IV. – The History of the Black Book, pp.43-63.

[Notes on the Black Book Contents]

   The Scotichronicon, as we learn from statements in its text, was in progress in 1441,1 and was completed, according to the Memorandum on the fly leaf of the Black Book of Paisley, in 1447, or as Mr. Skene says, betwixt that date and 1449,2 the year in which Abbot Bower died. The copy acquired by the Abbey of Paisley had already, as early as the year 1501, become known as “magnus et niger liber Pasleti,”3 so that it may be assumed that it was in the possession of the Monastery during the greater part of the preceding half century, as otherwise it could scarcely have been so spoken of. 

   The “Schort Memorials of the Scottis Corniklis for Addicioun,”4 noting the death in 1459 of Thomas Tarvas, Abbot of Paisley, speaks of him as “a richt gude man and help like to the place of ony that ever was,” and amongst other good deeds mentions that he “brocht hame mony gud jowallis and clathis of gold, silver, and silk, and mony gud bukis.” This may refer to his return from Rome, whither he had gone in 1453, but there is no reason why it should be so limited, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that, as a book collector, he would obtain an early copy of the new Chronicle, and that the Black Book was brought to Paisley in his time.5 Whatever weight may be allowed to the statement of the editors of the second edition of Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae, and to Dempster, confirms this view. According to the former,6 “the Black Book of Paisley was written about 1451,” while the latter7 gives the date as 1452. The Brechin Castle copy of the Scotichronicon was transcribed in 1480, the Schevez MS. in 1484, and the Edinburgh College MS. is dated in 1510. If the date assigned to the Black Book of Paisley is at all near the truth, it is therefore considerably older than any of the other three MSS. The Schevez MS. contains the Auctarium Scotichronici, which records the death of James II. on 3rd August, 1460. This piece is not in the Black Book at all, and is apparently not the work of Bower, but that of a later hand. The Scotch genealogical tree in the Schevez and Edinburgh MSS. includes James III., (1460-1488); while in that in the Black Book, James II., who began to reign in 1437, is “rex modernus.” The list of Popes which in it closes with Nicholas V. (1447-1455), is continued in the Schevez MS. and in the Edinburgh MS., to Sixtus IV., who was raised to the Pontifical chair in 1471, and died in 1484. 

   In the title at the commencement of the prologue, Bower’s name is prominently introduced. The expression “bone memorie,” shows that he was then dead, and consequently that the MS. is later than 1449, but its use and the wording of the sentence convey the impression that his death was of recent occurrence, and suggest that the inscription was written by one of the brethren at Inchcolm in affectionate remembrance of their Abbot.8 

   In the Abridgement of the Scotichronicon, known as the Liber Pluscardensis, the compiler, in a note at the end of c. 14, of book VI., remarks that the preceding part was the work of John Fordun, and the succeeding of Walter Bower, “sicut reperimus in magnis cronicis notatum.”9 This statement of authorship is found in the Black Book of Paisley alone, of all the MSS. of the Scotichronicon,10 and the author of the Liber Pluscardensis must have had in view, either this, or some manuscript now lost containing a similar note. The Liber Pluscardensis was compiled in 1461, and the “magna cronica” referred to, must therefore have been of earlier date. In a note on the Donibristle MS.11 little more than a century later than the completion of the Scotichronicon, these Great Chronicles, as then known, are both mentioned and enumerated, and as all of them still exist, it is improbable that there were others which had gone amissing since 1461. Had the Paisley nook been a copy of such a manuscript, it is almost certain that its chronological information would have been brought down to the date of transcription. The supposition that it was to this book the writer of the Liber Pluscaradensis alludes, is strengthened by the fact that the verses which Goodall found in it, and which are awanting in the Edinburgh MS. (IV., c. 40.) are in the Black Book.12 They are no doubt in the Schevez MS., but it is posterior in date to the Liber Pluscardensis. 

   On Comparing the text of the Paisley, the Schevez and the Edinburgh MSS., there are several indications that the first named is the earliest in date. In these,13 blanks are filled up; additions have been made to the text, as it appears in the other;14 and marginal notes have been incorporated with the text.15 The lists of Religious Houses and other miscellaneous matter, have in the Schevez and Edinburgh MSS. an appearance of order and sequence, that is wanting in the Paisley book. Amongst the notes prefixed to the latter, are, it will be remembered, some De Pestilentia. Bower had occasion to discuss this subject in the course of his narrative, (XVI., c. 32., and elsewhere), and these extracts may have been made with that object; their nature, however, renders it much more probable that they were suggested by and made in consequence of a visitation of the plague itself;16 and the reference to the Scotichronicon with which they close, indicates that they were subsequent to the formation of its text. Now the only occasions of such a calamity between 1449 and 1501, were first the years 1455 and 1456, in the former of which the plague visited the country and caused great mortality; and in the latter an Act was passed by the Scotch Parliament as “The Rule of the Pestilence,” which appointed “the Prelates to make general procession throughout their dioceses twice in the week, for stanching the pestilence, and to grant pardon to priests that gang in the said processions.”17 The other year was 1474, in which we read that “the pestilence raged in Scotland most fearfully.”18 If, therefore, these memorandums had reference to a plague-time, they were most probably made on one or other of these occasions, and if so, the volume was most likely in possession of the Abbey of Paisley as early as 1455 or 1456 and not later than 1474. 

   In 1500 a transcript of the Black Book was made, and in 1501 it was abridged. The work so abridged was then known as the “Niger Liber Pastleti” and is the identical volume now in the British Museum. 

