I. – What It Is, pp.1-15.

[Notes on the Black Book Contents]

   IN the Royal Collection, in the British Museum, there is preserved a Manuscript, 13 E. X., known as “THE BLACK BOOK OF PAISLEY.” It is a large, stout vellum folio written in double columns, but so far as colour goes it now belies its name, as it is bound in red. The bookbinder has lettered it “SCOTI CHRONICON PER JOHAN. DE FORDUN ET WALTER. BOWER. BLACK BOOK OF PAISLEY.” A note upon the fly-leaf says:- 

     “Scoticronicon inceptum per Johēm de Fordun Aberden. Cap̃lanum et completum per Walterum Bower Sti. Columbe Abbatem 1447. 

Quinque Libros Fordon undenos Bower arabat.” 

   These two inscriptions correctly describe the volume, which, as was long since1 pointed out, is a transcript of John of Fordun’s Chronicle, as continued and enlarged by Bower. 

   Our information regarding John of Fordun2 is very meagre, and his contemporaries had little more. Of his personality we have but a single glimpse. His continuator tells us3 that he chanced to be present at a gathering of some learned persons, cunning in school learning, at which the conversation turned upon Fordun, and his merits as an historian. They were evidently acquainted with his book, but who or what he was himself must have been in doubt, for one of the party, a venerable doctor, said, “I knew the man well whom you rate so highly, the author of the book you are speaking of, and bringing before us. He was a simple man, and no where graduated in the schools.” Another of the company remarked, “The work which he produced is proof enough of his scholarship.” Here the curtain falls, and the particulars of his history must be sought for elsewhere. From the Black Book of Paisley we learn that he was a priest and a chaplain at Aberdeen, which we gather from the Scotichronicon itself that he flourished during the second, part of the third, and probably part of the first generation of the fourteenth century.4 His narrative seems to have been composed, or at least revised, after 1384, since Cardinal Wardlaw, the Bishop of Glasgow, is referred to as Legate a latere, an office to which he was advanced in that year,5 and as he is spoken of apparently as living,6 the author could not have been writing after 1387, the date of his death. Fordun’s language seems to imply that the prelate was his friend, and that he was so is highly probable, as Wardlaw held a stall in the Cathedral of Aberdeen, to which he was preferred in 1362. Fordun must likewise have known Barbour, the author of “The Brus,” who was Archdeacon of Aberdeen from at least 1357, till his death in 1396,7 and may have been indebted to him for items of information obtained when he was abroad,8 and while he held the public position of an Auditor of the Exchequer, and Clerk of the Audit.9 Mr. Skene suggests10 that Fordun probably died soon after 1385, “as there is no trace of anything of a later date, and no mention of his name after that year.” Ten years later, however, the Account of the Bailies of Lanark for the period from March 19, 1393, to April 1, 1395, was rendered in Exchequer at Perth “by John Fordoun, in name and on behalf of the Bailies.”11 But whether this was the historian it is impossible to say. 

   The poverty of Scotland in chronicles and other historical documents is in striking contrast to the wealth of England in such monuments, and has been a subject of national reproach from an early time. Vanity long urged that this misfortune arose not from ignorance or neglect on the part of our ancestors, or from any lack of material or want of competent writers, but from the vandalism of Edward I., who, it was said, carried off and destroyed the whole of our ancient annals. The charge rests upon slender foundation, but it was current in Fordun’s day,12 and the loss which he believed his country had sustained13 caused him such grief that he determined to repair it so far as in him lay. With this object before him, he set out on foot; and, as Bower quaintly says,14 “like a diligent bee in the fields of Britain, and the monasteries of Ireland, wandering through cities and towns, through universities and colleges, through churches and cloisters, mingling amongst historians, and tarrying midst annalists15 – turning over their volumes of history, and sagely conferring and discoursing with them, noting down in his tablets or memorandum book what pleased him, did he, by such toilsome investigation, learn what he knew not; and nicely arranged his discoveries in a pocket roll, like the honeyed combs in a bee-hive.” He thus accumulated a store of material; and on his return addressed himself to the task of composition, but lived only to complete five books of formal history, bringing down the narrative to the death of David I. in 1153. In the Scotichronicon this ends with the 23rd chapter of Book VI., where in some of the other manuscripts, but not in the Black Book of Paisley, are some verses beginning, 

“Hactenus auctorem de Fordon sume Joannem.” 

