Getting our numbers right: how many subscribers?

By Sue Moody

First there were 168…

We initially thought there were 168 subscribers as that is the figure given in Wikipedia. We now know that figure is wrong. There seems to have been some confusion with the number of people who attended the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which was held at the Albert Institute in 1867. You can check this out at: British Association for the Advancement of Science (1867). Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dundee, September 1867. OCLC 58887495.

Then there were 261…

Page from the Annual List of Members of the Albert Institute Limited. Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, BT2/156.

Page from the Annual List of Members of the Albert Institute Limited. Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, BT2/156. Click image to enlarge.

A list of subscribers was published in The Dundee Advertiser on 23 December 1863 entitled “Alphabetical List of Subscriptions to the Dundee Albert Institute. Up to 21st December 1863” and this is undoubtedly the list of original subscribers. It gives the full name and address of each subscriber, their occupation, and the amount of their subscription. It has 261 entries, some of which are companies and include more than one individual. We decided to use this list as it could reliably claim to include all the original subscribers. We also felt that we simply couldn’t deal with a longer list, particularly as some of our planning was based on the much lower figure of 168. This list forms the archive that you will find in the Subscriber Database

Next there were 327…

Researchers brought to our attention a later list of subscribers that was compiled for the purposes of the annual return to the Registrar of Companies. This dates from 1865 and is described as “Annual Return of Members of the Albert Institute Company as of 20thFebruary 1865”. Download the full 1865 handwritten list. 8.6Mb PDF

What’s the difference?

Working out how many subscribers there were to the Albert Institute even with these two lists was not straightforward. For example, a comparison of the list from 1863 and the list from 1865 shows that there are additional entries in the 1863 list, as this list includes 8 donors who were not shareholders. There are also three subscribers who do not appear on the later list, in the return to the Registrar.  Is it safe to assume that they never paid up?

The lists also present in different ways the information on companies who subscribe.  In the earlier list only one entry is generally given for each company whereas in the later list of shareholders each company director is listed separately.  For example, James Carmichael and Co.on the 1863 list becomes three entries on the 1865 list, for David, George and James Carmichael. And also most of the small number of entries that refer to female subscribers includes more than one woman and they are listed individually on the shareholders’ list.

We can confidently state that our archive includes all the original subscribers. We have also uncovered an additional 33 people or companies who subscribed after December 1863, available here as a PDF download.

Published on 27 July 2018