Letters from Queen Mary to the University of Glasgow (BL486 and BL394)

Our thirteenth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Sophie Gartshore, and examines two linked documents from Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots granting much-needed support and finance to the university of Glasgow in the tumultuous decade after the Protestant Reformation of 1560.

The year 1560 marked a great change for Scottish society as, on an official level, Catholicism gave way to Protestantism and the country was religiously reformed. In reality there was not such a clean cut. This was especially true where Scotland’s educational institutions were involved. By this period Scotland boasted three universities, namely St.Andrews (f. 1413), Glasgow (f.1451) and Aberdeen (f.1495), and already enjoyed an educational tradition ‘distinct’ from England, where a third university would not be added until the 19th century.[1] Glasgow University’s history is peppered with problems of endowment and patronage which the sources discussed in this essay illustrate. Education suffered much in Scotland during this period but Glasgow University was perhaps the least prepared and subsequently the most affected by such radical educational and religious reform.

The two letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots, to the University of Glasgow (BL486 and BL394) are both part of the Blackhouse Charters, documents which recount the history of the university ‘through acts of land transfer, settlements of court, donations and royal grants.’[2] The ‘Old College’ inherited the Blackfriars land and legal documents, including the Blackhouse Charters, in 1563 and again in 1573 after Mary granted them to the university.[3] The Blackhouse Charters now reside in the University Archives.


(Front side of BL486)

BL486 is a letter composed in 1557 by Queen Mary and her mother the Queen Regent ‘discharging of the university, the dean of faculty, and the principal of the Pedagogy, all beneficed clergymen’ from payment of two subsidies amounting to £4500.[4] The letter is in relatively good condition with slight wear on the folds of the parchment and is roughly 18 x 30cm in size. It is written most probably by one author. There is a red circle where the seal would have been stamped but it is otherwise unidentifiable. On the bottom left-hand corner a university archives stamp has been added. Another copy of the document can be found in the Blackhouse Charters number 485 as part of a group of miscellaneous copies of charter texts copied out by a later 17th century hand.[5]


(Front side of BL394)


(Back side of BL394)

BL394 is another letter from Queen Mary dated 1563 which makes provision for ‘bursaries for five poor children’ and endowments of land to the University after the realisation of the ‘ruined state’ of the faculty after the Reformation.[6] The parchment is weathered particularly on the left side but the seal is almost intact although ‘much defaced.’[7] It is written in an ‘angular, non-cursive bastard hand’ with extra flourishes on the opening letters.[8] The bottom left-hand corner of the document contains an additional note that is not much more recent than the original hand defining where the lands, rents and bowls of oatmeal  given in the grant are to be taken from.[9] The letter is approximately 18 x 32cm. These letters are closely linked as they show the royal support given during Mary’s reign to the university. However, by examining the wider context at the time of these sources the limitations of royal patronage and the national state of education can be brought to light.

It can be argued that the 1557 tax exemption did not have the desired impact on the university that the Queen may have hoped. When the university was founded in 1451, Bishop William Turnbull, said to be both a king’s man and a pope’s man, had a grand vision for his institution.[10] It was to cater to the needs of the west of Scotland with particular focus on the Arts and Theology. It has been suggested that it was also created to be a sister university to that of St. Andrews, providing much needed educational balance on Scotland’s coasts.[11] However, the weakness of early modern education was undoubtedly ‘inadequate funding.’[12] Universities drew the primary part of their income from annexing ecclesiastical lands from grants and endowments which were often slow and difficult to collect.[13] Therefore, royal patronage for universities was highly important in securing financial stability and the prestige and influence that came with royal backing. To acquire this financial support a university had to have an influential founder who could secure endowments, preferably in perpetuity, for their institution. At St. Andrews, this was James Kennedy, founder of St Salvators college, whose grandiose architecture was funded by his ‘wealth and care.’[14]  Similarly, at Aberdeen, William Elphinstone spent two years securing financial support for his fledgling university as this was a responsibility which he viewed as being entirely his own.[15] He achieved this by guaranteeing a ‘broad range of endowments and annexed parishes’ for his foundation.[16]

For Glasgow, however, royal patronage was an elusive and time-consuming venture as Turnbull’s influence at court became more a hindrance to the university’s growth than a help. James II’s patronage never extended to actual endowments and his increasing want of Turnbull at his legal court meant that Glasgow was often left without it’s Bishop-Chancellor.[17] Turnbull died in 1454 before he could sufficiently endow Glasgow with ecclesiastical lands.[18] Unfortunately, Queen Mary’s exemption from tax in 1557 did little to help the university, following her predecessors model, and was really ‘little consolation to a college on the verge of bankruptcy.’[19]

The Reformation precipitated in Scotland a time of great civil unrest and religious turmoil. Post-1560 the university suffered from a liquidation of staff as Catholic teachers fled to France and left possibly only one active teacher to run the faculty.[20] Furthermore, Glasgow had little to no funding and records for 1562 show a sharp decline in student numbers, almost certainly the provisions for poor scholars had ceased.[21] This in fact is one motivation for the 1563 grant as provision was made for five poor scholars to be supported by the crown. The Queen was so shocked by the ‘half built’ schools and buildings of the university that she was moved to grant more land and endowments including the ‘mace and ‘kirkroom’ of the Black Friars of Glasgow’ along with 13 acres of land in the city, money from rents in Nethertoun of Hamilton and Avondale, and 10 bowls of oatmeal yearly from lands in the Lennox.[22] This was to add to a grant of the Blackfriars land that Mary had given Glasgow in the previous year. The specific amounts in the 1563 grant indicate that these lands already fell under the jurisdiction of Glasgow University proving that there must have been some difficulty in collecting them if further royal intervention was needed.[23] Mary’s provisions are still lacking here, possibly due to the failing influence of an increasingly unpopular Catholic Queen in a reformed nation, but also because of the chaotic system of ecclesiastical finance. Although these grants were solid on paper they were elusive in reality which is evidenced by the granting of further lands and revenues from the town in 1567 including all the former possessions of the black and grey friars in Glasgow.[24] In 1573 the town baillies and provost, with consent of the parliament, used the endowment to re-found the college and create ‘a new civic institution.’[25] These further endowments illustrated the need for more funding at Glasgow as Mary’s provisions were shown to be insufficient.

The University of Glasgow was not, however, unique during this period but it can be argued that St. Andrews three colleges were better prepared for reform. St. Andrews faculty had shown a willingness to conform to Protestant thinking prior to the Reformation and because of this was less effected by political change when it came. The colleges were able to maintain a steady stream of funding and staff which helped to keep student numbers afloat, although they do dip immediately prior to and post 1560.[26] Similar to Queen Mary’s visitation of Glasgow in 1563, George Buchanan, prominent Humanist and Scottish historian, visited St. Andrews in the same year and formed ‘his opinion’ on how best to reform the colleges.[27] This included changing the focus of the colleges to become more humanist, or Protestant, in outlook. For example, the three colleges were to focus on Humanities, with a grounding in Latin and Greek, Philosophy, and Divinity respectively.[28] However, these suggestions for reform remained just that as the university retained its traditional structure but with a change in religious affiliation. The University of Aberdeen was likewise able to escape the brunt of damage from religious reform by remaining sympathetic to Catholicism. This was mainly due to the conservative nature of religion and politics in the North-East of Scotland as even riots died down quickly, the university not being greatly damaged by them.[29] As well as this, Mary maintained royal patronage for Aberdeen and its catholic tendencies. In 1561 Aberdeen was exempt from a tax imposed on the clergy, and in 1562 Mary issued a letter of protection to the University to safeguard its revenues.[30] So, although these universities struggled during the Reformation years both were better equipped to deal with reform, through acceptance and conservatism, than Glasgow whose poor scholars and underfunded institution were not ready for radical change.

The documents briefly discussed here well-illustrate the impact of the Reformation on Glasgow University. They show that royal patronage was insufficient at a time when the crown, under Mary, had little support in Scotland. Also, they demonstrate well the haphazard system of ecclesiastical finance and the struggle that the university faced after the loss of its founder. When placing these grants in context we can see that education in Scotland was struggling with reform and the burden placed on them to rapidly change the core of their institutions. Whilst St. Andrews and Aberdeen seem to recover, at least in part, during the decade after the Reformation it would take widespread reform under Andrew Melville and the addition of the Nova Erectio in 1577 to finally revive the University of Glasgow. This document recognised that education would perish if not fostered by ‘honours and rewards’ and aimed to ‘gather together the remains of our university of Glasgow’ to finally attempt to create a reformed institution.[31]

To conclude, these sources fit into a wide range of historical interests and would, therefore, make a great addition to any number of museum exhibits. For example, they could be incorporated into an exhibit displaying the history of the University of Glasgow itself, or perhaps more widely the history of university education in Scotland. Further to this they would offer valuable information about royal patronage and support of education in Scotland, or possibly the effect of Queen Mary on Reformation Scotland. To enable the most engagement with these sources they would be best placed in some form of interactive exhibit. The documents are exciting to look at for the sheer joy of coming face to face with a physical product of history although to an untrained eye this may be where their value ends. This is why I would suggest creating an interactive exhibit which highlights the usefulness of these sources to the specified area of history under examination. This would allow the wider public and historians alike to engage with primary sources creating a buzz around an area of history which may usually be rather niche.