   Walter Bower, or Bowmaker, was born16 at Haddington in 1385. After studying philosophy and theology, he took priest’s orders and passed over to Paris, for the purpose of gaining a knowledge of law. In 1418, he was chosen Abbot of Inchcolm;17 and on the 17th of April of that year, received blessing at Dunkeld from Robert Cardine, the Bishop of that see.18 Along with the Bishop of Dunblane, as he himself tells us,19 he was appointed Auditor and Receiver of the tax which James I., in 1424, obtained from his first Parliament; and he was nominated to the same office along with John Schewes, Official of St. Andrews, when the tax was revived in 1433, to meet the expenses of the embassy sent to France to arrange the marriage of the King’s daughter, Margaret, with the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI. 

   At the request of his neighbour, Sir David Stewart of Rossyth, Bower agreed to transcribe Fordun’s work, and to continue the history to his own day.20 He was, he says,21 the more readily induced to undertake the latter portion of the task, as he had access to the collections of his predecessor, which, though unarranged, were available for the purpose. The five books of Fordun he expanded to sixteen, carrying on the narrative to the year 1447. 

“Quinque libros Fordon undenos Bower arabat.” 

   For the first nine of the additional books, he is supposed to have used Fordun’s matter along with some contributions of his own. Thus, he occasionally refers to the testimony of friends;22 he records his experiences at Inchcolm,23 and gives a graphic account of the burning of the Abbey.24 It may also be observed that he is detailed in his accounts of Haddington, and appeals to the evidence of a townsman. 25 The fifteenth and sixteenth books embrace the period subsequent to Fordun’s death, and must therefore be Bower’s unaided work. He did not restrict himself however to mere continuation, but supplemented the original by interpolating unnumerable passages: while towards the end of the five books he seems to place himself on an equality with Fordun, and speaks of himself as “Conscriba,”26 and “Conscriptor.”27 Still he had no wish to appropriate what was not his own, and that the original might be accessible is wished for reference, he deposited it in the scriptorium of his Abbey. He also proposed to distinguish his additions, by marking over against them the word “SCRIPTOR;” and “AUCTOR,” opposite the original, in order, as he explains that any copyist should be able at pleasure to omit the interpolations, and give nothing save the work of the master; but this scheme was not thoroughly carried out, and in consequence of this, and of his having altered Fordun’s phraseology in some passages, it is not always easy to determine authorship. 

   The composite work is known as the “Scotichronicon.” Its sixteen books seem to have proved heavy reading, even for the fifteenth century, and soon after its completion the Abbot produced an abridged version, which was perhaps intended as a popular edition. In this he omitted various digressions, and much incidental matter, and limited the narrative more strictly to Scotch affairs. It is divided into forty books, and is represented in the well-known BOOK OF CUPAR or Father Hay’s MS., now in the Advocates’ Library.28 

   In 1691, Thomas Gale, the learned Master of St. Paul’s School, and afterwards Dean of York, included Fordun’s original five books in his “Historiae Britannicae Scriptores XV.” He took his text from a MS. of his own, but which had formerly belonged to King’s College, Aberdeen, having been presented to it by Hector Bois.29 

   After the Dean’s death, Hearne borrowed this MS. from his son, Roger Gale, and in 1722 published a much more valuable edition.30 The MS. contains five books and twenty-three chapters of a sixth, and a large appendix of what Hearne terms ADVERSARIA, which he took to be the notes that Fordun had made for the succeeding part of his history. Dean Gale, for reasons connected with the special object he had in view, omitted the latter, and also the last forty-one chapters of Book V., and the twenty-three of Book VI. Hearne desired to give to the world the genuine work of Fordun freed from all interpolations, and as he thought that this was represented in this MS., he published it entire. He takes 1385 as its latest date, and in order to supplement the narrative, he adds from the Black Book of Paisley Bower’s continuation from that year till the death of James I. He styles the work “Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon genuinum,” but points out in his preface31 that the author intended to give it another name. In 1871, Dr. W. F. Skene published a new edition of the five books and of the Adversaria under the title “Johannis de Fordun Chronica Gentis Scotorum.” This edition is founded on a MS. once the property of the Priory of St. Andrews, now in the Wolfenbüttel Library, collated with Gale’s and others. 

   The Scotichronicon proper, that is the work of Fordun and Bower, was not printed until 1747-59,32 when it was published at Edinburgh by Robert Fleming, under the editorship of Walter Goodall,33 assistant keeper of the Advocates’ Library, and this is still the only edition. 

