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Scottish Literature, pp.171-174.

[Scottish National Memorials Contents]

SPECIAL Collection representative of Scottish Literature and of the Scottish press would have required greater space than was at the command of the Committee, and the present Collection was determined principally by secondary reasons, chiefly that of personal interest. 

   THE GOLDEN LEGEND: Wynkyn de Worde. 4to. Imperfect

   The Legends of the Saints were collected and edited in the latter part of the thirteenth century by Giacomo da Voragine, an Italian Dominican, afterwards Archbishop of Genoa. His work was translated into almost every European language, and Ms. copies of it are very numerous. It was printed about 1470, and Panzer enumerates upwards of seventy editions in Latin, eight in Italian, fourteen in Dutch, five in German, and three in French, all printed prior to 1500. In English there were four editions prior to that date, and seven up to 1527. 

   The first English edition was that prepared and published by Caxton in 1483. He translated it through the medium of the old French version of Jehan de Vignay, and supplemented it from an old English collection by certain ‘worthy Clerks and Doctors of Divinity.’ It was reprinted in the next or second year after, but of this edition no perfect copy has been preserved. The third edition, that of 1493, bears the name of Caxton, but cannot have been his work, since he died towards the end of the year 1491. It was really produced by Wynkyn de Worde, who had been one of his assistants, and after his master’s death continued the business. 

    Wynkyn de Worde re-issued the book under his own imprint, first in 1498, and then in 1512 and 1527. These editions are all in the British Museum, but the present volume, which wants both beginning and end, and is otherwise imperfect, agrees with none of them. Mr. Bullen, however, to whom a leaf was submitted, says it certainly is the type of Wynkyn de Worde. 

   This old and tattered volume found a place in the Bishop’s Castle, because it was once in the Library of the Cistercians of Sweetheart, and is said to have been snatched from the flames when the library was brought to the Cross of Dumfries to be burned, at the time of the Reformation. It is interesting as being one of the few remaining examples of a printed volume from a Scottish monastic house. The libraries of such houses were small and unimportant, and it is doubtful whether the number of books lost or destroyed was very large. This book was preserved in the family of the Rev. Father Carruthers from the period of the Reformation till it passed into the hands of its present owner. 

   Sweetheart or New Abbey is beautifully situated, in a picturesque valley, near the fort of Criffel, some seven or eight miles from Dumfries. It was founded in the thirteenth century by Devorgilla, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, niece to David, Earl of Huntingdon, and wife of John Baliol of Castle Bernard. She was herself buried here, and ordered the casket in which she treasured the heart of her husband to be placed in her tomb. Hence the name Douce Coeur, Dulce Cor, or Sweetheart. The last abbot, Gilbert Brown, is said to have been the original of Scott’s Abbot of St. Marie’s. 

(682) Lent by MR. AND MRS. DODDS. 


   ‘Bible / and Holy Scriptvres / conteined in the Olde and Newe / Testament. / Translated according to the / Ebrue & Greke, & conferred with the best translations / in diuers languages. / . • . / With moste profitable Annotations / vpon all the hard places of the Holy Scriptvre, / and other great things of importance, mete for / the Godly Reader. / Printed in Edinburgh / Be Alexander Arbuthnot, Printer to the Kingis Maiestie, dwelling / at ye Kirk of feild. 1579. / Cvm gratia et Privilegio Regiae / Maiestatis.’ Folio, full morocco. 

   On the 14th of April 1568, Robert Lekprevik, ‘our Soveraine Lordis Imprentar,’ was licensed to print the translation commonly called the Geneva Bible, but from whatever cause, he never printed a Bible of any kind. He appears to have lost his office in 1574, and the printing of the Scriptures was soon taken up as a personal enterprise, independently of that office, by two private persons, ‘Alexander Arbuthnet, Merchant burgess of Edinburgh and Thomas Bassanden, Printer and burgess of the said burgh.’ Terms being agreed on, the work was begun in Fountain Close, in the Nether Bow of Edinburgh. The New Testament portion was printed first, and finished in 1576 (see Fig. 126), though not published till the volume was completed, three years later. As Bassandyne had died before this, his name does not appear on the title-page at the beginning. The whole seems to have been published in the month of August 1579, Arbuthnot having previously obtained a licence, at the same time also the title of King’s Printer. 

   This book is interesting from its being the first edition of the Bible printed in Scotland. It is a reprint of the second folio edition (1561) of the Genevan version, popularly known as ‘the Breeches Bible,’ with all the notes, cuts, and maps exactly reproduced. In the Address by the General Assembly to James VI., which is dated 10th July, it is said that ‘almost in euerie priuat house the buke of God’s law is red and vnderstand in our vulgaire language,’ which shows that the language on opposite sides of the Border must have been to all intents and purposes identical; and that, though this was the first Scottish-printed Bible, there had been no lack of supply in imported Scriptures, whether from England or from Holland, as was still to be the case for domestic purposes for half a century more. For this BASSANDYNE BIBLE was a folio, not intended for general use at home, but ‘that in every parish kirk there should be at least one kept, to be called the Common Book of the Kirk, as a most meet ornament for such a place.’ It was, in fact, what we should call now-a-days a Pulpit Bible, and was a present from the people to their respective places of worship. The money requisite for the work was not furnished out of the public purse, but by contribution of the parishioners through their ministers, whether bishops, superintendents, or visitors, and that in most instances about three years before the Bibles were fully delivered. This may account for the scarcity of the book now. 

