This view of Edinburgh Castle is one of six sketches of the castle in this book made on 1 October 1834 in the company of the publisher Robert Cadell, for whom Turner was preparing illustrations to works by Sir Walter Scott. Images of the castle by other artists have been used to illustrate a number of Scott’s novels, including Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Abbot.1 Cadell may therefore have asked Turner to prepare these sketches in preparation for an illustration to one of those novels, or as a subject with the potential to be put to use for an as yet unspecified illustration. The publisher noted in his diary that day: ‘at 11 Turner called [...] – 1/2 p[ast] 1 Turner and I left [...] to see Heriot’s Hospital then at High St to Castle Hill – from thence down by Grassmarket’.2 This sketch was made as Turner and Cadell were making their way between the High Street and the Grassmarket by way of Johnston Terrace.
Turner made his first sketch from Johnston Terrace in the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D26404; Turner Bequest CCLXIX 76), having just emerged from the steps of Castle Wynd North that lead down from the top of the High Street. Having walked about a hundred metres further along the road, he made this sketch looking up the steep and rocky southern slope of castle rock to the central complex of buildings, including the Great Hall and the Royal Palace, with the Half Moon Battery and Esplanade to the right. A little sketch at the top centre-left of the page records the top of the octagonal tower of the Palace.
Turner himself was to use a view towards Edinburgh Castle to illustrate Waverley in Fisher and Co.’s Landscape-Historical Illustrations of Scotland and the Waverley Novels, London 1836–8, pl.5 Thomas Higham after J.M.W. Turner ‘Edinburgh. March of the Highlanders’; see also Turner, Edinburgh Castle: March of the Highlanders, circa 1836, watercolour (Tate N04953). In the same publication, a view of the castle from Arthur’s Seat was chosen as the illustration to The Abbot: William Finden after Clarkson Stanfield vol. 2, facing p. 47. Edinburgh and the castle from St Anthony’s Chapel, a view Turner also sketched in the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D26431; Turner Bequest CCLXIX 89a), was chosen by Cadell to illustrate The Heart of Midlothian in his ‘Abbotsford edition’ of the collected Waverley Novels, though in the event, Turner was not the artist: Sir Walter Scott, Waverley Novels [Abbotsford edition], vol.3, Edinburgh 1843, title-page engraving by William Miller after Clarkson Stanfield, ‘Edinburgh from St Anthony’s Chapel’.
Robert Cadell, Diary 1834, Wednesday 1 October 1834, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS 21024, folio 42.