   The Scotichronicon met the requirements of the time, and took its place as the standard historical authority of the country, and copies of it were soon obtained by several of our Monasteries.34 Each volume came to be known as the BOOK of the House to which it belonged, merely as pointing out its ownership, and not at all as indicating that it referred to the concerns of that Monastery, or that it was compiled there. Thus, besides the Black Book of Paisley, we have the Black Book of Scone, the Book of Perth, and the Book of Cupar. These titles, in this case, amounted to nothing more than an “Ex Libris;”35 but it was the practice of many religious houses to draw up and preserve a record of public occurrences, such as the great series of chronicles compiled in the Scriptorium of St. Albans; and these works often took their titles from the name of the monasteries where they were prepared. Thus we have the Annals of the Monasteries of Tewkesbury, of Burton, of Waverley, Dundalk, Osney, the Book of Hyde, the Chronicles of Melrose, of Lanercost, and of Meaux. A volume of this description, says Sir George Mackenzie,36 was styled “The Black Book.”37 He and many others (amongst whom may possibly be included no less eminent an author than the late Patrick Fraser Tytler)38 took the Black Book of Paisley to be an original record of this nature, and referred to it as such.39 But although this was an error, the book is still an important historical document, being one of the best existing manuscripts of the Scotichronicon. 

   Of these MSS., six contain the full text of the Scotichronicon; eight an abridgement of it in various forms; three represent what is supposed to be Fordun’s original work, and three are made up of parts transcribed from different MSS., and by different hands. The whole are described and briefly analysed by Mr. Skene;40 but as a few of them will be referred to subsequently, these may be conveniently noted here. 


   This MS.41 is written on paper in double columns, with occasional marginal notes of reference in a different hand from that of the body of the work. The initial letters of the paragraphs are illuminated. 

   At the end of Book II. is a Colophon 

                             [in red ink]      [corrected in black to] 

     “Et sic finitur liber tercius                secundus.” 

     “Explicit 2o. [secundus] liber Scoticronicon nono die Januarii in Edinburgo opido anno Domini millesimo quadringentesimo octuagesimo per me Magnum Makculloch. Et per me Jacobum Graye illuminatus.” 

     “Ora mente pia pro nobis uirgo Maria Alma uirgo uigini pro nobis ad dominum. Sancta Dei genitrix uirgo semper Maria. Amen. Jhesus, Maria, Johannes.” 

   At the end of Book III. is written – 

     “Non Scotus est Criste cui liber non placet iste. Magnus Makculloch.” 

   At the beginning of Book XIV. is – 

     “Incipiunt tituli libri decimi quarto ultimo die Marcii in Edinburgh opido. Non Scotus est Criste sui liber non placet iste.” 

   And at the end – 

     “Detur scriptori merces equator laboris.” 

   It appears therefore that this copy was in progress in 1480, or, as we should now say, 1481, and that the transcriber was Magnus Macculloch, and the illuminator James gray. 

   Magnus Macculloch, as we shall immediately see, was a notary42 of the diocese of Ross and private secretary to William Scheves, Archbishop of St. Andrews (1478-96).43 He received part, at least, of his education at Louvain, where he was a student of philosophy in 1477.44 

   Father Innes conjectures45 that James Gray is the same person as the transcriber of the Chronica Brevis, who was a notary and priest of the diocese of Dunblane, and secretary to the first two Archbishops of St. Andrews after Patrick Graham, viz.:- William Schevez and Prince James, Duke of Ross, brother to King James IV. Some confirmation is lent to this view by the fact that at the end of Chapter VI. c. 48, “De Domino Jacobo Kennedy Episcopo Sancti Andree,” there is a note in a handwriting different from that of the last, “obiit xxiiij Maii anno 1469, Eps. Abirdonen. Ja. Graye.” 

   This MS. would appear to be that which is referred to as the Liber Sconensis, and which was at one time in the Library of the College of St. Andrews.46 


   Now in the British Museum (Harleian MS., No. 712). 

   This MS. is likewise written on paper in double columns, and consists of 277 folios as marked in pencil by the Museum authorities. It belonged to, and was written at Edinburgh for, Archbishop Schevez, as various memoranda on the MS. itself indicate. 

   On the verso of folio 40, in black ink, is – 

     “Sequitur jam liber tercius hujus operis decimo die mensis Octobris anno Domini M iiijclxxxiij.” 