   An Act of Parliament passed in this same year, ordaining every gentleman householder worth 300 merks of yearly rent, and every yeoman and burgess worth £500, to ‘have a bible and psalm buke in vulgar language in thair house’ under a penalty of £10, could have no special reference to this book, but may have been suggested by its publication. It was not yet forty years since the same authority had given leave to possess a Bible at all. 

   The Bassandyne Bible is printed in good bold Roman characters, in double columns. The vowels are accented. The Epistle Dedicatory was written by Arbuthnot, and revised by Thomas Smeton, who was then Dean of Faculties, and afterwards the successor of Andrew Melville as Principal of the University of Glasgow. The Calendar and Tables were prepared by the celebrated Robert Pont (d. 1606), minister and Lord of Session, and author of several works on the Calendar. 

   The first title and one leaf of the Calendar in the present copy are in facsimile, otherwise it is perfect, including the whole of the table and the last leaf. The copy belonging to the Earl of Morton is perfect throughout, and is one of the finest in existence. Some years ago it found its way by an oversight into a book sale, and was bought in at £195. A copy from the Earl of Crawford’s library, title soiled and mended, brought £31 in June 1887. One copy wanting the title-page fetched at George Chalmers’s sale in 1842, £7, 12s. 6d.; another copy, imperfect, 22s. 


   CHAINED BIBLE, belonging to the High Church. Glasgow. 

   The Holy Bible: Authorised Version. ‘Imprinted at London by Robert Barker Printer to the King’s most excellent Maiestie Anno 1617.’ 

   Fol. black letter – Greatprimer size. A reprint of the Authorised Version of 1611. Very thick paper. In oak boards three-quarters of an inch thick, covered with leather, tooled, the back with seal-skin, protected by brass corners and bosses, and provided with chains for fastening it to the reading-desk. On the title-page is a MS. note:- ‘For the heigh Kirk of Glasgow, Anno 1625.’ On the inside of the board is another note:- ‘This Book was sauld be Ja. Saunderis Reader at the hie Kirk of Glasgow, anno 1625. – J. S.’ 

   The office of Reader was established at the Reformation, and, although discountenanced by the General Assembly, continued to exist even during the period of Episcopacy down to 1645. It was the duty of the Reader to be present in church an hour before the preacher entered; he read prayers and a portion of the Bible and Psalms were sung, ‘and by these the hearts of the people are prepared the more reverently to hear the Word.’ 

   James Saunderis, who seems to have acted as Reader at the High Kirk, was a bookseller in Glasgow, but was by no means famed for his bookbinding. Robert Baillie, writing to his cousin, William Spang, then minister of the Scottish Church at Campvere, in October 1637, says:- ‘Sende me no books unbound; I wish all in leather, bot frae it cannot be, it’s better to have them in your parchment, then to be fasched and extortioned with James Saunders in Glasgow’ (Letters i. p. 24). Dutch vellum – no matter what it encloses – nowadays lends an air of learning to a library, but such was not Baillie’s opinion, and having the terrors of James Saunderis’s art before him, he writes to Spang: ‘I wish they were bound, and that in leather, for I love not your whyte parchment.’ Saunderis continued in business for many years. In the list of debtors to the estate of James Brysone, printer in Edinburgh, who died in 1642, we find him entered for the sum of £400 Scots. 

   The binding is very interesting, and is thus described:- ‘The tooled ornament seems to have been impressed on the leather covering of the oak boards by means of a circular tool such as is used by bookbinders at the present time. The ornament is very rich, and is composed of two borders running round the covers, within the brass corners already mentioned. The outer border has an appearance as though it had been done by running the tool twice round with its sides reversed. The one edge has had on it a running chain and diamond, the other a series of heraldic emblems.’ 

   The present Bible was removed from the Cathedral, probably after the office of Reader fell into disuse, and found its way into the hands of a blacksmith, from whom it was recovered by Mr. Allan Clark in 1849, and restored to the Inner High Church. (See Plate XXIV.) 

(775) Lent by the REV. Dr. BURNS. 

   BlBLE, by Kincaid. 1770. 

   The Holy Bible. Authorized Version. ‘EDINBURGH. / Printed by ALEXANDER KINCAID, His Majesty’s Printer / MDCC LXX.’ 12mo. 2 vols. Green morocco, tooled gilt. Exhibited as a specimen of Scotch binding. 

(695) Lent by WILLIAM MACMATH. 

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