William Bruce was born in 1702 in Killyleagh Co. Down and died on the 11th of July, 1755. He was the third and youngest surviving son of the Presbyterian minister Rev James Bruce and Margaret, neé Traill. His two older brothers were Presbyterian ministers, unsurprising in a line where the previous three generations had also been ministers. His first cousin was Francis Hutcheson (son of Margaret’s sister Magdalen). Hutcheson attended the dissenting academy in Killyleagh, which William’s father James was instrumental in setting up. This is probably where the two cousins first met and became close friends.
We next hear of William Bruce in Dublin, in the month of July 1725, entering into partnership with John Smith in his printing business at the sign of the Philosopher’s Head, on Blind Quay (now Lower Exchange St.) Dublin. John’s existing partner, William Smith, was moving to the Netherlands, where he would act as continental book buyer for the firm. The Smiths, both graduates of the University of Glasgow, had already published (as their first imprint) Hutcheson’s Inquiry into…ideas of beauty and virtue (1725). Future editions were published under the imprint of Smiths and W. Bruce as was Hutcheson’s An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728).