   And then in red ink – 

     “Partinet Liber iste reverendissimo Patri ac Domino magnifico Gullelmo Scheuez Sancti Andree Archiepiscopo, Scocie Prelatorum Primato bene digno: Scriptus per suum familiarem clericum Magistrum Magnum Makculloch Edinburgi opido.” 

   Beneath this is the writer’s Paraphe, in red, and the Archbishop’s signature “Scheuez,” in black ink. The same signature occurs in other places. 

   On the verso of folio 150, at the close of Book VIII., the writer notes in red ink – 

     “Explicit Liber Octavus, Incipit Nonus per me Magistrum Magnum Makculloch xiij die mensis Marcij anno Incarnacionis Dominice Millesimo quadringentesimo octuagesimo tercio secundum compitum Scoticane ecclesie.”47 

   To this his Paraphe is again added. At the end of book ix. he adds his name only. 

   On the recto of folio 276, he adds in black ink at the end of the Tabula, – 

     “Complevi Deo laus septimo die mensis Octobris Anno Domini Millesimo quadringentesimo octuagesimo quarto ad usum reverendissimi in Christo patris ac domini, Domini Willelmi Scheuez Archiepiscopi Sancti Andree, mei Magistri et Domini colendissimi quem ad michi in meis necessariis subveniendum perducat spiritus sanctus graclarum largitor optimus, &c. 

     Per me Magnum Makculloch clericum Rossensis Diocesis quem per infinita seculorum secula custodiat omnipotens Dominus. Amen, Amen, Amen.” 

   And in the opposite column of the same page, he has again noted in red that the MS. was transcribed for the Archbishop, and beneath is again the signature of the latter in black ink. 

   Macculloch’s signature and paraphe are on the verso of folio 113, at the beginning of Book VII., and on the verso of folio 169, at the commencement of Book X. At the latter place he piously adds – 

“Jhesus Nazarenus crucifixus rex Judeorum, 

Qui natus est de Virgine Maria miserere nobis, 

Jhesu fili Dei en miserere mei Amen.” 

   At the end of Book VII., he remarks – 

     “Explicit liber septimus qui extravagans dicitur. Sequitur octavus et primo numerus capitulorum per me Magnum Makculloch clericum Rossensis diocesis.” 

   This copy was thus begun in 1483, and finished in 1484. 

   The Archbishop had a taste for books. He imported many from Flanders,48 and collected at great expense, and with unwonted diligence, a valuable library, which, says a contemporary, “is filled with books of every kind.”49 

   The MS. was in the possession of Bishop Stillingfleet before it came into the hands of the Earl of Oxford.50 

   In the Library of the University of Glasgow there is a MS. of an abridged version of Fordun’s work – the so-called Liber Pluscardensis – which also belonged to Schevez, and which bears his signature.51 


   This MS., which Goodall conjectures may have been the Book of Scone,52 was the foundation of his text. In a note on the fly leaf it is said to have been transcribed by Magnus Maculloch,53 which would make its date about 1480-83, but, as pointed out by Ruddiman,54 his name was introduced into the note on the suggestion of Principal Dunlop of Glasgow. There can be no doubt that it was a mistake to do so, and the note is contradicted by the colophon – 

     “Et finitur liber xvto. die mensis Maij hora octava prius meridiem Anno dot. Mo. Vt. Xo. Robertus Scot.” 

   There is no reason to suspect the correctness of this statement, and the date of the MS. must accordingly be taken to be 1510, and the copyist, Robert Scot. 

   It is a large folio, on parchment of 347 folios in double columns. The titles of the chapters are rubricated, and the initial letters are red and blue alternately, as in the Black Book of Paisley. 

   It was presented to the University of Edinburgh in 1670, by the then Principal, William Colville, who seems to have purchased it from John Sibbald of Perth. 


   This MS. is written on parchment in double columns. At the end of Book V. is the following colophon – 

     “Predictos quinque libros Dominus Joannes Fordun presbyter compilavit. Residuum vero quod sequitur continuavit Compnus Patricius Russell monachus Vallis virtutis ordinis Cartusiensis et ad finem perduxit. additis tamen et insertis nonnullis ab incerto autore, prout et in prioribus quinque libris.” 