   The next occasion on which mention is made of a Paisley Chronicle is in the Extracta e variis Cronicis Scocie19 compiled somewhere between 1513 and 1550. The writer says,20 “quequidem cronica reperiebatur scripta apud Paseletum inter alias antiquas scriptas cronicas.” The first part of the sentence seems to refer, as will be afterwards explained, to an original chronicle rather than to the MS. at present under consideration. The latter may, however, have been one of those pointed at in the closing words, which show at any rate that there was something of a library in the Monastery. Whatever the collection may have been, it was scattered to the winds. On 29th September, 1559, Sadler and Croft writing to Cecil, mention21 that the Lords had suppressewd the Abbeys of Paisley, Kilwinning, and Dunfermling, and burned all the images, idols, and popish stuff.” The Black Book was, however, to use Dempster’s words, snatched as a Palladium from the Knoxian flames.22 By whom we know not, but it seems to have come into the hands of Sir William Sinclair,23 who was made Lord Justice General of Scotland by Queen Mary this same year. He was a man of literary and antiquarian tastes, and as Father Hay records, “gathered a great many manuscripts which had been taken by the rabble out of our Monasteries in the time of the Reformation.”24 Amongst the manuscripts which he so obtained, were the Book of Cupar,25 and two other of the MSS. of the Scotichronicon now in the Advocates’ Library.26 The memorandum on the Donibristle MS. says.27 “This cronicle is sene oure be Williame Sinclair of Rosslin, Knyght, and compylit, augmentit, drawn out of yir cronicles following silicit ye grete cronicle of Scone callit ye blak buik, ye greit cronicle of Paslay, callit ye blak buik, ane auld cronicle of Cambuskeneth, ane greit buik callit ye cronicle of Couper, and ane parchment buik of text hand burnished with gold, the cronicle of Saint Colmes Inche with sindrie uther writtin cronicles sic, as culd be gottin for ye tyme, verray auld schap of lettres, sum in paper and sum in parchement baythe textyr writ.” The fair inference from this note is that the Black Book of Paisley was at least seen28 by Sir William Sinclair, and that it still maintained its dignity as a great chronicle. On another MS.29 which was the property of Sir William, there are a number of notes, many in his own handwriting and some in that of other persons. One of these annotators, apparently of the sixteenth century, refers in his notes to the Black Book of Paisley,30 to the Book of Scone,31 to the Book of Cupar,32 and to the Golden Book,33 all alluded to in the Memorandum on the Donibristle MS. These notes seem to be of later date than those by Sir William Sinclair himself, and this indicates the existence of our manuscript during the later part of his life, or, it may be, after his death which occurred in 1574. 

   In this very year, however, a Black Book of Paisley appears as the subject of a law suit in the Court of Session. The last Abbot of Paisley, John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, had some time prior to the destruction of the monastery resigned the Abbey in favour of his nephew Lord Claud Hamilton. The latter was an ardent supporter of Queen Mary, and after the battle of Langside his estates were forfeited, and the Abbey granted to Lord Sempill. For some years thereafter, the ejected Lord led a wild and vagrant life, but by ratification concluded at Perth, and sanctioned by Parliament on 23rd February, 1573, it was declared that Lord Claud Hamilton, Commendator of Paisley, should be restored to that benefice to possess the same as freely as if no tumult had ever happened.34 Lord Sempill, however, was not inclined to give up possession, and was only forced to yield after the monastery had been besieged and taken by the Earl of Argyle, who had received a special commission for the purpose. Having been thus restored to his rights, the Commendator next instituted proceedings in the civil courts against Lord Sempill, in which he narrated that in the late troubles, the said Lord Sempill got into his hands the common seal of the said Abbey, with the “buke callit the blak buik of Paisley,” and that he declined to return the same. Lord Sempill denied that he had ever had the articles, but after hearing evidence, the Lords held that the former had proved his point and granted letters against Lord Sempill for the recovery of the seal and book. The Summons35 no doubt describes the volume as “ye buke callit the blak buik of Paisley,” but from the decerniture, pronounces be it remembered after the witnesses had been heard, it would appear that what was understood was the Rental Book, and that it was this and the Register Book and the Seal which the Commendator desired to recover, and for delivery of which he obtained judgment. These would be of material service to him, as they have been to all interested in the Abbey lands ever since.36 It is certainly much more likely that a person of Lord Claud Hamilton’s disposition desired to get hold of one of the muniments of his estate rather than a copy of the Scotichronicon. Indeed, we can hardly imagine that book-hunting was so developed amongst the Scotch nobility of the sixteenth century as to be productive of a law suit for the possession of a volume that could hardly then be deemed rare or curious. Had it been so, the decision of the court would almost certainly have been the other way, as while the Rental and Register might be held to pass with the land, it would be a great stretch to hold that the like rule was to apply to a stray volume from the library of a former proprietor of the estate. 

   Bishop Lesly writing in 1578,37 professes to have verified his statements by reference to the Book of Paisley. George Buchanan, whose History was published in 1582, quotes it as an authority;38 and David Buchanan writing somewhat later, refers to “Monachus Pasletensis.”39 Lord Claud Hamilton was of a restless, intriguing temperament, and in a few years he was again dispossessed of the Abbey. He retired to England, and, after fourteen years exile, was restored in 1585. In 1587, he was made Lord Paisley, and his eldest son was created Earl of Abercorn in 1606. When James VI., impelled by “this salmond-like instinct of ours,”40 visited “his old native Kingdome of Scotland, after fourteen years of absence, in Anno, 1617,”41 he was entertained in the Abbey by the Earl of Abercorn, acting on behalf of his father, when a “pretty boy,” son of the king’s favourite, Sir James Sempill, of Beltrees, presented an address to his Majesty,42 doubtless the composition of Sir James himself. Amongst the words which is Majesty’s “owne old Parrot,” put forth as witnesses of the fervent affections of his most faithful subjects in these parts were these:- “Saying there is nothing; shall I swear your M. welcome? I dare: but it becometh not a boy to touch the Bible; and yet, because an oath taken by nothing, is but nothing, I sweare by the Black Book of Paisley your M. is most dearlie welcome.” As an oath taken by nothing, is but nothing, the inference is that the Black Book of Paisley was a something; or, in other words, that it was known to exist in 1617. 