Further to this, I would suggest creating an online blog post, or series of vlogs, explaining the significance of these letters. These could be produced alongside other blogs presenting the individual documents from the Blackhouse Charters to create a virtual online catalogue which is both interactive and engaging. This could be expanded to create a valuable teaching tool which would allow people from all over the globe to access Scotland’s history at large. Combining a physical exhibit with a regular blog, an online presence for these sources, would create a unique source-base which is easily accessible to a wider audience.











‘Blackhouse Charters’ in Glasgow University Archives, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl (Last Accessed: 12/11/16)


Brown, A.L., and Michael Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996)

Cant, Ronald G., The University of St. Andrews: A Short History (St. Andrews: St. Andrews University Library, 1992)

Dunlop, Annie I., The Life and Times of James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1950)

Durkan, John and James Kirk, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1977)

Innes, Cosmo, (ed.) Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727, (Glasgow : the Maitland Club, 1856)

Macfarlane, L.J., William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, 1431-1514: the struggle for order (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1985)

Reid, Steven. J., Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Dawson Books, 2010)

Stevenson, David,  King’s College Aberdeen 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)

[1] A.L Brown and Michael Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996) p.2.

[2] Blackhouse Charters, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl

[3] Ibid.

[4] Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727, ed. by Cosmo Innes (Glasgow : the Maitland Club, 1856) vol.I, pp.xvi, entry 36.

[5] Munimenta, vol. I, pp.xvi, entry 36.

[6] Munimenta, vol.I, p.xvii, entry 40.

[7] Ibid.

[8] University of Glasgow Archive Hub under ‘Blackhouse Charters’, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl.html?page=28#idm54792368

[9] Munimenta, p.xvii, entry 40.

[10] John Durkan and James Kirk, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1977) p.5.

[11] Annie I. Dunlop, The Life and Times of James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1950) p.277.

[12] Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p,7.

[13] Ibid, p.8.

[14] Dunlop, James Kennedy, p.302.

[15] L. J. Macfarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, 1431-1514: the struggle for order (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1985) p.309.

[16] Steven J. Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Dawson Books, 2010) p.16.

[17] Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, p. 15.

[18] Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.31.

[19] Ibid, p.245.

[20] Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.21.; see also Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p.8.

[21] Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p.9.

[22] Munimenta, vol.I, pp.xvii, entry 40.

[23] Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, p.247.

[24] Munimenta, vol.I, p.71.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Reid, Humanism and Calvanism, pp.35/6.

[27] Ronald G. Cant, The University of St. Andrews: A Short History (St. Andrews: St. Andrews University Library, 1992) p.54.

[28] Ibid, p.54.

[29] David Stevenson, King’s College Aberdeen 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990) p.7.

[30] Ibid p. 10; see also Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.28.HumanHu

[31] Nova Erectio of the University of Glasgow (1577) in Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, pp.439-447.

Charter of mortification granting the rectory…

Our twelfth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Troy Farkas, who examines the major post-reformation foundation charter of the University of Glasgow, the Nova Erectio, which was contained in a grant of the revenues of the parish of Govan to the university by King James VI. 

Had Andrew Melville never implemented his profound changes to the Scottish educational system, the University of Glasgow may not have survived the 16th century. In 1577, Melville released the Nova Erectio, a radical step toward modernity for the Scottish educational system. The first portion of the document includes this charter of mortification that established the ground rules for the new path the university was about to embark on. It is a charter “granting the Rectory and Vicarage of the Parish Church of Govan to the College or Pedagogy of Glasgow, and of new confirming all lands, houses, and revenues granted to it in time past, to be applied in the manner set forth in the King’s New Erection and Foundation ingrossed in the charter, for the maintenance of a principal, three regents, a steward, four poor students, the principal’s servant, a cook and a janitor.”


The document, likely authored by Melville and donated by King James VI to the university on the 13th of July in 1577, is 21.5 inches wide and 28.9 inches tall. Written in Latin and in a bastard, upright secretary script, the text features flaggy letters with strikethroughs. The 93 lines of text are primarily written in a light brown color that covers approximately 70 percent of the parchment. Despite the small font, the beautifully crafted penmanship is perfectly readable to those who understand Latin. Although the document is 439 years old, it’s in incredibly good condition.  The bottom of the parchment contains a few small holes, however it doesn’t hinder one’s ability to decipher the text. The same goes for a few peculiar green blotches that appear throughout the document that somewhat smear the writing, although not enough to prevent the reader from comprehending its message. The bottom left corner is the most worn part of the document, while the upper right one is nearly flawless. A very slight tear is noticeable in the bottom right corner of the page. It is unknown if any factors (aside from old age) contributed to these small damages. The charter does not appear to have once been sealed. At the end of the writing the name “James Skene” is visible. Skene is likely to have notarized the document.


This charter, given the ascension number of BL 417, is located on the second floor of the University of Glasgow’s Archives. No evidence can be found to prove the university hasn’t possessed the document since the grant was first made in the 16th century; therefore, it’s fair to say the document has always been in the university’s possession. A century and-a-quarter after the writing of the charter, Robert Alexander successfully catalogued the item in 1712. This particular charter is one of two copies that exist; both of which are located in the Glasgow Archives. This item is one of the Blackhouse Charters, a collection of charters from 1304-1717 that detail the progress and expansion of the university. The other document contained within the Archives is a member of the Clerk’s Press collection, the university’s oldest surviving piece of furniture that once housed approximately 180 volumes of papers considered vital to the history of the school. Descriptions and transcriptions of the charter can be found in Vol. 1 of the Munimenta, while a translation can be found in John Durkan and James Kirk’s work on the Nova Erectio.

img_2949            a few of the small green blotches mentioned above, shown here

The lengthy charter offers several ground rules for the new path the University of Glasgow to adhere to. The beginning clearly indicates the purpose of the Nova Erectio of advancing “learning everywhere throughout our realm to the glory of God”, so students can serve “the everlasting glory of God.”[1] The end goal of preventing the extinction of the University of Glasgow is also laid out in the beginning of the document.

Toward the middle, the financial reforms of the New Foundation are revealed, as well as the roles of the twelve individuals (principal, three regents, a steward, four poor students, the principal’s servant, a cook and a janitor) within the university. All of the money donated to the school by the parish will be spent on paying these individuals if they agree to “attend to their duties with great alacrity”.[2] Furthermore, operating under the idea they’ll work harder if given fewer privileges, just the necessary amount of food and drink will be provided for them to survive. Any residual funds will be spent on repairing buildings and making other aesthetic changes to the school. The charter outlines the role of each individual, starting with the principal, “whose shoulders the burden of the whole college may lie.”[3] He must be a good man who garners everyone’s respect, first and foremost. He must be a smart man skilled in multiple languages. In his vacancy, the regents assume the duties of the principal. The charter discusses the duty of each employee, all the way down to the cooks and porters, whose role is to express piety and work diligently on behalf of the university.


Why would this charter have been written? What was Melville trying to accomplish?

After the Protestant Reformation, the five existing universities in Scotland, most notably at St. Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen, were challenged with the task of reform and modernization. Similar problems confronted each of the universities, with their development “subject to frequent setbacks and, on more than one occasion, their continued existence seemed to hang in the balance.”[4] Those setbacks often concerned inadequate endowment and a shortage of distinguished teachers; the poverty of the universities offered little financial incentive for teachers to remain.[5]

In 1563 the queen released scathing criticisms of the university condemning it for its lack of adequate financial support.[6] And in 1567, parliament decreed universities and colleges should be reformed, enforcing the idea that no teacher can gain appointment without professing the reformed faith.[7] However, each consequent threat proved largely ineffective. Furthermore, Scotland’s scholastic and medieval approach had become outdated once humanist and Reformation ideas found a home in Scotland.[8] Despite the outbreak of the Reformation, criticisms, low matriculation numbers and inadequate funds, the University of Glasgow avoided extinction in the 1560s and early 1570s. But it was on its last legs and the university’s unwillingness to change created an uncertain future. The foundation of 1573 failed in setting the curriculum, enforcing the code of discipline, and laying out conditions for the teaching staff.[9]

Enter Melville. Appointed principal of the university in 1574, Melville realized a serious and dedicated reform was needed if the institution were to survive. Previous attempts to depart from medieval scholasticism and Catholic traditions at Glasgow hardly succeeded. It wasn’t finally until 1577 that Melville drafted his Nova Erectio, the first part of which contains the Blackhouse Charter described above. This innovative step toward modernity in education was fueled by Melville’s Ramist philosophies, which he applied when restructuring the education system.[10] A new focus on the teaching of Greek was established as a part of the broader study of the “studia humanitatis.” He condemned scholasticism, claiming it didn’t hold a place in the modern times. [11] Melville replaced regenting with professionally specialized teaching, an otherwise uncommon practice in higher education at the time.

Overall, this charter and the Nova Erectio together prompted a radical break with teaching in the medieval period. Groundbreaking and revolutionary for its time, the University of Glasgow experienced three decades of success after 1577. The charter effectively re-founded the college and completely revamped its administration. It did so mainly by granting increased authority to the principal and clearly defining his duties, as well as those below him. From a financial standpoint, the aforementioned document granted the university with the substantial incomes of the parsonage and vicarage of Govan, meaning the university not only acquired substantial wealth, but also significant power within the Kirk. Academically speaking, the document allowed a major educational reform program to occur under the authority and vision of the principal. The new teaching program based upon humanist principles showed itself in the hiring of the three regents at university, who specialized in rhetoric and Greek language, dialectics and logic, as well as physiology.