   At the close of the MS. itself, there is another colophon, in a different but contemporary hand – 

     “Explicit liber Scoticronicon. Deo gracias. Hunc librum scribi fecit Dominus Symon Fynlay, capellanus altaris Sancti Michaelis ecclesie sancti Egidii de Edinburgo, quem post suum obitum reliquit canonicis monasterii insule Sancti Columbe de Emonia. Orate pro eo. Ejus alienator anathema sit.” 

   It thus appears that it was copied for Symon Finlay, who was in 1462 a chaplain at the altar of St. Michael in the church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, and was still living in 1491.55 According to Nicolson,56 the date of this MS. is later than that of the Edinburgh MS., which may be the case, but more probably they are of nearly the same age. 

   Although bequeathed to Inchcolm, it passed at a later date into the Royal Library in Holyrood House. David Buchanan mentions it as there, and ascribes the authorship to a Monk of Paisley who wrote it about 1451, “Monachi Pasletensis Liber asservatur in Bibliotheca regia in Palatio S. Crucis ad Edinburgum nondum Impressus. Scripsit his author circa annum 1451.”57 It seems next to have been in the hands of Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, and ultimately came into the possession of the Earl of Moray. 

1  Nicolson, Scottish Historical Library, p. 26, (3rd Edit., Lond., 1736), originally published in 1702; Innes’ Critical Essay, pp. xxiv. 201, 210, (Lond., 1729). 

2  In the Register of Moray, mention is made both of the Church and Chapel of Fordun; and n the Register of Arbroath, we find Symon, Chaplain and Vicar of ordun, circa 1221 and 1241. (Liber S. Thome de Aberbrothoc, Vol. I., pp. 179, 185.) 

   During the period in which the historian flourished, there was a William de Fordun, who occupied a somewhat prominent position. In 1328 and 1329, he is mentioned as being in receipt from the Chamberlain of Scotland of ten merks a year, until some more lucrative promotion is found for him, which happened in the latter year. (Exchequer Rolls, I., pp. 114, 208, Lord Clerk Register Series). The office to which he was appointed was that of Depute-Clerk of the Audit, (Ib., 323, 324, 326). In 1331-1332, he was Clerk of the queen’s Wardrobe, (Ib., 365, 430); and in the former year, along with Thomas of Charteris, and accompanied by a retinue of boys, servants, and horses, he made a six weeks’ journey to London for the purchase of wardrobe articles for the coronation. 

   In 1330, Richard Fordun was one of the bailies of Dundee, (Ib. I., pp. 262, 304, 317); and in 1341-43, his son, Richard of Fordun, was one of the Provosts and Custumars of Dundee, (Ib. I., pp. 473, 488, 495, 539). In 1395, John de Fordun gives up at Perth the account of the bailies of Lanark on their behalf, (Ib. iii., p. 366.) 

3  Prologue, Debitor sum, prefixed to the Scotichronicon. 

4  Fordun’s era is ascertained from the Gesta Annalia, where he refers to Richard II. (1377-99) as the reigning sovereign of England, (Ed. Hearne IV., p. 965; Ed. Skene I., p. 319). 

   In the corresponding passage in the Scotichronicon (xi. c. 14), the Black Book of Paisley omits the particulars from which the date of the composition is ascertained. 

5  Walter Wardlaw was consecrated Bishop of Glasgow in 1368. He was created a Cardinal in 1381, and appointed Legate for Scotland and Ireland in 1384. Bower states (xiv. c. 50) that he died in 1387; but the passage referring to his death, it may be mentioned, is not in the Black Book of Paisley; and in the Scheves MS. it is thrust into the middle of the succeeding chapter (xiv. c. 48, Hearne IV., p. 1071.) The numbering of the chapters differs at this place from Goodall’s printed edition. 

6  V. Skene, c. 50; Scotich, v. 69. 

7  Irving’s History of Scottish Poetry, pp. 96, 100; Exchequer Rolls, Vol. II., p. ciii. 

8  He visited Oxford in 1357 and 1364, and St. Denis in 1365; and in 1368 passed through England on his way to France. 

9  Exchequer Rolls, Vol. II., p. 383, 428. 

10  Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xxxiii. 

11  Exchequer Rolls, iii. 366. 

12  Bower’s Prologue to the Cupar MS., Skene’s Fordun, I., p. xlix. 

13  Pinkerton admits neither the loss not the paucity of chronicles. “On a fair comparison, Scotland has at least as many historical pieces extant as fall to her share: and if Edward I. adopted the new and wild scheme of destroying her chronicles, he must have done it to little purpose.” Pinkerton’s Enquiry into the History of Scotland, I., p. xlvii., (Edin., 1814.) 

