192-215.
S. W. Brown, 'Smellie, William (1740-1795)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008.
Id., 'William Smellie: A Printer's Life', in S. W. Brown and W. McDougall, eds., The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, 2 vols, II: Enlightenment and Expansion (1707-1800), Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2012, pp. 52-61.