After three decades of success spurred by Melville’s radical changes at the University of Glasgow, the optimism that accompanied the royal charter and Nova Erectio eventually faded away. Medieval scholasticism, along with metaphysics and the study of Aristotle, re-emerged in universities across Europe, including Glasgow.[12] The radical break in teaching initially proved a great success, but perhaps was not as momentous in the shaping of the future of the university’s education as Melville once hoped. On a positive note, his changes brought tangible reform to the Scottish educational system, which cannot be said for any of the attempts preceding Melville’s arrival in Glasgow.

The charter of mortification should strike the interest of any person associated with the University of Glasgow. Students, professors, and employees in all university buildings would be fascinated to learn some of the history behind the university and how it nearly collapsed. The context behind the document provides a glimpse into the early educational system of Europe and its murky situation following the Reformation. Everyday citizens who live in Glasgow, as well as scholars and tourists visiting the historic city, should be intrigued. After all, the document was part of the broader movement dedicated to improving education in Scotland. Looking at today, Scotland boasts some of the finest universities in Europe; the University of Glasgow is certainly one of them. Anybody with a vested interest in the university would benefit from gaining knowledge about this document as a part of the Nova Erectio. In general, anybody that enjoys learning could benefit from seeing this document, ideally in a display case in a famed museum. The charter symbolizes considerable progress in European education and should be celebrated.

In an ideal world, the charter would be displayed in a museum. It should be protected by glass casing and engaging descriptions should be located on each side of it for visitors to admire. The general description could read as follows:

“This document, granted by King James VI and likely authored by Andrew Melville, helped set the University of Glasgow on a new path after the Reformation upset the academic practices of Glasgow. The new era called for a return to the teaching of humanism, a change the university initially resisted, which nearly resulted in its collapse.  Thanks to Melville and the Nova Erectio, which this document is a part of, the university avoided extinction and flourished for the next three decades before suffering another setback due to a resurgence of medieval scholastic thought.”

A panel on the other side of the document may delve further into the nitty-gritty of the actual text.

“This charter of mortification set the university’s financial path straight by assigning the following roles to 12 people responsible for the education of students and upkeep of the university: A principal, three regents, a steward, four poor students, the principal’s servant, a cook and a janitor. Every employee’s wages came from donations to the school, rather than students’ tuition. Residual funds were to be used for aesthetic improvements on school buildings. It was expected the members of each position fulfill their roles to the best of their abilities.”

It could certainly join the Hunterian collection since the building is conveniently located on Glasgow’s campus. However, it wouldn’t attract as many visitors because the Hunterian’s reputation isn’t as highly-esteemed as some of its counterparts in Scotland. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum would be the optimum location for the document. As the most heavily-attended museum in Scotland, it only makes sense to display this sacred document of Scottish education there. It would ideally go in a room with other ancient documents and relics dedicated to the evolution of higher education in Europe.

To promote the charter, advertisements should be distributed throughout Glasgow, especially in places for travellers to see them. The airport in Glasgow along with the bus/subway stations have a small display for tourist attractions; the Kelvingrove is one of them already. It wouldn’t be too much to ask to add a few lines encouraging visitors to see a 430+ year-old document that was once vital to the university’s development. The web site and social media pages for the Kelvingrove Gallery should post photos of the addition to make consumers aware of new displays in the museum. Additionally, these sites should make constant updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about the museum’s display of the document, offering small glimpses to encourage museum-lovers everywhere to come and engage with a period in Scottish history not known to the average Scot.
















Durkan, John. Kirk, James, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577. University of Glasgow:           University of Glasgow Press, 1977.

Holloway, Ernest R. Andrew Melville and Humanism in Renaissance Scotland. Leiden: IDC        Publishers, 2011.

“LXVII: Charter of James VI granting the Rectory of Govan to the College (1577),” in Charters and Documents Relating To the City of Glasgow 1175-1649 Part 2, ed. J D Marwick   (Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Records Society, 1894), 168-186. British History Online,     accessed November 12, 2016, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/glasgow-charters/1175- 1649/no2/pp168-186.

MacDonald, A.A., Lynch, Michael., Cowan, Ian, The Renaissance in Scotland, as told to John     Durkan. Leiden: 1994.

Reid, Steven. “Scottish Universities.” Lecture in Arts, Culture, and Patronage in Renaissance       Scotland, Glasgow, U.K., October 6, 2016.


[1] “LXVII: Charter of James VI granting the Rectory of Govan to the College (1577),” Charters        and Documents Relating To the City of Glasgow 1175-1649 Part 2, ed. J D Marwick        (Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Records Society, 1894), 168-186. British History Online,                 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/glasgow-charters/1175-

[2] Ibid, charter.

[3] Ibid, charter.

[4]  John Durkan, James Kirk. The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (University of Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press, 1977), pg. 226.

[5] Ibid, pg. 226.

[6] Ibid, pg. 243.

[7] Ibid, pg. 245.

[8] Ernest Holloway, Andrew Melville and Renaissance Scotland (Leiden: IDC Publishers, 2011), 149.

[9]  John Durkan, James Kirk, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (University of Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press, 1977), pg. 249.

[10] A.A. MacDonald, Michael Lynch, Ian Cowan, The Renaissance in Scotland, as told to John Durkan (Leiden: 1994)

[11] Reid, Steven, “Scottish Universities” (lecture, Arts, Culture and Patronage in Renaissance Scotland, Glasgow, U.K., October 6, 2016).

[12] Ibid, lecture.

Jura Leges Instituta

Our eleventh blog of the 2016-17 class is written by Elena Leyshon, who looks at the Jura Leges Instituta, a major MS collection of information relating to the early history of the University of Glasgow, and which includes student and library lists. 

With extracts spanning over a century from 1578 to 1721, Jura Leges Instituta is amongst one of the earliest records of the University of Glasgow. It is part of the university’s ‘Clerk’s Press’ collection.[1] This means that post 1634[2] it would have been stored in the University Clerk’s cupboard, a key piece of the university’s history that the archives are lucky enough to still own today.[3]  The records stored in the clerk’s cupboard were bound and numbered, Jura Leges Instituta is Clerk’s Press number 7. Jura Leges Instituta is a large, bound volume measuring 31.5cm by 22.5cm in size. It is possible that the book may have been bound or re-bound at a later date. The uneven nature of the parchment pages is evidence of this, along with the fact that some of the original ink page numbers at the top of the pages have been cut off, perhaps in the rebounding process. As a result, new page numbers have been added at the bottom of the page in pencil, it is unknown when or why, though it is possible that they could be folios added by the archives for easy reference. On a couple of pages there is some holes and damage, this may be due to the animal skin nature of the pages, perhaps they are holes from where ligaments or the bones of the animals may have been, rather than a sign of wear and tear.

An example of some of the damage.

Its contents are varied and slightly jumbled, noting amongst other things, the graduates and students of the university. However, the section that this paper will analyse is the ‘Catalogus librorum communis Bibliothecae Collegii Glasguensis,’ (pp.21-30) the catalogue of the university library from the year 1578. blog-pic-1

Its contents are written in Latin, the traditional language of written communication in this period. One could presume that the author would be the university clerk, as it was his role to organise university records; but at closer inspection it becomes clear that it seems to be written in different contemporary handwriting. This would be expected across the volume, but it is interesting that this is the case when this chapter covers a shorter time frame.

A photo showing the different types of handwriting.

A similar, but not duplicate copy of the 1578 catalogue also appears in the Clerk’s Press number 2 volume, though as Cosmo Innes notes in Munimenta it does not include the whole catalogue unlike the copy in Jura Leges Instituta.[4] This does not take away from the importance of the Jura Leges Instituta as it is a more thorough account, and thus unique regardless of the second copy.

Munimenta, written by Cosmo Innes in 1854 is a key source regarding Jura Leges Instituta. Munimenta is an analysis of the records of the university of Glasgow from its foundation in 1451, up until 1727. It is useful for the modern day researcher as it provides a transcription of the text and also provides some context to the source. Innes himself has been described as an ‘antiquary’[5], who was committed to using the history of Scotland’s institutions as a means of establishing Scottish identity. He wrote:

When we look deeper, we come to regard those ancient foundations of our political system as a part, and an important one, of that which has formed our national habits and character, which separate us so widely from the rest of the world, and distinguish us somewhat even from England.[6]

I would argue that this sense of Scottish identity is a key reason as to why this source is and has been regarded as significant. It is this continuity that overarches its importance from its creation in the sixteenth century, to the publication of Munimenta in the nineteenth century, right up until the present day.