   It is next mentioned in connection with Archbishop Spotswood, who is said to have had the use of it when composing his well known History of the Church of Scotland. This work was undertaken at the request of James VI., and was completed prior to the author’s death in 1639, but was not published until 1655. The Archbishop’s daughter married Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, a grandson of the Lord Justice General; a portion of whose library remained in the family mansion long after his death.43 It would naturally therefore be supposed, that it was to Roslin the learned Prelate sent, when he wished the use of “the great Chronicle of Paisley.” But strangely we have two stories, not only at variance with this theory, but differing from each other. The one is told by John Spotiswood of that Ilk, the Archbishop’s great grandson, in the life of his grandfather Sir Robert Spotiswoode, Lord President of the Court of Session, who says,44 “The Archbishop being commanded by King James VI. to write the History of the Church of Scotland, he employed Sir Robert to recover from the Scottish Priests and Monks, the ancient Manuscripts and records of the Church, which they had abstracted and taken with them into foreign countries when their houses at the Reformation were abolished; and Sir Robert succeeded in this commission to his father’s satisfaction, though with much pains and expenses, and brought home with him many of those ancient Records, and particularly the famous Manuscript called “The Black Book of Paisley, which he got at Rome.” Sir George Mackenzie tells a similar story with this variation, that the Black Book of Scone is its subject. “It can also be proved,” he says, “by many famous gentlemen, that the Black Book of Scone, containing our histories from the beginning, was amongst President Spottiswood’s books;.. which book King Charles I. had ransomed from Rome by a considerable sum of money.”45 

   The other account of the manner in which Archbishop Spotswood came by the Black Book of Paisley is by Sir Robert Sibbald, who says that he was assured by Sir John Cunningham, that it was brought to him from Holyrood by the Lord Whitekirk.46 

   David Buchanan, the biographer, who died in 1652,47 mentions that “monachi Pasletensis liber asservatur in bibliotheca regia, palatio S. Crucis ad Edinburgum;” but Nicolson points out48 that this is a mistake, for although a copy of the Scotichronicon had at one time been in the Library at Holyrood, it was not the Black Book of Paisley, but the Donibristle MS. 

   There is no evidence to show that Lord Justice General Sir William Sinclair, parted with any of his MSS. during his lifetime, which brings us down to at least 1574. The annotator of the Extracta e variis Cronicis Scocie uses it apparently after his death, and George Buchanan’s references to it must have been about the date of the publication of his History, which was in 1582. When Sir Robert Spotiswoode returned from the continent, he was received with much favour by King James, who created him an Extraordinary Lord of Session, to which office he was admitted on 12th July 1622, under the title of Lord New Abbey. It does not appear whether he came to Scotland direct from Rome, or at what date he is supposed to have found the MS. there, but it may be noticed that, at the very time of his return, a prohibition had been issued at Rome against the sale of such manuscripts. John Borough, writing from Venice to Sir Robert Cotton, in 1622, says,49 “I have this week received notice that Mr. Norgate is hasted from Rome in companie of Mr. Gage, for England; and that there is a proclamation made in Rome that no manuscripts shall be sold to any man, but by consent and privately of the Governor in that behalf ordained. Wherefore I shall hardly before my coming to England be able to satisfye you concerning the Lieger Books.” Unless, therefore, Sir Robert was at Rome at a time considerably prior to his return, it would seem that there would have been special difficulty in getting the Black Book of Paisley had it been there. 

   The Roman story is not vouched for in any way, and no explanation is given of how the volume found its way to Rome during the preceding fifty years.50 It was first given to the world by Sir George Mackenzie in 1684, and was at once controverted by Stillingfleet, and no attempt was made to substantiate it, although this could not have been difficult to do after the lapse of only sixty years. Had Sir Robert Spotiswoode brought home “the ancient manuscripts and records of the church,” the fact must have been notorious, and Mackenzie would only have been too glad to make use of it in his controversy with Stillingfleet, but he never refers to such a thing. 

   Dempster spent the last ten years of his life in Italy, and was at Rome in 1616, and on an earlier occasion. Had any Scotch Chronicle of importance been there, he must have heard of it, and would certainly have made it public, but he does not allude to any such report when referring to the Black Book or the Chronicle of Paisley in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, which was published at Bologna in 1627. On the contrary, he says51 that the Paisley MS. was then in the possession of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline and Chancellor of Scotland. As the latter died in 1622,52 Dempster must have been writing in that year, or somewhat earlier, and his statement may at least be taken as showing that he, a resident at Rome, and a diligent student of Scotch literary history, did not know of the Black Book being there, at the very time when Sir Robert Spotiswoode is said to have brought it home from Rome.53 

   How the Roman fable originated does not appear, but it may be observed that Bishop Lesley, who refers to the Book of Paisley, and to the Book of Scone, (both of which are connected with it,) wrote and published his History at Rome, and this incident may have led to the belief that he had the manuscripts with him there.54 

   Sir Robert Sibbald, who was contemporary with Mackenzie and preceded John Spotiswood,55 has not a word of the Roman story, while his own seems quite as open to suspicion. The Sir John Cunningham who was his informant, was no doubt Sir John Cunningham of Caprington, the eminent advocate, who was somewhat of an antiquary.56 But Lord Whitekirk could not have been the hand to convey the book from Holyrood to Archbishop Spotswood, as such a personage did not exist until 1661, twenty-two years after the prelate’s death. Lord Whitekirk may be a mistake for Lord Whitehill, who was appointed a Lord of Session in 1637, but this is mere conjecture, and does not much help the matter, as the history, or at any rate the earliest portion of it, in which only the Black Book could be of use, was completed by that year.57 

   It is clear, however, that wherever he got it, the Archbishop had it at the time he was composing his book,58 Father Hay says,59 “The Black Book of Paisley cited by Buchanan, together with the famous Book of Pluscardine, I find listed in the Catalogue of Bishop Spotswood’s Library,” so that he seems to have taken possession of it, and upon his death it passed into the hands of his son. Sir Robert Spotiswoode. John Spotiswood mentions60 that it was in the possession of his grandfather at his death, which took place 20th January, 1646, when he was executed as an adherent of the Royalist cause, after the battle of Philiphaugh. Sir Robert Sibbald writing a few years later, says the same thing.61 At this date then we know where the manuscript was, but just at this very point a difficulty is started by the Historiographer to William and Mary, William Dunlop, Principal of the University of Glasgow. According to him62 “The monks of this abbacy [Paisley], wrote a Chronicle which was continued by them, the authentick copy whereof perished when the abbay of Halyrood house was burned during the English usurpation, it being then in the King’s bibliotheck; but there are some copies or compends of it.” Holyrood Palace took fire on 13th November, 1650, when in the occupation of Cromwell’s forces after the battle of Dunbar, and was in great part destroyed, but nothing is recorded of the loss of the Black Book of Paisley or of any such MS.;63 and indeed no books could have been there to be burned, as the palace had been dismantled by James VI., after his accession to the throne of England, and the Inventory of moveables which were left, made up on 10th June, 1603, contains only a few unimportant articles of furniture.64 Besides the story is controverted by the existence of the book, for there can be no doubt that the MS. which has been described above, is not a transcript of the Black Book of Paisley, but is the very volume which has always passed by that name. Principal Dunlop did not write until the very end of the seventeenth century,65 and had there been any truth in the statement it would have been elicited during the Stillingfleet controversy. It is only noted now, in passing, as illustrative of the fate of the book, which seems to disappear mysteriously, like the juggler’s coin, while under our very eyes.