14  Bower, Prologue to the Book of Cupar ut supra

15  Thomas Hearne has endeavoured, with some success, to trace his route, and to ascertain the places he visited (Fordun Praef. I., p. lxxxi., clxix.); and by a careful analysis of his work, many of the sources of his information may still be determined. 

16  xiv. c. 47; ed. Goodall, xiv. c. 50. In the Exchequer Rolls for 1343, there is a payment to a certain Gialin Bowmaker was one of the bailies of Haddington, and in 1372, the Collector of Customs. In 1376 and 1377, John Bowmaker was one of the bailies of Haddington. In 1395 and 1396, he gave up the Accounts of the Burgh in Exchequer. In 1397, he is styled one of the Custumars of Haddington. Both Simon and he were probably relatives of Walter Bowmaker, and it is worthy of remark that JOhn Bowmaker gave up the Haddington Account at Perth on Tuesday, March 30, 1395, and John of Fordun gave up the Lanark one the next day, (Exchequer Rolls, iii. 364, 366.) John Bowmaker appears in 1391 as owner of property in Haddington, Historical MSS. Com. 6th Report, p. 669.) Nicholas Bomacre (Bowmaker) was Commissar of Haddington in 1435, (Exch. Rolls, iv. 648.) Adam Bour held the same office at Ayr, 1416-31, (Ib., iv. 246 et seq.) In 1425, Mr. John Bowmaker was rector of the Church of Monyabroch, i.e., Kilsyth, (Historical MSS. Com. 6th Report, p. 670.) 

17  xv. c. 30. That is Inchcolm in the Forth, not Icolmkill, as Sir George Mackenzie and Sir Robert Sibbald suppose. 

18  Of the Bishop, see xvi. c. 26; and Extracta e Variis Cronicis, p. 204. 

19  xvi. c. 9. These appointments are recorded in Thomson’s acts, II. pp. 5, 20, 23. 

20  This must have been sometime between 1435, when Sir David acquired the Barony of Rossyth (Chalmers’s Hist. of Dunfermline, I., p. 422), and 1444, the year in which he died. Most probably it was about 1440, as Bower (I. c. 6) speaks of the work as being in progress in 1441. 

   The Barony of Rossyth lies to the south of Dunfermline, and the castle stands on a promontory on the N. shore of the Frith of Forth, about two miles N. W. of North Queensferry and four miles S.S.E. of  Dunfermline; and consequently at no great distance from Inchcolm. 

21  Prologue to the Scotichronicon. 

22  xiv. 14. 

23  xii. 34. 

24  xiv. 48. 

25  xiv. 13, 14, 21. 

26  xiv. c. 14. 

27  xii. c. 34. 

28  Father Hay describes it (Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 126, reprint in Scotia Rediviva, Vol. I., Edr. 1828, 8vo), as “a large folio of Bowmaker, written at Inchcolm in glorious characters.” In 1719, he issued “Proposals for Printing the Chronicle of John Fordun, with the additions and continuations of Walter Bowmaker, Abbot of Inch-colm, containing the memorable things which happened in every year since our first rise to King James the First’s death, conform to an authentick manuscript belonging of old to one of our decayed monasteries, with several notes for clearing the dark parts of our history.” (Genealogie of the Hays of Tweeddale, Introd., p. iii., Edr. 1835), but this was not carried out. The author of the “Extracta e Variis Cronicis Scocie” (Abbotsford Club, 1842), seems to have followed this MS. It is likewise cited by Henrie Charteris in the preface to his edition of henry’s Wallace, which was first printed at Edinburgh in 1570. As he quotes from the 14th and 15th Chapters of Book xix., this shows that it could not be any MS. of the Scotichronicon proper which he had before him. The extract which he gives is not in the Black Book of Paisley or in the Edinburgh College MS., but Goodall gives it in a foot note from the Book of Cupar and the Carthusian MS. See Fordun, ed. Goodall II., p. 176; Charteris Preface, Bannatyne Miscellany, III. at pp. 172, 173. The MS. was given by Lady Kettleston to her brother, Andrew Hay, Father Hay’s uncle, who had it taken from him by the rabble in 1688. It was recovered by Father Hay, who carried it beyond seas, and afterwards presented it to the Advocates’ Library on his birth-day, 1728. Nicolson with corrections by Hearne, Hearne’s Fordun V., p. 1390; Genealogie of the Hayes, pp.  vi., xv. 