Just four years before the library catalogue was started in 1578, Andrew Melville was appointed Principle of the University of Glasgow. This was an important development in the history of the university and symbolised a significant shift from its Catholic origins to a system which was more focused on its teaching. During the 1560s and 1570s, as James Kirk notes, the university had ‘contracted almost to the point of withering away.’[7] But when Melville took over the university he completely re-structured it. Influenced by the schools of ramism and humanism he introduced a curriculum designed for ‘the quest of useful knowledge’.[8] The curriculum was based on the studia humanitatis, the liberal arts of classical grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and moral philosophy.[9] Furthermore, a key aspect of these schools of thought was its importance on the study of original sources, such as Aristotle in its original Greek text.[10] Whilst it is notable that these teachings were referring to classical texts specifically, the link between this principle and that of Cosmo Innes’s in 1854 looking back to the Jura Leges Instituta as a source of inspiration for Scottish identity cannot be ignored. By introducing teaching based on classic texts, Melville hoped that the students would be able to apply such theories to their outlook of the modern day, and this is what Innes aimed to achieve too. One could argue that Innes’s antiquarian outlook was the nineteenth century version of Melville’s humanist and ramist outlook in the sixteenth century.

The very fact that the university library began to catalogue their books could have been as a result of Melville’s influence. With the students and lecturers being so reliant on classical original sources themselves, it is possible that this encouraged the university to record their own sources for future reference too, such as the library catalogue featured in Jura Leges Instituta.

If one is to look into the books, and more importantly the people who donated to library, the humanist and ramist influence is evermore apparent. Perhaps the most well known donator on the library catalogue is the worldwide renowned writer, poet and historian, George Buchanan (p.21).[11] He too was a scholar of the humanist school of thought and tutor to the young King James VI. The catalogue shows that he donated sixteen titles to the library which suggests that he felt his texts could be beneficial to the university. This is significant because it shows just how linked the university was to the leading scholars of the time, it presents it as a leading institution and at the height of Reformation thought.

George Buchanan’s name and his donations.

However, for one to be able to assess just how significant the library collection at the University of Glasgow was; the libraries of the other ancient universities must also be analysed. King’s College in Aberdeen was established by a papal bull in 1495.[12] In 1854, the same year that Cosmo Innes published Munimenta, he also published Fasti Aberdonenses, an analysis of the records of the college from the establishment of the university up until the publication of Fasti Aberdonenses in 1854. Whilst there is no direct equivalent of the Jura Leges Instituta library catalogue as listed in Munimenta; there is as John Higgitt notes, an inventory of the books that were kept in the college chapel dating back to 1542.[13] According to Higgitt due to these books being kept in the college chapel, the majority of the books were liturgical in their content.[14] Furthermore one could argue that the fact the majority of the books listed in Fasti Aberdonenses are religious in their outlook could make King College’s collection a little less advanced in comparison to the University of Glasgow’s collection, featuring donations from such progressive thinkers such as George Buchanan. However, it must be noted that the Jura Leges Instituta also includes donations of a religious theme. It shows that in June 1581, James Boyd, Bishop of Glasgow bequeathed to the library a number of religious texts such as titles about the New Testament. (p.22) It must also be remembered that King’s College was established as an institution later than the University of Glasgow and thus may not have yet gained the reputation that Glasgow may have had by this time; and as such, perhaps was less likely to receive donations from leading scholars at such an early stage.

James Boyd’s name and his donations.

Nonetheless, these sources are still significant because they show just how progressive Scottish universities were.  Scotland was often perceived as somewhat behind in terms of the expansion of Renaissance thought in comparison to some of its European counterparts, however the library catalogue of Jura Leges Instituta presents the universities in Scotland, and particularly the University of Glasgow as a hub of Renaissance culture. As Innes acknowledges, books during this period were scarce[15], and thus libraries became important public arenas for students to share books and ideas.[16] It is within this context that I would try and portray Jura Leges Instituta to the public. I would make the catalogue, alongside any of the listed books that the university still own, part of an exhibition surrounding Scottish identity, perhaps at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian museum, or even on a more nationwide scale such as at the National Museum of Scotland. Jura Leges Instituta has such a broad relevance that I think it is important that this connection between the books that the university library owned, and how this influenced Scottish culture by inspiring Reformation thinking, is made. This connection is the same one that Andrew Melville made to original classic texts, and the same connection that Cosmo Innes made to the original texts of the Scottish ancient universities. Therefore, this connection is important in understanding how Scottish universities, and more broadly, Scottish culture became to be the way it is today.


[1]University of Glasgow [archive] sources <http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_60322_en.pdf> p.3 [accessed 10/11/16]

[2] History of the University Archive <http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/about/historyoftheuniversityarchive/> [accessed 11/11/16]

[3] History of the University Archive <http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/about/historyoftheuniversityarchive/>

[4] Cosmo Innes, Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727, (Glasgow: Maitland Club, 1854) p. xxvii

[5] Richard A. Marsden, ‘Innes, Cosmo Nelson (1798-1874)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, April 2016) <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/14428> [accessed 15/11/16]

[6] Marsden, ‘Innes, Cosmo Nelson (1798-1874)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

[7] James Kirk, ‘ “Melvillian” Reform in the Scottish Universities’ in The Renaissance in Scotland: studies in literature, religion, history, and culture offered to John Durkhan, ed by A.A. MacDonald, Michael Lynch and Ian B. Cowan (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994) p.280

[8]  Kirk, “Melvillian” Reform in the Scottish Universities, p.282

[9] Kirk, “Melvillian” Reform in the Scottish Universities, p.282

[10] Kirk, “Melvillian” Reform in the Scottish Universities, p.282

[11] D.M. Abbott, ‘Buchanan, George, (1506-1582)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006)

[12] The University of Aberdeen, King’s College <http://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/campus/kings-58.php> [accessed 13/11/16]

[13] John Higgitt, Scottish Libraries, (London: British Library in association with the British Academy, 2006) p.44

[14] Higgitt, Scottish Libraries, p.44

[15] Cosmo Innes, Fasti Aberdonenses. Selections from the records of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1494-1854, (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1854) p.vii

[16] Innes, Fasti Aberdonenses, p.viii


Abbott, D.M, ‘Buchanan, George, (1506-1582)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006)

Higgitt, John, Scottish Libraries, (London: British Library in association with the British Academy, 2006)

Innes, Cosmo, Fasti Aberdonenses. Selections from the records of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1494-1854, (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1854)

Innes, Cosmo, Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727, (Glasgow: Maitland Club, 1854)

Kirk, James, ‘ “Melvillian” Reform in the Scottish Universities’ in The Renaissance in Scotland: studies in literature, religion, history, and culture offered to John Durkhan, ed by A.A. MacDonald, Michael Lynch and Ian B. Cowan (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994)

Marsden, Richard. A, Cosmo Innes and the Defence of Scotland’s Past c.1825-1875, (Farnham, Surrey ; Burlington, VT : Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014)

Marsden, Richard. A, ‘Innes, Cosmo Nelson (1798-1874)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, April 2016)


     History of the University Archive <http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/about/historyoftheuniversityarchive/> [accessed 11/11/16]

      The University of Aberdeen, King’s College <http://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/campus/kings-58.php> [accessed 13/11/16]

     University of Glasgow [archive] sources <http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_60322_en.pdf> p.3 [accessed 10/11/16]

The Collected Works of King James VI and I

Our tenth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Lily Kearns, who looks at a copy of first edition of James VI and I’s Workes, which is held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

After the Union of Crowns in 1603, James VI of Scotland also gained the title of James I of England and Ireland. This book entitled ‘The Workes of The Most High and Mightie Prince, James’ includes some of the major literary works of King James written in the vernacular. It not only confirms his reputation as a prolific writer but also portrays James as a true Renaissance Monarch, with a keen interest in bringing glory to the English language through literature.  The book contains a collection of James’ most accomplished religious and political writings. It was printed by Robert Barker and John Bill and the book was published by Bishop James Winton in 1616.


James VI and I


List of names indicated to be rents

This particular copy, found in the library of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is unique in various ways.

The physical book is impressive to look at. It is quite a large and heavy book measuring 13.5 inches up and 9.5 inches across. It is bound in Calfskin over wooden boards, with a simple three-line blindstamp border, blind stamp initials, and evidence of two brass clasps. The pages of the book are torn and creased with watermarks and ink stains – suggesting the book has seen a fair amount of usage over the years. One of the title pages appears to have been ripped out but the main cover page and a page displaying the Royal Coat of Arms still remain.

Some of the most intriguing physical features of his copy of the book are the inscriptions and other marginalia found throughout the book. For instance, the name, ‘Francis Hamiltoun’ has been inscribed on the dedication page and the initial F.H on the dedication page.[1] This is thought to have been Francis Hamilton of Silver-town hill, a man who spent a lot of time writing about King James and praising his work. On p.568 the name ‘Leues Kennedy’ is inscribed. Although the library staff at the Royal College have identified who they believe these men to be, there has been scarce research into the significance of these men as owners of the book. On the front and back covers of the book, the initials H.C. have been imprinted. It is still unknown who H.C. was. These different names marked on various pages of the book are significant as they are an indication that this book had multiple owners over the years and has been a useful source to many.

Perhaps the most interesting example of inscriptions in this of this copy of the book is a page inscribed with a list of names with sums of money indicated to be rents, written in Scottish secretary hand. Initial research points to the book possibly belonging to the one of the Earls of Galloway but this remains speculative.[2]

The most significant aspects of this book are the various inscriptions implying the varied ownership of this particular copy and the fact that it is held in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons among medical books and journals while being non-medical in content.


