- Also known as
Sir Robert Lambert Playfair
primary name: Playfair, Robert Lambert
other name: (Capt) Playfair, Robert Lambert
- individual; official; military/naval; British; Male
- Life dates
- 31 George Street, Hanover Square, London (in September 1881)
- Playfair served in Aden under the command of Colonel William Marcus Coghlan (q.v.), and together with Hormuzd Rassam (q.v.) and Rev. George Percy Badger (q.v.); from 1854-62 he served as Acting Political Representative. During his time in Aden he held the rank of Lieutenant and later Captain in the Royal Artillery; he was subsequently knighted and became the British Consul at Algiers. During his earlier residence in Aden he succeeded in transplanting Somali frankincense trees to his garden, and a variety of frankincense is named after him. In 1862 and 1863 he presented three ancient South Arabian inscriptions to The British Museum which he had evidently acquired during his earlier posting to Aden. He also sent a set of salt & albumen photographic prints of ancient South Arabian inscriptions, some from the collection of one Rev. Dr Wilson of Bombay, to A. Panizzi, Principal Librarian of The British Museum (Central Archives; copies in ME archives 173.6); three of these objects, including two from Dr Wilson's collection and one from Playfair himself, were later acquired in 1863 by the Museum either (in the first two cases) from the British Foreign and Bible Society (q.v.) or directly from Playfair.
Playfair was author of 'A History of Arabia Felix or Yemen, from the commencement of the Christian era to the present time: including an account of the British settlement of Aden' (Bombay: Selections from the Records of the Bombay government, no. 49 (new series), 1859); 'Travels in the footsteps of Bruce in Algeria and Tunis: illustrated by facsimiles of his original drawings' (1877); 'The scourge of Christendom: annals of British relations with Algiers prior to the French conquest' (1884); a revised second edition of John Murray's 'Handbook for travellers in Algeria and Tunis: Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Carthage, etc.' (London 1878; expanded third edition, 1887); 'On the re-discovery of lost Numidian marbles in Algeria and Tunis: read at the British Association (Geological Section), at Abderdeen' (September 1885); 'A bibliography of Algeria, from the expedition of Charles V in 1541 to 1887' ; 'Supplement to the bibliography of Algeria: from the earliest times to 1895' (1898).
Correspondence to and from Playfair within the Dept of the Middle East dates between 1862 and 1881, and is concerned with North Africa (3 May, ca 1870), the Dhugga inscription (30 May & 8 June 1876), and a request for casts of South Arabian inscribed metal plaques presented by Playfair and Coghlan (q.v.) (27 September 1881). There is additional correspondence in the Central Archives, for instance dated 31 March 1862 (item 4750; received 3 May) and 5 July 1862 (item 7756; received 28 July) on the subject of South Arabian inscriptions.