29  A facsimile of a page of this MS. is given in the National MSS. of Scotland, Part II., No. lxxvi. Hearne had given a facsimile of Bois’ inscription, Fordun I., p. ccvi. He mentions that the MS. had found its way into the hands of Richard Smyth, the famous Collector, at whose sale, in 1682, it was purchased by the Duke of Lauderdale, from whom it passed to Gale (Fordun I., p. ccxix.) It was subsequently acquired by the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, where it now is. As to the Libraries of Secondary Smyth, and of the Earls of Lauderdale, see Edwards’ History of Libraries, II., pp. 118, 120. 

30  Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon genuinum una cum ejusdem supplemento ac continuatione. E Codicibus MSS. eruit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, qui et Appendicem subjunxit totumque opus (in quinque Volumina distinctum), praefatione atque indicibus adornavit. Oxonii, 1722, 8vo, 5 vol. 

31  p. ccxvii. 

32  The title page of both volumes bears the date 1759, but the first volume had been issued to the subscribers in 1747. See the Scots Magazine, July, 1747, vol. ix., p. 352. 

‘Scots Magazine,’ Friday 3rd July, 1747, p.352; 



John Fordun’s Scotichronicon, with the continuation of Walter Bower Abbot of Inchcolm, containing the first eight books compleat. fol. 1 l. 9 s. in sheets. 


Goodall had published his proposals in 1744, and in the advertisement issued with his first volume says, “This first volume of John Fordun’s History of Scotland being now finished after no small interruptions, which were occasioned chiefly by the late rebellion and the confusions wherewith it was attended in this city, it has been thought proper that it should be published and delivered to the subscribers and others who might be desirous to have the same without waiting till the other volume should be ready to accompany it.” The second volume was published in 1759, and a Preface and Index were issued along with it. There was also prefixed an Introduction by Goodall, and a Dissertation on the marriage of Robert III. with Elizabeth More, by Gordon of Buthlaw, which had originally appeared in 1749. See Chalmers’s Life of Ruddiman, p. 131. 

33  Goodall, b. 1706, d. 1766. – Assistant Keeper of the Advocates’ Library, 1730-1766. See Chalmers’s Life of Ruddiman, p. 127 et seq

34  Innes’ Critical Essay, pp. 210, 233. Nicolson’s Scottish Historical Library, p. 26. 

35  See a similar thing as respects the MSS. of the Regiam Majestatem, Balfour’s Practics, p. x. 

36  Defence of the Royal Line of Scotland, p. 25, (Lond., 1685); Works II., p. 363. 

37  As to the term “Black Book,” see Note A

38  History of Scotland, II., p. 243 (ed. 1845.) He mentions the Liber Pasletensis which will be referred to hereafter. 

39  There would never have been a mistake as to the nature of the Black Book of Paisley, or other similar volumes if the Scotichronicon itself had been consulted. Bower speaks of the practice of writing Monastic Chronicles as one which prevailed in some countries, and as he had heard in England, from which the inference is that it did not exist in Scotland (Lib. xvi., c. 39). Edward I. seems to have taken it for granted that it did, as, towards the close of the year 1300, he sent writs to the Abbots of several monasteries “ut diligenter scrutarentur Cronica sua, et omnia gesta reges Anglorum et Scotorum tangentia.” J. O. Halliwell’s preface to Rishanger’s Chronicle, p. xi.., n. See Walter of Coventry’s Historical Collections, I., p. xliii.; Palgrave, Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland, I., p. 77. 

40  Skene’s Fordun, I., p. xv. See also Felix Skene, Liber Pluscardensis, I., p. x., et seq. Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, p. x., n. 

41  This account is taken from the report by Dr. John Stuart in the first Report of the Historical MSS. Commission, p. 119 (Parliamentary Papers for 1870, Vol. 39, p. 543). 

42  The designation “clericus” shows that he was an ecclesiastic, but the addition of the diocese, as in the words of style used by notaries in their sign manual, indicates, I think, that he was a diocesan Notary. At this date the notaries were all ecclesiastics (Ars Notariatus, p. 18, 2nd ed., Edinr. 1762). They often made transcripts of manuscripts. The copyist of the Red Book of Moray, was “Thomas Gaderer, notarius et commissarius.” (Registrum Moravienae, p. iv.) The Bath MS. of Gavin Douglas was written “be me Henry Aytoun, Notare Publick,” (Douglas’ Poetical Works, I., p. clxxvii, Ed. Small.) 