It is important to recognize the significance of this copy of the works of King James being held in the library of the royal college of surgeons and physicians. This perhaps has a lot to do with the personal relationship between Peter Lowe and James VI and King James’ involvement in the foundation of the college. In 1599 King James granted the founding charter of the faculty of physicians and surgeons of Glasgow.[3] Lowe had received extensive humanist education on the continent in medicine and when he returned in 1598 he was unimpressed with the way the practice of surgery in particular was being approached in Glasgow.[4] Although James knew little about medicine himself, he took an interest in it and it is largely thanks to him that the teaching of medical practice in Glasgow and the West was able to change under the influence of Lowe. [5] This book is perhaps a testimony to James’ reputation as a Renaissance King. It is part of the general collection at the Royal College. This is not the only copy of the book but there is little known about the whereabouts of other copies by those at the college.

It is not unreasonable to speculate that King James and Peter Lowe had a more personal relationship than it might seem and even a friendship. Perhaps this is why King James was so quick to endorse the College. It is recorded that Lowe had at some point served as a personal Physician to James’ son and so it is not unlikely that he would have developed some kind of friendship with the Royal Family prior to the charter being granted. He seems to have been held in high esteem by the King who refers to him as ‘our chirurgiane and chirurgiane to our dearest son the Prince.’[6]

The fact that this book found in the College is testimony to the importance of the founding charter, issued by King James, in the formation of the College and paints James as a King that followed Renaissance principles and humanist ideas surrounding the study of medicine endorsed by Lowe. An original portrait of King James hangs in the main hall Royal College today.


The Renaissance was a period that welcomed vast amounts of literature of all kinds and James Stewart, born in 1566 at the height of Scottish Renaissance culture, is thought have began writing as early as the age of fifteen.[7] Although this particular collection of the works of James shows some of his impressive political and ecclesiastical writings, it does omit much of the poetry written by the King. By the age of 18 James had already released a book containing his poetry, The Essays of a Prentise, in the Divine Art of Poesie.[8] It is clear that James regarded poetry and literature as extremely important. This is one way in which he lives up to his reputation as a patron of the humanist principles and a model of Renaissance Kingship. However, his poetry was not just of personal significance. Peter C. Herman has noted that ‘no monarch before James had their verses printed in a book for circulation as a commodity in the market-place’.[9] He continued to write throughout his teenage years and as he grew older his works became more prolific and widely known. In fact more governmental and administrative documents survive for his reign than for that of Elizabeth.[10] While James is well-known among scholars today as the King who commissioned the Authorized (King James) Version of the holy bible and glorified the English Language, many people are unaware of James’ intellectual and scholarly works.[11] This book containing some of the most impressive of James’ works shows his engagement in religious and political issues and discourse. The most notable works included in this volume are his writings on ‘deamonologie’ regarding witchcraft, his scriptural interpretations of the Old Testament, his Political Works on Kingship as a God given Right and his various speeches to Parliament. All of these works have been written in the vernacular, which is significant in showing James as a patron of Renaissance Literature.


The book was printed in 1616 by Robert Barker and John Bill who made up part of the King’s Printing House (KPH) and were engaged with the trade of books overseas and within the Kingdom.[12] It was through the KPH that the works of James were able to circulate and be read and studied by so many. The various inscriptions and different initials and names found throughout this book are evidence that this copy was passed around and regularly used.

This particular copy, containing of the works of King James, was edited by James Bishop of Winton formerly known as James Montagu. Winton was a graduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and in 1596 he became the first Master of Sidney Sussex College, for which he laid the foundation stone.[13] Montagu not only headed a college as a young man, but he also became a very important figure in the life of King James, serving as his personal Chaplain and dean of his Chapel. He was very attentive to the spiritual needs of the King and his family. It is said that no Clergyman had as close a relationship with James than Montagu. His familiarity with King James led to him being appointed to higher positions within the Church, however Montagu insisting on remaining in the King’s household. His devotion and service to the King was impressive.[14] It is significant that James employed and befriended such enlightened and intelligent people. This is further evidence of his Renaissance style Kingship.


It is thought that this particular copy of the book was owned by one of the Earls of Galloway. This conclusion has been drawn as a result of the inscriptions made on the verso of the page baring the Royal Coat of Arms. It is written in Scottish Secretary hand which is a type of writing characteristically used in the 16th and 17th Century.[15] There is a list of 18 names next to which are sums of money indicated to be rents. Four place names can also be found which have indicated the origins of this writing to be from Wigtonshire and has lead to the conclusions about the Earl of Galloway.[16] It is significant that the book was owned by such a group of noblemen. However it is intriguing not only that this book may have been owned by the Earl of Galloway but that such a significant and expensive book would be used for scribbling and note taking. Makes sense that it could become property of the Earls of Galloway. They are distant relatives of the Stewart King.


To conclude, the book itself is important in showing James’ significant literary contributions and his reputation as a man of intellect and a Renaissance King. This particular copy of the book is unique and has special significance in many ways. Namely, it’s location in the Royal College and the various inscriptions throughout the book indicating that it has had different owners over the years and has been widely read.


How could we make this book more available to the public?

This book is extremely significant in showing the extensive literature produced by King James VI and I, but it is also important in showing his engagement in the ideals of the Renaissance in Scotland. Although James is remembered today as an important Monarch, often one can be guilty of forgetting why this is. James VI’s significance is sometimes lost amongst that of the long line of other Stewart King’s. Often history focuses on James’ role as the head of the reformed Kirk and in the Church in England but there is so much more to his story. It would be beneficial for the general public to discover James as a writer, a political thinker, and a man of great intellect. A King interested in humanism and most importantly as a Monarch of the Renaissance.

One way in which this particular copy of the book could be showcased and made more widely available to the public would be to incorporate it into a historical display to the theme of the Stewart dynasty or important figure in the Renaissance. Perhaps having the book displayed amongst other important texts of the Renaissance or other Stewart artefacts in a display at Linlithgow Palace would be an effective way of bringing attention to this copy. Linlithgow Palace is extremely significant in the story of the Stewarts. It is regularly visited by the public and by groups of school children for education purposes. A display of this kind could be an excellent way of promoting James’ work.

[1]James j Beaton, Roy Millar, Iain t Boyle, Treasures of the college, (Edinburgh: 1926)  p. 69

[2] Treasures of the College, ibid, p. 69

[3] IML Donaldson, Peter Lowe’s Whole Course of Chirurgerie, 1597, (2013 Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh) p.374

[4] Donaldson, ibid

[5] Treasures of the college, ibid,  p.16

[6] Treasures of the college, ibid p.69

[7] Jane Rickard, Authorship and Authority: The Writings of James VI and I, (Manchester University Press:1824) p.1

[8] Rickard, ibid, Authorship and Authorit, p.33

[9] Rickard, ibid, p.33

[10] Pauline Croft, King James, (Palgrave Macmillan: 2003) p.1

[11] Croft, King James, ibid, p.37

[12] Author unknown. A Brief History of the King’s Printing House (KPH) in the Jacobean Period, <http://www.english.qmul.ac.uk/kingsprinter/publications/transcripts/Reader_Aids/A_Brief_History_of_the_Kings_Printing_House.pdf&gt;

[13] Croft, King James, ibid, p.93

[14] Kenneth R Mays, Richard Lambert, King James Bible Translators: James Montagu, (2016) <http://kingjamesbibletranslators.org/bios/James_Montagu&gt;


[15] Treasures of the college, ibid, p.69

[16] Treasures of the college ibid. P.69

‘A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie’


Our ninth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Christina Altland, who assesses one of the copies of Peter Lowe’s major text on medical practice, A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie, held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

The second edition of Peter Lowe’s ‘A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie’ represents a vital piece of Scottish medical history. The book was first published in 1597, soon after Lowe returned from abroad and began to spark change in the medical world in Scotland. The book was one of the first on general surgery to be printed in English and includes the first English translation of Hippocratic writings.[1] With so much to offer, the book was a success and ran in four editions, including others in 1634 and 1654, for over a half century.[2] The significance of these editions is evident in the writing and the history that surrounds them. When examining this, we will be looking at a specific copy of the second edition that is held by the Royal College. To fully understand this copy and the overall importance of the book however, the work will be discussed in three different ways: the specific copy, the second edition, and the book in general.

