William and Robert Chambers, the founders of the well-known firm of publishers, were born at Peebles, William in 1800, and his brother in 1802. Their father, who appears to have had some resemblance to Mr. Micawber, had been doing well in the cotton trade, but with the introduction of the power-loom his business declined. An attempt to restore his fortune by opening a drapery business in Peebles ended in his bankruptcy, and `on a bleak day in December 1813' the family moved to Edinburgh. There, in May 1814, William was bound apprentice to a bookseller in Calton Street at a salary of four shillings a week. His duties consisted in lighting the fire in the morning, taking down and putting up the shutters in the shop, cleaning and preparing the oil-lamps, sweeping and dusting the shop, and, above all, going on all the errands. His employer ran a circulating library, and the boy was sent out daily with parcels of books, but he had also to deliver `odious piles of lottery circulars', since his employer was also an agent for the State Lottery. It was a hard life, but there were some mitigating circumstances, one of which he describes at some length.
Note from William Chambers, from Literary Anecdotes