43  Father Innes styles him, “Canon of Scoon,” but quotes no authority for the statement (Critical Essay, p.343, ed. 1879). There can be little doubt that it is erroneous, and the mistake seems to have arisen from treating Macculloch as the author of the Book of Scone (See Ib. p. 137). 

44  Mr. David Laing had a volume containing Dictates of Philosophy, etc., in Latin, written by Magnus Makculloch while attending lectures at the University of Louvain in the year 1477 (Henryson’s Poems, p. 228, ed. 1865). Schevez had also been educated at Louvain. 

45  Critical essay, p. 342, ed. 1879. the Chronica Brevis is printed in Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, p. 148. 

46  George Logan states that it was borrowed by one of the Earls of Strathmore, with the intention of having it printed, “which was never done, neither was the book ever restored.” Logan’s Finishing Stroke, Pt. I., p. 113 (Edinr. 1748). earl of Strathmore may be a mistake for Earl of Dalhousie. 

47  The latter part of the note is added no doubt to harmonise the statement at folio 40, that he was beginning Book III. on 10th October, 1483. The Scotch year at this time, and for long after, was computed from 25th March. 

48  Halyburton’s Ledger, ed. C. Innes, Pref., p. lvi. (Edr., 1876.) 

49  Jaspar Laet of Borchloen, the author of various Prognostications, one of which is dedicated in very complimentary terms to the Archbishop, in 1491. See Brunet, Manuel du Libraire, s. v

50  Stillingfleet’s books were purchased by Mr. Harley in 1708. Letter of Bishop white Kennet to Rev. S. Blackwall, Brydges Restituta, III., 374. 

51  Skene’s Fordun, I., p. xxi.; Liber Pluscardensis, i., p. x. 

52  It rather seems to be the Brechin Castle MS. which was the Liber Sconensis. 

53  Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xv. 

54  Ruddiman’s Letter to Hearne, Hearne’s Fordun v., p. 1378, n. 

55  The altar of St. Michael, the Archangel, in the church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, was founded by Patrick Lesouris, Rector of Newton (Reg. Eccl. St. Egidii de Edinburgh, No. 76), who in 1454 made a provision for the support of a secular chaplain to serve at it (Ibid.) In 1462, Sir Alexander Forrester of Corstorphine, at the request of Patrick Lesouris, conveyed an annual rent of 13s. 4d. to Sir John Moffat, one of the chaplains at the altar of St. Michael, for behoof of himself and his successors (Ibid.) Amongst the witnesses to the infeftment were Lesouris himself and Sir Symon Fynlaw, chaplain. There must, therefore, have been two chaplains at this altar, or two altars dedicated to St. Michael, as was the case, the one in honour of the Archangel and the festival of Michaelmas, 29th September, the other in commemoration of his manifestation in Monte Tumba, 16th October, (Maitland Hist. of Edinburgh, p. 271. There is an office for both festivals in the Aberdeen Breviary. The lections there seem to associate the festival of September with the manifestation on Mount Garganus.) In 1491, Symon Fynlaw is witness to a charter by William Fowlar, Canon of Dunblane, founding another chaplaincy in St. Giles. Here he is simply designed “Priest” (Ibid., No. 105, p. 159). 

56  Nicolson’s Scot. Hist. Liby., p. 34. 

57  Nicolson’s Scot. Hist. Liby., p. 33. 

6 thoughts on “I. – What It Is, pp.1-15.

  1. Hi Jenny – fascinating article. An acquaintance of mine has a copy of the Scotichronicon dated 1747. Do you know if this is a rare or particularly valuable copy?

    1. As far as books are concerned, they’re really worth whatever another is prepared to pay for them. I have to assume the 1747 is a Latin edition and, therefore, you’d be looking to find a buyer able to work with that language, which may certainly limit options. Most books published prior to the 19th century can be considered rare, due to them being such fragile things and at the whim of however they’ve been treated & stored by previous owners. Most tend to be considered “working copies” and rebinding can be required to give them a new lease on life, though that in itself can reduce the cost, as original bindings on copies that have been well preserved and stored, i.e., reduced amount of foxing, all images (if any) & pages intact, would be what you’d hope for if you’ve a view to selling for a good sum.

      1. Thanks, Jenny, that’s really informative and useful to know. Best wishes.

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