Within the Royal College, there are three copies of the second edition, entitled ‘A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie’, in the general College collection. The second copy is of special interest as it has unique features that are not found in the other books. The provenance of this copy is quite unclear, though there are a few clues. In th e printed catalogues of the library from the 19th century, it appears the college acquired the second edition sometime after 1885 as that is when the second edition is first named.[3] Whether this is the specific copy is uncertain but that could be when the book came to the College. Before that, not much is known about the ownership of this copy except for an inscription that reads: “Daniel McCollom. His book in this [year] 1705, surgeon & apothecary”.[4] Little is known about Daniel McCollom outside this description but it does at least provide a little more insight into the history of the copy.

img_20161026_142641862                                     img_20161026_142738596

Figure 1.1                                                                                               Figure 1.2

This copy is both similar and different to other second editions held by the college. Like the others, the book measures roughly 14 by 18 centimeters and has leather binding (Figure 1.1). The pages are yellowed and slightly ripped as many are worn from use (Figure 1.2). There is also what appears to be an older version of footnotes printed in the margins beside the text that are there for clarification. In the book, there are fourteen chapters with treatments and images throughout to assist the reader.[5] The main contents of the book appear to be the same throughout all the copies.

img_20161026_143250120                                                         img_20161026_143819122

Figure 1.3                                                                                                Figure 1.4

The variation of this copy can first be seen in that pages 1-13 of the beginning and 7-31 of the end are missing. These pages include several important parts of the preface and Lowe’s translation of ‘The Presages of Divine Hippocrates’. This copy is also unique in that it is heavily annotated. In the beginning of the book, there are full pages filled with notes. The handwriting in these entries varies greatly indicating that there were several authors contributing. In figures 1.3-4 these entries can be seen along with the signature of Alexandres McCollombius M.D.. He and John Morris are assumed to be two of the writers as indicated by their signatures under the entries. The fact that Collumbius was a doctor makes it likely this copy was used for practice at some point. There are also handwritten annotations along the margins of the book. These annotations appear to be sayings with references to God, death, and learning or have indiscernible meanings. The theme of religion throughout them, however, is noteworthy. A prominence of religion is shown in the text itself as well. Throughout the book, Lowe repeatedly mentions God. This evidence of religion in the book and the annotations provides historical insight into Scotland. Glasgow is steeped in religious history, having served as a religious site from the sixth century and eventually become a bishopric.[6] With the officially accepted Protestantism in the mid-sixteenth century, this copy shows the prominence of religion in Glasgow and Scotland in general.

The second edition of the book also provides vital context into Peter Lowe’s life. In the preface, Lowe writes about practicing on continental Europe for 22 years, specifically France and Flanders, in Paris for the Spanish Regiments for two years, and for the French king for 5-6 years.[7] It is clear that Lowe had a significant amount of experience before his work in Glasgow. This is attested to by Sir D’Arcy Power when he describes some of Lowe’s treatments as “greatly in advance of his time” and “equally good and practical”.[8] Lowe’s other major work on the Spanish sickness was published in London in 1596 so it is assumed that Lowe was in England by 1595-1596. After subtracting 30 years on continental Europe, it is logical to surmise he left Scotland around 1565.[9] This preface is incredibly significant in that it provides these valuable insights into Lowe’s life that allow one to understand the views he would have gained abroad and applied to Glasgow. The value of this work is even further increased as many of these records were kept in churches and destroyed during the Reformation.[10]

Through the preface and the body of the book, one can see what Lowe was influenced by when establishing the Royal College. When he addresses the ‘Doctors of the Royal College of Surgeons of Paris’, Lowe speaks highly of their knowledge and teaching. He even goes on to state that he mimicked their methods to the best of his ability. In his article, Donaldson confirms this as he states that Lowe’s book displays the “major influence of contemporary, particularly Parisian, medical style”.[11] This is significant in that it shows his work abroad greatly influenced his practice in a new contemporary way that he implemented in the Royal College and medical practice in western Scotland. This is also shown in the treatments and images in the later editions of the book. Many of the illustrations are believed to be very similar to those of Ambroise Paré.[12] Donaldson argues that even the structure and content of the book is so similar to that of Paré’s  Oeuvres of 1575 that it could be regarded as a synopsis of the surgical sections of Paré’s work.[13]  Thus, from the book it is obvious he looked to his experience abroad and brought modern medical practice into this work and likely the establishment of the College.

In the ‘Account of the Life and Works of Maister Peter Lowe’, Finlayson argues that Lowe’s work was not based on authority as some have suggested but rather ‘personal experience and observation’.[14] In the section of his introduction ‘To the Friendly Reader’ he writes, ‘I impart to you my labours, hidded secrets, and experiments by me practised, and daily put in use, to the great comfort, ease, and delight of you’.[15] This would imply that Lowe wrote directly from his own work in the field. Nevertheless, whether this hands-on approach came from Lowe’s experience or others’, the practice-based teaching shown in the book is indicative of a humanist approach. This is noteworthy in that it once again shows how Lowe is using modern ideas in medical practice.  Although humanism did not arrive until later in Scotland, Lowe is clearly affected by the movement.[16]  This is even shown in the layout of the book. As previously mentioned, it includes several entries before it begins that serve as a preface. Jamie Reid-Baxter states that the idea of providing an introduction to influence a reader is strongly related to Renaissance humanism.[17] Hence, his decision to include a foreword is indicative of the influence of humanism in his writing. It is also seen through his inclusion of the “Presages of Divine Hipocrates”. Lowe provided an English translation of this text in all editions of the book.[18] The fact that he included it in English shows the significance of humanism to Lowe and his desire to make this important work available to more people.

img_20161102_141237700              img_20161102_135722379                      img_20161102_134156294

Figure 1.5                                               Figure 1.6                                                Figure 1.7

All editions of “The Whole Course of Chirurgerie” were practical and accessible to a wider audience. The book is regarded as the ‘first systematic treatise on the whole course of chirurgerie published in the English language’.[19] From his experience and education, it is likely that Lowe knew several languages including Latin, French, and possibly German and Spanish.[20]  Lowe’s choice to write in English was a deliberate one and clearly had reasoning behind it. He makes it clear in the preface that he wants ‘all men in general’, specifically young surgeons, to have access to this learning.[21] In his book on Peter Lowe, Finlayson states that translating Hippocratic writing into English for the first time and including it shows Lowe’s desire for young surgeons to gain knowledge of the practice that would have been inaccessible. Additionally, beginning with the second edition, images such as those shown in figures 1.5-1.7 are provided that help illustrate the conditions and treatments discussed in the book. These along with enlarged text and the English translations made the book quite useful.[22]

The significance of the ‘Whole Course of Chirurgerie’ is immense. Whether looking at the specific copy, second edition, or book in general, Lowe’s work clearly held much importance. On a smaller scale, it was groundbreaking in Scotland for its practicality through the use of English and experience-based approach. More abstractly, from it Lowe’s influences in his work and the methods he used to implement large medical change with this book and likely throughout western Scotland can be seen. These influences and methods touch on broader themes of modern practice and humanism that affected Lowe’s work greatly and make the work incredibly important. Thus, this book is valuable on several different levels and should be appreciated greatly.

Helping the public to understand the significance of this work is an important aspect of preserving its history. One way to accomplish this could be through an interactive exhibit at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. This only seems appropriate as the Royal College is directly linked to Lowe’s work in Glasgow and likely this book. To begin with, someone could act as Lowe and give a brief synopsis of his experience abroad, the charter, the creation of the Royal College, and the effect these had on the book and/or the book had on them. Next, there could be displays with treatments from the book and some of the illustrations. These could have little activities to show the practicality of them. Also on the display would be another section that teaches about humanism and relates each specific entry back to it and what made it then modern practice. This will allow the audience to gain an understanding of what humanism is and the role it played in Lowe’s writing and how Lowe was modern in his writing and practice. Finally, at the end of the exhibit a digitized version of the specific copy or at least the second edition should be available to scroll through. This way the viewer can try to answer posed questions about the text. These questions could start out simpler about the treatments and then become increasingly complex in trying to see the greater themes in the text they learned about. Through this exhibit, the public could gain an understanding of the significance of Lowe’s book on varying levels from basic ideas to major themes. Then, hopefully, they will begin to understand why the ‘Whole Course of Chirurgerie’ is a vital piece of Scottish history.





Primary Sources

Lowe, Peter. A Discourse of the Whole Art of ChirurgerIe. London: Thomas Purfoot, 1612. Print.

Secondary Sources

Donaldson, IML. ‘Peter Lowe’s Whole Course of Chirurgerie…1597’. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. No. 4 (2013): 374-376. Web.

Duncan, Alexander (ed). (1885-1901) Alphabetical Catalogue of the Library of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Preceded by an Index of Subjects. Glasgow: Robert Maclehose. Print.

Finlayson, James. Account of the Life and Works of Maister Peter Lowe. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1889. Print.

Geyer-Kordesch, Johanna and Fiona Macdonald. Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, 1599-1858. London: Hambledon Continuum, 1999. Print.

Gibson, Tom. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Edinburgh: Macdonald Publishers, 1983. Print.

Harrison, Clare. ‘Peter Lowe and ‘The whole course of chirurgerie’’. Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow: The College Library. [accessed 14 November 2016]. https://libraryblog.rcpsg.ac.uk/2013/09/20/peter-lowe-and-the-whole-course-of-chirurgerie/. Web.

Hull, Andrew, Johanna Geyer-Kordesch and Fiona Macdonald. The Shaping of the Medical Profession: The History of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow 1858-1999. London: Hambledon Press, 1999. Print.

Jillings, Karen. ‘Humanism and Medicine in Sixteenth-Century Aberdeen’. Intellectual History Review. 18:1 (2008): 31-40. Print.

Miller, Roy, James Beaton, Carol Parry and others. Treasures of the College. Glasgow: Carnyx Group, 1998. Print.

Power, D’Arcy. ‘The Whole Course of Chirurgerie Compiled by Peter Lowe, Scotchman’. The British Journal Of Surgery. Vol. XV, No. 60 (1928): 534-537. Web.

Reid-Baxter, Jamie. ‘Liminary Verse: the Paratextual Poetry of Renaissance Scotland’. Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society. No. 3 (2008): 70-94. Print.

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Library catalogue. Record 00229377. [accessed 14 November 2016]. http://shelcat.org/prcp. Web.