   The true history of the volume after the death of the Lord President, is, that it fell into General Lambert’s hands, and was by him carried into England.66 According to Sir George Mackenzie67 he got it from Lewis Cant. As he was at Oxford during 1646, it is scarcely probable that he could have got it immediately after Sir Robert Spotiswoode’s execution. He was in Scotland for a few months in the autumn of 1648, but there is no evidence that it was at this time he became its owner. In 1650 he was again in Scotland along with Cromwell and Monk, and took part in the battle of Dunbar. The Roslin family were warmly attached to the Royalist cause, and their castle was stormed and taken possession of by Monk on 15th November, 1650;68 and the manuscripts which had belonged to Sir William Sinclair were scattered, and found new proprietors.69 The Book of Paisley may have been sent back to Roslin after the Lord President’s death, and if so, it would no doubt be there at the date of the dispersion of the library. It would appear, at any rate, that it was not until that year that General Lambert acquired it. He did not retain it long, as in the same year he presented it to Lord Fairfax,70 the Parliamentary General, his master in the art of war,71 who had resigned his command a few months previously. Lord Fairfax was “an antiquarian, and a lover and collector of curious manuscripts;”72 tastes which Clarendon thinks “strange in a Presbyterian,”73 or perhaps even more so in an Independent, as the Scotch might have preferred to consider him. Lambert may have remembered his leader’s conduct at Oxford, “when the first thing he did was to set a good guard of soldiers to preserve the Bodleian Library… He was a lover of learning, and had he not taken this special care, that noble Library had been utterly destroyed, for there were ignorant Senators enough, who would have been contented to have had it so.”74 But the “Presbyterian” General not only protected the Bodleian, but enriched it by the bequest of the Dodsworth Collections, and twenty-eight other very valuable manuscripts.75 Amongst these was the Elphinstone Manuscript of the Liber Pluscardensis, which had been presented to him in the same year, 1650, by Lady Hawthornden, widow of the famous Sir William Drummond of Hawthornden, as he has himself recorded in an autograph memorandum on the manuscript.76 He likewise acquired, presumably about the same time, a copy of Wynton’s Chronicle, which had formed part of the Roslin Library, and which still bears the signature, “W. Sinclair of Rosling.”77 

   Lord Fairfax was a diligent student, and read his books carefully as his notes upon the Elphinstone MS. and the Black Book of Paisley still testify. At the top of folio 15 of the latter, he makes the following note, which is interesting as bearing his signature:- 

     “Notandum quod quaelibet Ecclesia Parochialis in magnis villis (ut Edinburgh) est collegium, ut accepi ex relatione Mri Johīs Adamson, pr fecti Col. Edinb., 1650. – Fairfax.”

   The memorandum and the quotations on folio 1 are in his handwriting, and the date, 1650, which he has added, shows that he had the book in that year. He has gone systematically over the whole volume, and his notes are on almost every page. The words “Inimico ne credas”78 on the margin of the facsimile page of the MS. are by him. It is difficult to say whether the “hand,” on that page, pointing to the burning of the Abbey of Paisley is so or not, as such signs are very common in the manuscripts of the period, and have little individuality or character. It is, however, perhaps worth observing, that there is also on the margin of the page of the Elphinstone MS. reproduced in the National Manuscripts of Scotland,79 an index finger, between which and the one in question there is as much of a family likeness as is possible in such things.

   The word “Bower” on the margin, (folio 14),80 opposite the lines:- 

Hic hopus, hic finit, &c., 

is in Lord Fairfax’s handwriting. He has made frequent references, such as, “Alio meo MS.,” “Ex alio MS.,” “Vide in alio libro Scotichronico,” “Vide autographum.” 

   In various parts of the volume there are notes in other hands, one of which Roger Gale thought81 to be that of the transcriber of his father’s manuscript of Fordun’s work, now in Trinity College, Cambridge. 

   Lord Fairfax sympathised in the restoration of Charles II., and although he took little part in public affairs after that event, he must have had some intercourse with the king, if only through his daughter, who was the wife of the second Duke of Buckingham. Charles was not altogether the gay voluptuary of popular imagination, but was devoted to his laboratory, and was a patron of science. The ancient Royal Library at St. James’ was an object of interest to him; he desired to furnish and adorn it “with manuscripts of the best sort,”82 and purchased for it in 1673, the valuable Thayer collection.83 Knowing the king’s tastes, Lord Fairfax, says Stillingfleet,84 presented him with the Black Book of Paisley. According to Casley, however, he bought it for £100. But, be this as it may, the manuscript came into his library, and was, by the munificence of George II., transferred along with the rest of that collection to the British Museum, in 1759. The date at which King Charles acquired the volume does not appear, but it was most probably prior to 12th November, 1671, when Fairfax died, and subsequent to 1666, as it is not entered in the catalogue of the manuscripts in the King’s library,85 which was made up in that year. 

