Born in 1788. D.N.B. says that he was shop assistant to Robert Kinnear in South Frederick Street, Edinburgh. This is likely to have been around 1810-15, and that he spent five years with Duncan Stevenson, the University Printers, where he 'effected improvements in the art of stereotyping'. Burgess as apprentice to James M'Cleish bookseller 3 September 1816. He had wide interests, he published “An Essay on the War-Galleys of the Ancients”. Edinburgh, 1826; “The life and adventures of Alexander Selkirk”. Edinburgh, 1829; “The life of Alexander Alexander”. Edinburgh, 1830; “A concise and accurate account of the accident that occurred at the sale of Lord Eldin's pictures by a sufferer”. Edinburgh, 1833. He is said to have edited “The journal of a soldier of the 71st Regiment, 1806-15”; “The life of John Nichol, the Mariner”; and to have written several of Wilson's “Tales of the Borders”. He was probably a relative of William Howell who shared a house with him at one time. Leslie Fleming described him as 'a person who seemed to know a little of everything, yet failed in most of his inventions... He at one time tried the experiment of flying, and took his start from somewhere about the foot of Ramsay Lane, finishing in the Nor' Loch. He next tried by mechanical means to walk on the water, but this was seen to be equally dangerous. He was occasionally employed in taking the features of deceased persons. He made an ingenious model of Edinburgh, now kept in Stevenson's foundry, for which he got a few shillings after he left Stevenson's employment, being in very straitened circumstances. He was employed in the foundry for a lengthened period, and while there originated a process of moulding by means of dry stucco which was a great success.' He died in 1863.