[1] Clare Harrison, ‘Peter Lowe and ‘The whole course of chirurgerie’’, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow: The College Library, http://libraryblog.rcpsg.ac.uk/2013/09/20/peter-lowe-and-the-whole-course-of-chirurgerie/.

[2] Donaldson, ‘Peter Lowe’s Whole Course of Chirurgerie…1597’, Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, no. 4 (2013), pp. 374-376.

[3] Alexander Duncan (ed), (1885-1901) Alphabetical Catalogue of the Library of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Preceded by an Index of Subjects, Glasgow: Robert Maclehose.

[4] Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Library catalogue, Record 00229377, [accessed 14 November 2016], http://shelcat.org/prcp.

[5] Peter Lowe, A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chirurgerie, London: Thomas Purfoot (1612), 13.

[6] Andrew Hull, Johanna Geyer-Kordesch and Fiona Macdonald, The Shaping of the Medical Profession: the History of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow 1858-1999, London: Hambledon Press (1999), XXII.

[7] James Finlayson, Account of the Life and Works of Maister Peter Lowe, Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons (1889), 16-17.

[8]  D’Arcy Power, ‘The Whole Course of Chirurgerie Compiled by Peter Lowe, Scotchman’, The British Journal of Surgery, vol. XV: no. 60 (1928, 536-37.

[9] Finlayson, Account of the Life and Works, 16-17.

[10] Tom Gibson, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Edinburgh: Macdonald Publishers (1983), 21.

[11] Donaldson, ‘Peter Lowe’s Whole Course of Chirurgerie’, 375-76.

[12] Roy Miller, James Beaton, Carol Parry and others, Treasures of the College, Glasgow: Carnyx Group (1998), 19.

[13] Donaldson, 375-76.

[14] Finlayson, 12-13.

[15] Lowe, A Discourse, 4.

[16] Karen Jillings, ‘Humanism and Medicine in Sixteenth-Century Aberdeen’, Intellectual History Review, 18:1 (2008), 31.

[17] Jamie Reid-Baxter, ‘Liminary Verse: the Paratextual Poetry of Renaissance Scotland’, Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, no. 3 (2008), 72.

[18] Finlayson, 13-14.

[19] Finlayson, 3.

[20] Gibson, The Royal College, 22.

[21] Lowe, A Discourse, 6.

[22] Power, ‘The Whole Course’, 533.

The Gloves of Peter Lowe

Our eighth blog of the 2016-17 class, by Caitlin Hammond, presents a real historical curio – a pair of gloves from the late-sixteenth century strongly reputed to have belonged to Peter Lowe, founder of hte Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. 


The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow today preserves a large collection of unique artefacts that help tell the history of this four hundred and seventeen year old Glaswegian establishment. Many of these artefacts are historically significant in the context of royal patronage of medicine in late renaissance Scotland, one of the most interesting examples of this is an ornate pair of gloves that were gifted to the founder of the College, or the Faculty, as it used to be called, Maister Peter Lowe. Relatively little is known about the story of these gloves and the same is true of the life of Lowe himself. It is difficult to prove that he ever wore them and there is little information to be found about the circumstances surrounding his receiving of them. To make the gloves even more mysterious, there is no record of who commissioned the manufacture of the gloves, where the gloves were made, or who made them. To find out more about these gloves we must delve into the life of Peter Lowe and the circumstances behind the founding of the Faculty in 1599.
Fortunately a lot of information can be gleaned from the physical features and condition of the gloves; we can tell how old they are. The gloves, or gauntlets as they are often referred, measure c.30cm in length and are c. 14cm wide at the bottom of the cuff. The gloves can be dated back to the first decade of the seventeenth century, due to the particular length of the glove sleeves, which are c.15cm long; because this style of glove was very fashionable in the first decade of the seventeenth century. The gloves are made of leather and are heavily embroidered with gold, silver and gilt thread. The embroidered designs outlines a raised pattern of foliage, mythical animals, and classical architecture. These motifs were very popular particularly in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. During this period, in which there was a fashion for voluminous sleeves, ribbons were often attached to gloves, such as the gloves owned by Lowe, and were used ‘to confine the wide sleeves, and allow the ornamentation of the gauntlets unhindered admiration’. The thin, fragile gloves would be unwearable today; at the seams up the length of the gloves and particularly at the fingers, and at the bottom of the gloves, the thread is loose or missing entirely, the right hand glove shows more signs of damage indicating that the owner was right handed. The gloves were presented by the President of the College, or the Faculty, as it was called at the time, to the other Faculty members at a meeting which is dated in the minute book on the 1st of the August 1867. The gloves were donated by Mrs Hamilton Gray, after the death of her husband, John Hamilton Gray of Carntyne who was “collaterally descended” from Peter Lowe, in 1867. According to the minutes, the council unanimously agreed that ‘the best thanks of the Faculty be tendered to Mrs Hamilton Gray for her kindness in presenting to the Faculty so interesting a relic of this distinguished Founder’.

To understand the significance and the provenance of the gloves, we must discuss the life and legacy of surgeon Scottish born Peter Lowe (c.1550-1612). Like many Scots, he studied and worked in France before returning to Scotland; France was a popular choice for young Scots as France’s ‘close political ties with Scotland allowed common citizenship at that time.’ He obtained his ‘magister artium’ degree, perhaps in Orleans , before training to become a surgeon in the College of St Côme’. Lowe trained as a surgeon at a time when there was intense rivalry between the university- trained physicians and ‘long gown’ surgeons, who in turn sought to separate themselves from the barber-surgeons. The physicians, who held university degrees, saw themselves as superior to the surgeons, who often obtained their education through apprenticeships rather than through formal education programmes. This tension over the hierarchy of medical professions in France influenced Lowe’s attitudes to surgery and barber surgeons when he returned to Glasgow in 1598; he strived to raise the competency levels of surgeons, thereby improving their status. After his training, Lowe made a successful career for himself in France, living there ‘for over 30 years, serving the French armies and royal houses as surgeon’. The fact that he was royal surgeon to the French king perhaps helps explain why within a year of his return to Scotland, King James VI could describe him as ‘our chirurgiane, and chief chirurgiane to our dearest sone the Prince’. Clearly, his reputation preceded him.
There has been some debate as to why Lowe travelled to Glasgow, in 1598, ‘in middle age and at the height of his powers, to a small town with only a handful of doctors’. However, it may have been precisely because of the perceived lack of potential interference or rivalry which appealed to him as David Hamilton argues that the town ‘gave him unhindered scope for his clinical and political activities.’ This leads us to wonder what exactly Lowe’s professional and political ambitions were when he arrived in Glasgow, and through his writings and his actions in Glasgow we can find out what these ambitions were. Upon his arrival in Glasgow Lowe was aghast at the lack of regulation and available training for physicians, surgeons and barber-surgeons. Only the wealthy members of society could afford to receive their medical care by skilled physicians. The majority of people still relied on domestic remedies, and were targeted by quack doctors advertising miracle cures. Because of the absence of any effective regulatory bodies, incompetent medical professionals were free to ply their trade unchecked, leading to a high mortality rate. The Royal Charter granting permission for the founding of the Faculty in 1599 was a direct attempt to improve this situation. The Faculty was designed to reduce the ‘daily abuses committed by incompetent medical practitioners, who took advantage of people for their own benefit without fear of retribution.’
Lowe wanted to raise the professional and social status of surgeons, aware of their perceived inferiority to physicians. One of the ways he aimed to do this was by raising the teaching and examination standards for students of surgery, and thereby raising the average competence levels of surgeons in Glasgow. Today the royal college preserves the literary works that helped cement the reputation of Lowe. The most famous of his works was ‘A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chyrurgerie’, a textbook of surgery that was aimed to provide a comprehensive guide to students of surgery. The fact that it was written in the vernacular instead of the traditional Latin can be taken as ‘proof he was really anxious to afford to young surgeons in this country means of acquiring, in their own language, a knowledge of their art, which would otherwise be inaccessible to many of them’. In other words, Lowe wanted the next generation of Scottish surgeons to have access to training and education than he had been forced to travel to France to obtain for himself.