   Shortly after the Black Book had found a resting place on the shelves of the library at St. James, it became the subject of a violent literary controversy. In 1684, Dr. William Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph’s, published “An Historical Account of Church Government,” in which he rejected the long succession of Scottish kings recorded by our annalists,86 on the ground, that the Scots could not have been so early settled in this country as had been stated, and that the Scottish historians who record the line of monarchs are not of sufficient authority to be relied on.87 He was not long without an answer, which came from the pen of Sir George Mackenzie, who, in June, 1685, gave to the world “A Defence of the Antiquity of the Royal Line of Scotland.” The learned knight, as germane to his contention, endeavours to establish the authority of John of Fordun as an historian, and to vindicate his originality, and maintains that besides the Scotichronicon we had various other histories, amongst which he includes the Black Book of Scone. In the course of his arguments, however, he thought proper to make some disparaging observations regarding Stillingfleet, the illustrious Bishop of Worcester, then Dean of St. Paul’s. The latter chanced to see the manuscript of Sir George’s tract, and forthwith prepared an elaborate rejoinder on the whole case, which was published in his “Origines Britannicae” the same year. He doubts the very existence of the Black Book of Paisley and says, – If there be such a volume, produce it!88 He disposes by a similar request of the whole array of shadowy annalists whom the Lord Advocate conjured up, and banters him for insinuating that the Bishop of St. Asaph had been guilty of lese majesty in attempting to curtail the Royal descent. Nothing daunted, Sir George returned to the defence, and next year presented to the public and dedicated to the King. – “The Antiquity of the Royal Line of Scotland further cleared and defended against the exceptions lately offered by Dr. Stillingfleet in his Vindication of the Bishop of St. Asaph’s.” He suggests89 in a passage now rendered classical by Sir Walter Scott,90 that King James having in his Basilikon Doron founded his royal prerogative upon the allegation of King Fergus having made himself king and lord as well of the whole lands as of the inhabitants of Scotland, and Charles I. having referred to his one hundred and eight predecessors on the throne of Scotland, it was his duty as King’s Advocate to prove that King Fergus and his forty-four successors are not fabulous. He repeats and expands the general arguments he had previously employed, but says nothing additional regarding the Black Book of Paisley. He accepts its existence, but does nothing more.91 Here the controversy ended so far as concerned the principals, but it had been taken up and was continued by others.92 

   It is a very curious circumstance in regard to this dispute that the Chaplain of the King and his Lord Advocate should be waging bitter war93 as to the very existence of a volume, to doubt which one of the combatants alleged was lese majesty, while all the while the book itself was quietly slumbering on the shelves – or rather the floor94 – of the Royal library. Knowing that it was alleged that Fairfax had obtained possession of the Black Book, and that he had presented a Scotch historical manuscript to the King, it seems almost incredible that Stillingfleet should not have taken the trouble to visit the Library and ascertain its exact character. Had he done so, the controversy, so far as related to the existence of the Black Book, would have been at an end, whatever he might have had to say of its value as an historical record. From the quotations he makes, it is evident that he had before him a manuscript of the sixteen Books of the Scotichronicon, and the question arises, what manuscript was it? He had access to the Cottonian and Dr. Gale’s, but it could not be either of these, as they do not contain the sixteen books. Hearne suggests95 that it was the Schevez MS., and the suggestion seems highly probable.96 He knew that the King’s manuscript was a copy of the Scotichronicon, and may have thought that for his purpose his own was sufficient.

   Dr. Gale, writing in 1691, mentions97 that the Scotichronicon was then in the Royal Library, but as he limited himself in his publication to Fordun’s work alone, he did not require to examine it. Bishop Nicolson published his Scotch Historical Library in 1702, but although he describes the Black Book of Paisley, and mentions the manuscript at St. James’, he simply follows Gale and does not connect them. The first to recognise that they were one and the same was Hearne,98 who wrote in 1722. John Spotiswood, in his Account of the Religious Houses in Scotland,99 mentions that the Black Book of Paisley was then in the Royal Library. Father Hay in 1723,100 and Father Innes in 1729,101 state the same thing.

   The volume is now bound in red morocco, and judging from the monogram on the boards it may be inferred that it was rebound after it became the property of King Charles. Hearne,102 in 1722, speaks of it as “new bound in a red cover.”103 

   The whereabouts of the volume still seems matter of doubt to the general public, and a few years ago there was much correspondence upon the subject in the local newspapers, in the course of which an appeal was made to the Museum authorities who replied that no such volume as the Black Book of Paisley was in their keeping!104 

1  i., c. 6. 

2  Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xli. The year is given as the date of Bower’s death in the colophon to the Abridgement, formerly in the Royal Library at Holyrood, now in the Advocates Library, (35, 6, 7.) He was present in Parliament in 1445, (Thomson’s Acts, ii., p. 60); and appears as a witness to Charters by James II. in 1441 and 1442. (Ib., ii., pp. 57, 58.) 

3  Post, § 5. 

4  Ane Addicioune of Scottis Corniklis and Deidis, p. 20; and repeated in a Short Chronicle of the reign of James the Second, p. 56, both edited and published together by Thomas Thomson. The passage had been quoted by Chalmers, Caledonia, iii. p. 825. 

5  Hay suggests that the Book of Cupar, was sent for from the Scriptorium at Inchcolm. (Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 126. See Supra, p. 6.) 

6  The second edition was published 1718, by D. Browne, J. Senex and others, with large additions to the descriptions. The passage above quoted is from the additions to the article Paisley, but no authority is referred to. It must have been written prior to 1712, as Sir Robert Sibbald, who died in that year, is spoken of as alive; he was the author of the original Descriptions, and may have contributed to the Additions. David Buchanan, as quoted by Bishop Nicholas, says, “Monachus Pasletenais scripsit circa annum, 1451.” (Nicolson, Scot. Hist. Liby, p. 33.) 

7  Dempster, (Hist. Eccl. Gent. Scotorum, Lib., xv., No. 1010), says, “vivebat, 1452.” 

8  “Bonae memoriae” is much the same as the Greek μακαριτης, “of blessed memory,” which is only used, says Bentley, of persons not long dead, and within the memory of him who says it. Bentley on Phalaris, p. 17, (Lond. 1777.) Ruhnken adopts this view, but it is controverted by Dindorf, Stephani Thesaurus, Ed. Dindorf, s.v. As to “bonae memoriae,” see Hoffmann, Lexicon Universale, s.v., and Carpentier, Supplement to Ducange, s.v. Bower himself uses the expression of Andrew, Bishop of Moray, who died in 1242, (ix. c. 61.), but he may be using it rhetorically. Fordun uses “piae memoriae,” of Alexander II., but he is quoting the words of the Earl of Monteith immediately after his death. (Gesta Annalia, Hearne, p. 758, Skene, i., p. 293.) In the list of Obits in the Register of Aberdeen, those who are spoken of as “bonae memoriae” could not have been dead for many years. (Regist. Aberd., ii., p. 200, et seq.) The expressions “of blessed memory,” “late,” “unquhile,” are all limited in their reference to past time. 

9  Liber Pluscardensis, i. p. 5. 

10  In the Carthusian MS., (Adv. Lib., 35.6.7, formerly the property of Sir James Balfour), it is stated that Sir Walter Bowmaker wrote the last eleven books of the Scotichronicon. This MS. is, however, a moderate quarto, and not a great chronicle; its date is about 1451, and was evidently posterior to the Cupar MS., as it abridges the Prologue of that MS. (See the Prologues, Skene’s Fordun, i., pp. li. lii.) 

11  Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xvi. 

12  Supra, p.30

13  xv. 33., xvi. 23. 33. 

14  e.g., iv. 35., vi. 22., xi. 14., xi. 25., xiii. 20., xiv. 50., xv. 21. 

15  ix., c. 41. 

16  A translation of the tract of John de Burdeus, on the Pestilence, is inserted in the Register of Kelso. (See vol. ii., p. 448, Bannatyne Club). See Appendix, Note B. 

17  1456, c. 57., Thomson’s Acts, ii., p. 46. See Boyd’s Justice of the Peace, ii., p. 612. 

18  Sir James Balfour’s Annals, i., p. 198. There were many partial visitations of the plague in the closing years of the century. See Henderson’s Annals of Dunfermline, p. 175. The great plague of London was in 1499. 

19  p. 247. (Ed. Turnbull.) 

20  p. 247. (Ed. Turnbull.) 

21  Calendar of State Papers – Foreign – 1555-59, p. 584. See M’Ure’s History of Glasgow, p. 30. (Ed. 1830). Spotswood’s MS. History, quoted Keith’s Hist., p. 503. 

22  Dempster’s Hist., Eccl. Gent. Scotorum, Lib. xv., No. 1010. 

23  Hay, Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 32. 

24  Hay, Genealogie of the Sainte Claires of Rosslyn, p. 136., (Edr., 1835); Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 126. 

25  Hay, Genealogie ut supra; Vindication, p. 126. The same entry is repeated in his Scotia Sacra. See Gough’s British Topography, ii. p. 621. 

26  Historical MSS. Commission Report, i., p. 123. 

27  Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xvi. 

28  Had Sir William Sinclair been proprietor of the MS., it is highly probable that he would have written his name upon it, as seems to have been his practice. (Besides the MSS. of the Scotichronicon and the Extracta e variis Cronicis – See the Lansdowne MS. of Wynton’s Chronicle, [Landsdowne MS. 197.] p. 3, and p. 259.) The Book of Cupar seems to be an exception to this rule, as although it was in his possession he has not proclaimed this to the world through his autograph. 

29  Extracta e variis Cronicis printed from the MS. in the Advocates’ Library, and edited by Mr. W. B. D. D. Turnbull, for the Abbotsford Club. The original was lent to Mr. Turnbull for this purpose, but was not returned to the Library, and it is not known where it now is. 

30  Ib. pp. 5, 41. 

31  Ib. pp. 5, 6. 

32  Ib. p. 41. 

33  Ib. p. 41. This is doubtless the same as that above described as, “ane parchement buik of text hand burnished with gold.” It may refer to the Harleian MS. 4764, which corresponds with the description. 

34  Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, ii. p. 241. 

35  See copy of the Decreet Appendix Note C. 

36  Hector’s Judicial Records, ii. p. 228. 

37  Paraenesis ad Nob. Populumque Scoticum, p. 29; Ed. 1675; prefixed to the History. 

     Allibone (Dictionary of English and American Authors) mentions an edition of the History of 1575, but this must be a mistake for 1578 which was the date of the earliest, or for 1675 the date of that from which we quote. 

38  Historia, opera. i., pp. 73, 86, 93. (Ed. Ruddiman, fol.) Buchanan refers to Liber Pasletensis, but he alludes to nothing when he does so that could not have been got from any copy of the Scotichronicon. The reference however proves the existence or at least his belief in the existence of the MS. at that time. 

39  De Scriptoribus Scotis, p. 80. At p. 27 he refers to the Chronicon Sconense. 

     David Buchanan flourished in the latter part of the reign of James VI., and beginning of that of Charles I. – Gough’s British Topography, ii., p. 565. He is said to have died in 1652. De Scriptoribus Scotis, p. 136. In one of the notes quoted by Bishop Nicolson, (Scottish Hist., Liby., p. 33), Buchanan mentions “Monachus Pasletensis.” The MS. he alludes to was not the Black Book of Paisley but the Donibristle MS., he may, however, only mean that its author was a monk of Paisley, and that it was the same as the Black Book. 

40  Letters and State Papers of the reign of James VI., p. 302. (Abbotsford Club.) 

41  The Muses’ welcome to the High and Mighty Prince James. (Edinburgh, 1618.) 

42  Ib. 

43  He was alive in 1574. (Hay’s Genealogie of the Sainte Claires, pp. 141, 143), but seems to have died shortly afterwards. 

44  Life of Sir Robert Spotiswoode, prefixed to his Practicks of the Laws of Scotland, p. iv., (Edin. 1706). He was assisted in this publication by Ruddiman, and was himself for some time Keeper of the Advocates’ Library. (Chalmers’ Life of Ruddiman, p. 40). 

45  Defence of the Royal Line of Scotland. Works, vol. ii., p. 364. 

46  Nicolson’s Scottish Historical Library, p. 33. 

47  D. Buchanan, De Scriptoribus Scotis, Praef., p. ii., and Appendix, p. 136, (Edr., 1837, Bannatyne Club). See also the Bannatyne Club Miscellany, vol. ii., p. 392, n. 

48  Scottish Historical Library, p. 33. 

49  Letters of Eminent Literary Men, p. 129. (Camden Club.) 

50  It has repeatedly been alleged, but apparently without foundation, that at the Reformation, the Register books and other treasures of the Monasteries were carried to Rome by the monks. Se Jamieson’s History of the Culdees, p. 313, et seq.  

51  Historia Eccl. Gent. Scot. Lib. xiv., No. 1010. 

52  History of the House of Seytoun, pp. 66, 101. (Maitland Club.) Seton’s Memoir of Chancellor Seton, p. 135. 

53  The MS. which the Earl of Dunfermline had, was not, however, the Black Book of Paisley. In a memorandum upon the Elphinstone MS. (Bodleian, Fairfax, 8), Lord Fairfax has noted, “Note, that the Earle of Dunfermline told me in the year 1657, that he had a very faire ancient MS. of the History of Scotland, formerly belonging to that monastery, but I did never see it. I believe it was transcribed out of this.” (Skene’s Fordun, i., p. xxii.; Joseph Stevenson, The Life and Death of King James the First of Scotland, Pref., p. 11. [Maitland Club, 1837.] F. Skene’s Liber Pluscardensis, i., p. 12.) As Lord Fairfax was himself, as will be seen, the owner of the Black Book of Paisley in 1650, it could not be the MS. Lord Dunfermline referred to in 1657. This was the second Lord Dunfermline, who died in 1672. 

54  Adam Abel’s Rota Temporum was also, says Spotiswood, printed at Rome by Bishop Lesley. (Spotiswood’s Account of the Religious Houses, appended to Hope’s Minor Practicks, p. 503): And in his Diary the Bishop records, “xxij. Augti. 1571, conference with the Bishop of Ely, quha counseled me to tak panes at my retorning into Scotland to recover all the antient bookis that was in Abbayes and Cathedral Churches, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in Ingland, and to gather furth of them all thingis notable, touching the Religion from tyme to tyme.” (Bannatyne Miscellany, vol. iii., pp. 143, 144). 

55  Sir George Mackenzie, 1636-91; Sir Robert Sibbald, 1641-1712; John Spotiswood, 1667-1728. 

56  He died in 1684. Douglas Baronage, p. 267. See Nicolson, Scot. Hist. Liby., pp. 41. 

57  The reference to Lord Whitekirk is not conclusive against Sibbald’s story, as it may have happened before he was advanced to the bench. 

58  He cites it book ii., § 4, p. 26; § ii., p. 28; § 20, p. 41; § 23, p. 45; § 24, p. 46; § 25, p. 50; § 26, p. 51. The Book of Scone is frequently referred to, and the Scotichronicon is also quoted. These references are from the margin of the third edition, London, 1668. The Spottiswood Society’s edition gives no references to authorities. 

59  Quoted from Hay’s MSS. in the Advocates Library by Pitcairn, Account of the Families of the name of Kennedy, Pref., p. vii. 

60  Account of the Religious Houses in Scotland, Appendix to Hope’s Minor Practicks, p. 449. 

61  Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae, article “Paisley.” The descriptions in the first edition, which was published in 1693, were written in Latin by Sibbald, but were surreptitiously translated into English, and were in this form published by Slezer.  
     Dr. Jamieson, in his Life of Slezer, prefixed to the edition of 1814, states this as a conjecture; but Sibbald himself had a century before alleged it as a fact, and claimed the ownership. See his Conjectures concerning the Roman Ports in the Firths, Pref., p. 2. (Edinburgh, 1711.) 

62  Hamilton’s Descriptions of Lanark and Renfrew, p. 147, (Glasgow, 1831). This description of the Shire of Renfrew is quoted by Sibbald. (Historical Enquiries concerning the Romans in Scotland, p. 36, Edinburgh, 1707), who speaks of him as “the curious Antiquary, Mr. Dunlop.” 

63  See Chambers’ Domestic Annals, ii. p. 204; Wilson Memorials of Edinburgh, p. 96; Arnot History of Edinburgh, p. 305; Bannatyne Club Miscellany, vol. ii., p. 404, n.; iii. p. 210, n. 

64  Bannatyne Club Miscellany, vol. i., p. 185. 

65  He was principal of the University of Glasgow, 1690-1700. Munimenta, vol. iii., pp. 595, 596. See McUre’s Hist. of Glasgow, pp. 189, 190. (Ed. 1830). 

66  Spotiswood’s Account of the Religious Houses, ut supra, p. 449; Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae, “Paisley.” Sir Robert Sibbald who, as stated above, wrote the descriptions in the first edition published in 1693, says “Sir Robert Spotiswoode had this book in his library, and after he was executed General Lambert got it, and brought it to England.” 

67  Defence of the Royal Line, Works, ii., p. 364. The book he speaks of is the Black Book of Scone, but there can be no doubt that it is the Black Book of Paisley, respecting which the statement is made. 

68  Douglas Baronage, p. 248; Remarkable Passages of the Lord’s Providences towards John Spreul, Town Clerk of Glasgow, p. 30. (Ed. Maidment). 

69  Pinkerton’s History of Scotland, ii., p. 422. (4to, Lond. 1797). He refers to Spotiswood’s Account of the Religious Houses, p. 503. (Ed. 1734). One of these MSS. was the book of Cupar, which was purchased by Sir Lewis Stewart, and ultimately fell into the hands of Father Hay. Hay’s Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 126. Gough’s British Topography, ii., p. 621. 

70  Hay’s Vindication, p. 32. 

71  Markham’s Life of Fairfax, p. 336. 

72  Wharton’s History of English Poetry, iii. p. 33. (Ed. Hazlitt.) 

73  Whitaker’s History of Leeds, ii. p. 195. 

74  Aubrey’s Lives: in Letters by Eminent Persons, ii., p. 346; quoted by W. D. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, pp. 72, 73. 

75  Macray, ut supra, pp. 96, 97. 

76  Joseph Stevenson, Life and Death of King James the First of Scotland, p. x. (Maitland Club). Skene’s Fordun, I., p. 22: Liber Pluscardensis, I., p. 13. A fac-simile of Fairfax’s Note is given in the National Manuscripts of Scotland, vol. ii., No. lxxx. Sir William Drummond used this MS. In his History of the Five Jameses; Works, Pref., p. 5. (Edinburgh, 1711.) 

77  MS. Bibl. Lansdowne, 197, (Brit. Mus.) Wynton’s Chronicle, Ed. Laing, iii., p. 19. 

78  Lord Fairfax uses this phrase in a note, p. 173, opposite the conclusion of c. 58, of Book x. 

79  National MSS. of Scotland, vol. ii., No. lxxx. 

80  Supra, p. 16. 

81  Hearne’s Fordun, Praef., p. cxxiv. 

82  Saville Correspondence, p. 219. (Camden Club.) 

83  The history of the Royal Library at St. James’s from the interleaved copy of the lives of the Gresham Professors. Brit. Mus. Addl. MS., 6229; Stubbs, Chronica de Houedone, vol. i., Pref. p. 38. There is a catalogue of the Thayer manuscripts, with valuation, 1678, MS. In the British Museum, formerly Addl. MS., 6414, now Bibl. Reg. Appx., 70; and there is a printed list in Bernard’s Catalogue MSS., vol. ii., p. 198. 

84  Stillingfleet, Origines Britannicae, p. xvii., i. 263. Ed. 1685; vol. i., p. 55., vol. ii., p. 393. Ed. Pantin, 1842. 

85  MS. Brit. Mus., formerly Addl. MS., 6415, now Bibl. Reg. Appx., 71. 

     The Black Book of Paisley, it may be mentioned, does not occur in Bernard’s catalogue of the MSS. In the library at St. James’, in his Catalogue of the MSS., ii., p. 239. This list, however, seems to be very much a copy of the catalogue of 1666; and Bernard’s work is not accurate, and was not down to date, as although published in 1697, the Thayer MSS. Are entered, as in Mr. Thayer’s possession, although, as noted above, they were then in the Royal Library. See vol. ii., p. 198. 

86  “That bead roll of unbaptized jargon,” as they are termed by Scott, who had this very controversy in view. – The Antiquary, c. vi. See also c. v. 

87  Lloyd’s Work, appended to Stillingfleet’s Works, vol. ii. Ed. Pantin. 

88  Sir G. Mackenzie, Works, ii., p. 397, et seq

89  Ib. ii., p. 399. 

90  The Antiquary, c. v. (Ed. 1870, p. 50.) 

91  Mackenzie’s Works, ii., p. 418. 

92  Amongst the Sibbald Manuscripts is, A Vindication of the Scotch History, &c., pp. 92, with a leaf prefixed containing Latin verses, “Conbatriotis suis generosis Asaphensis Episcopi calumnias confundere meditantibus succinebat Jac. Cuningamius.” This apparently is the original of, A Defence or Vindication of the Scotish History and of the Scotish Historians, wherein the ancient race of the Scotish Kings, their ancient possessions in this Island of Great Britain, and the antiquity and dignity of the Scotish Church are asserted; and the objections of the Bishop of St. Asaph are answered. By Sir Robert Sibbald. This is an enlarged MS. of the preceding article, and contains 174 pages. One of the mottoes on the title page is, – 

Touch not myne anointed  
And do my prophets no harme.  

                    1st Chronicles 16 Ch. 22nd Verse. 

     (Catalogue of the Sibbald MS. prefixed to his Autobiography, p. 1. Edinburgh, 1833).

     In 1685 James Cuningham, the antiquary, had published –

     In Floridum Asaphensem Episcopum Scotorum Reges, Regnum, Ritus sacros, illacessitis calumniis et immeritis, exprobantem, lacerantem et traducentem, Versiculus unus et alter Hortatorius. 

     Robert Maule wrote a tract, “De Antiquitate gentis Scotorum, contra Anglorum calumnias et Mendacia, which is still in MS. (Historical MSS. Comn. ii. p. 186.) It is frequently quoted by Sibbald in his History of Fife.

     Sir George Mackenzie’s two tracts were “Ex Consilio Authoris,” amalgamated and translated into Latin by Peter Sinclair, and published with a dedication to John G. Graevius at Utrecht in 1689. 

93  It is satisfactory to know that the combatants were in the end happily reconciled. Writing under date of March, 1690, John Evelyn says, “I din’d at the Bp. of St. Asaph’s, Almoner to the new Queene, with the famous Lawyer Sir George Mackenzie, (late Lord Advocate of Scotland), against whom both the Bishop and myselfe had written and publish’d books, both now most friendly reconcil’d.” 

94  See Dury’s Statement in 1651. (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1651, p. 468,) and Bentley’s, in 1697, (Calendar of Treasury Papers, 1697-1701, p. 102). 

95  Fordun Praef., p. xxiii. See Tanner, Bibliotheca Britannica, Hibernica, Lond. 1748, s. nom. Macculloch, p. 498, and Fordun, p. 292. 

96  William Atwood quotes a manuscript of the Scotichronicon, communicated by the most Honourable Arthur Earl of Anglesea, to Master Petyt, (? William Petyt, 1636-1707, Keeper of the Twoer Records). He refers to xiv. C. 36, 54, xv. C. 1, so that it was evidently a copy of the Scotichronicon proper. Superiority and Direct Dominion of the Imperial Crown of England, pp. 504, 521. London, 1704. 

97  Historiae Britannicae Scriptores XV. Praef. 

98  Hearne’s Fordun, Praef., p. lxvi. And vol. v. p. 1384, n. 

99  It was not published until 1734, but had been completed prior to the author’s death, which occurred in 1728. 

100  Vindication of Elizabeth More, p. 32, originally published in 1723. 

101  Critical Essay, p. 25, 201, 229. 

102  Hearne, Fordun, v. p. 1384. The binding must have been after Lord Fairfax made his notes, as these are partly cut off by the binder. 

103  The margins have been considerably pared, as is seen from parts of words in the side notes having been cut off, and this and the misplacing of pages show careless workmanship. 

104  That eminent antiquary, John Riddell, refers to the Decreet of the Court of Session, of 1574, relating to the Black Book of Paisley, (Appendix, Note C.) but he assumes that the Black Book itself is no longer to be heard of. Riddell, Reply to the mis-statements of Dr. Hamilton of Bardowie, p. 26. 

One thought on “IV. – The History of the Black Book, pp.43-63.

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