James VI and I

As has already been made clear, King James VI of Scotland was a significant patron of Lowe and the Royal College of Glasgow. However there is debate as to the motives behind James’s decision to approve the founding of a Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow rather than any of the bigger population centres in his kingdom. Glasgow had a comparatively small population and was not a major industrial or political power at this time. However, it is likely that James saw its future potential to become so, and thus saw the wisdom in founding an establishment that would help improve public health, and regulate standard medical practice in his kingdom. The significance of the role of King James in the founding of the Faculty cannot be understated; it is probable that he wrote the charter himself. The king’s interest in improving the public health in the west of Scotland is clear in the charter, as the Faculty was obligated ‘to visit the sick…as a condition of the power given to the Faculty.’ This was ‘more onerous than it seems, for while it was easy for the doctors to give of their time, there was no way of paying for the drugs used other than from their own pockets.’ However this self-sacrifice helped to an extent to improve the regulation of public health in a way that was innovative for the time.
There must be some discussion regarding the history of the gifting of gloves in Stuart Scotland. During Lowe’s life gloves still were ‘gifts of significance’ that were given for various symbolic reasons. Gloves were often given at ceremonies as very visible status-symbols, ‘carefully proportioned in value to the rank of the recipient, and their worth was made no secret, but rather blazoned abroad.’ The more ornate and expensive the gloves, the higher the status of the owner. Lowe’s high status as a surgeon and political figure in Glasgow is thus reinforced by his ownership of these gloves. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the gloves were commissioned by the King or that at least he was involved in some way with the gift. These gloves would have been an appropriate gift for the loyalty and service that Lowe showed to the King throughout his adult life.
There is evidence to suggest that Lowe and the King had a mutually beneficial relationship. Lowe ‘was probably useful to the King as a result of his travels and knowledge of Europe. He may have been involved in political intrigue and in 1601 he travelled back to France in the ambassador’s entourage.’ His network of European contacts, his experience and knowledge of the royal courts and politics, understandably made him useful to the king. The founding of the Faculty benefited both Lowe and the king. Lowe’s career in France allowed him to gain the political clout that helped secure the royal charter, and the founding of the Faculty is Lowe’s most important achievement. The Faculty also benefited the king because it helped regulate medical practice in Glasgow and the west of Scotland.
It would be a pity if Lowe’s gloves were kept hidden away from the world in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. These gloves are a unique historical artefacts and should be made more accessible to the public for various reasons. Firstly the gloves are an important artefact in the history of the Royal College, which is still an integral part of the medical world today.
The gloves also help tell the life and legacy of founder and surgeon Peter Lowe. They show the significance of royal patronage of King James VI particularly in the context of the advancement and regulation of medicine and public health in Scotland. Overall the gloves are an important artefact for anyone interested in culture and society in late renaissance Scotland. There are various ways for the College to display and raise public awareness, enthusiasm, and knowledge about Lowe’s gloves. Museums and galleries are constantly using innovative techniques, taking advantage of innovative technology to engage and inform the public. Lowe’s gloves, as has already been discussed, are of historical interest on various levels; and thus could attract the attention of different groups of people. Lowe’s gloves can be displayed as part of a public exhibition on the history of the Royal College, the life and legacy of Peter Lowe, the historical significance of royal patronage, the realities and reforms of medical practice and the regulation of public health at the end of the sixteenth century in Scotland and in particular in Glasgow. An exhibition on the life of Peter Lowe can branch into various related themes for instance the exhibition could focus on the lives and legacies of various Scottish medical pioneers, royal surgeons, or important historical figures of Glaswegian or wider Scottish society. The exhibition could also focus on the people of royal court of King James VI of Scotland or the impact of his patronage on Scottish culture and society in general. Alternatively the exhibition could focus on the idea of key contributors of Scottish renaissance who studied or made careers in mainland Europe before returning to Scotland; and the impact of this international culture on Scotland. The exhibition could focus on the historical tradition and symbolic significance of royal gift-giving, particularly of gloves, in Scottish society. The exhibition could focus on the differences and tensions between physicians, surgeons, and barber-surgeons in renaissance Scotland. In particular Lowe’s gloves would be a relevant artefact to display for an exhibition which focused on Scottish surgeons, innovations of surgical practice in Scotland and changes to the status and public perceptions of surgeons, and Lowe’s attempts to raise the status of surgeons through founding the Faculty. Overall it is clear that these unique gloves deserve a wider public audience; they provide a glimpse into the story behind the creation of a Scottish institution that still thrives today.

Beck, William S., Gloves their annals and associations: A chapter of trade and social history (London: Hamilton Adams & Co., 1883)
Beck, William S., Some Historic Gloves, (London: 1883) (Copyright ProQuest LLC 2008)
Buchanan, W. Watson, King James VI of Scotland and I of England (1566-1625) The first Royal Patron of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow: Warts and All (Toronto, Ont. : Pro Familia Publishing, 2001)
Dingwall, Helen, Scottish Medicine: An Illustrated History (Edinburgh: Birlinn: 2011)
Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons: Minutes 1859-1871 p434-5
Hamilton, David, The Healers: A history of medicine in Scotland Edinburgh: (Mercat Press Ltd., 2003)
James Finlayson, Account of the Life and Works of Maister Peter Lowe: The founder of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1889)
Laignel-Lavastine, Maxime, French Medicine (New York: AMS Press, 1978)

First Minute Book 1602-1688, Key to Scottish Medical Advancement (RCPSG 1/1/1/1b)

Our seventh blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Edward Cheseldine, who has examined the first extant collection of minutes belonging to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, which begin just shortly after the college’s foundation in 1599. 

This object analysis focuses on the first minute book of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. It posits this book as a material documentation of the wider development of ethics and humanism within the frame of Scottish medical history. By identifying the educational and personal background of Peter Lowe and reading his influence through this book, his transmutation of Western European medical approaches and values into the Scottish medical system becomes apparent. The analysis then takes this textual record as evidence of Lowe’s impressions and, after his early death, as a physical artefact in formulating his legacy and assessing his success in solidifying humanist methods and viewpoints into the Renaissance infra-structure. In the final instance, this places humanism as an essentially modern composite part of this historic period of rapid change.


The Scottish renaissance was a period of heightened connectivity with Western Europe. It was common for medical students to complete their training on the continent. This allowed for the idea of medical humanism to penetrate into Scotland. The foundation of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow owes itself to this relationship. The educational advances of the continent were thus compounded by Peter Lowe’s impact on education. Peter Lowe was a Scotsman, probably from Glasgow, who had his humanist education on the continent.[1] He learnt the art of Chirurgerie, during his thirty years abroad between 1566 and 1596.[2] During this time period, Lowe spent twenty-two years in France and Flanders learning within the French medical field. He then practised military surgery in Spain.[3] Lowe’s medical qualifications are testament to the fact that during his career, he also spent time under as Henry IV of France’s surgeon.[4] After his long outstanding career, Lowe returned to Glasgow. Devastated at the level of surgery and the infiltration of barber-surgery in Glasgow Peter Lowe, with the accompaniment of Robert Hamilton, petitioned James Stewart VI to found an institution similar to that of Paris.[5]    It was through his knowledge and understanding of continental practices that we see a development of medical practises in Glasgow. This new medical framework is exemplified in the pages of the first minute book. Due to Peter Lowes death in 1610, the minute book outlines continuity of his ethical framework as well as the development of a modern medical institution that departs from the medieval world.[6]


The first minute book provides a detailed analysis of how the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow was created once a college was granted. It holds writings between 1602-1688. Its contents consist of how the institution was raised in its preliminary years. It is fundamental to the institution’s creation, containing the principles in which the royal college was founded. The college, was appointed three years prior to the first minute books use in 1599, by James Stewart VI. The royal college was the first medical institution set up in the West of Scotland. In this way, the book has a strong historic link to a time when medical teachings and practices became regulated within Scotland.


In physical terms the book is of a small size. It does however, hold 710 pages of handwritten notes.[7] Within the glass case which the original book is kept in for preservation purposes, the most striking feature is the wearing of the leather-bound cover. Its tarnish is both physical and symbolic evidence of its use as a minute book for over 86 years. The pages are of a similar state, being warped due to exposure to the air when tied down with its original metal clasps. Within the book, the pages are as faded as the binding and tainted a dull sand colour. The original minutes are clearly written in old Scots and in a cursive style. They can all be read, yet with difficulty as the writing is in a small font, apart from a few words which are covered by black ink blotches. The damage and wearing is negligible, considering the lengthy history of the book.  The care shown towards this text begins to show the growing understanding of objects and records in the Renaissance medical sphere. The physical state of this book tells of its status and placement in a wider system of values that sought to improve the care of the corporeal and psychological dispositions. It is therefore appropriate that material things be treated with the same evolving respect.


The general sense of the book is one of importance. There are several levels of security in place, in order to secure the longevity of this object. The book is placed in a locked vault during its return to the archives, ensuring the fate of the second minute book – that of being burned in a fire – is not repeated. The glass case used when viewings are requested, gives the sense of the significance to the relic. This is against other books and objects which are viewed on plinths and touched by other library participants. For viewing purposes, and due to the delicate nature of the original, there was a copy made in 1860 by William H. Hill. This ensures that access to the text is available for viewing purposes to everybody. As well as this there is an online scanned copy of the 19th century edition, which can be accessed from the colleges website.[8] The copy is still handwritten, however the text has been enlarged and written in a clearer style. This gives it increased opportunity for viewing, as the spacing and font size has been increased. The preservation of the minute book is testament to its importance, as a document to a period when written records were scarce. It creates a gateway in identifying a time period within Scotland when there was an increasing value in the establishment of public works and institutions.


Within the first pages of the minute book is a summation of the royal charter. The charter includes the appointed ideals and laws the institution was founded upon. In 1599, this was given by James VI to Peter Lowe and ratified by the town council.[9] It sets out the founding principles of the college that are linked to the ideas Peter Lowe brought back from continental Europe during his education. These ideals are summarised at the beginning of the first minute book, in order to reflect upon the foundation of the institution within its preliminary years. They include nine points of rule, seeking to improve the medical health of the West of Scotland.[10] These involve Maister Peter Lowe, Mr Robert Hamilton and their successors, having the power and ability of examination towards other medical persons carrying out services of surgery. This control was also extended over the exercise of medicine, giving the institution similar powers as the Medical council that existed in this time period. The charter gave further rights to the supervision of the sale of drugs, as well as to the sale of poisons. The foundation of a medical-legal board, that which those found to be disobeying the regulations were to attend, was also formulated. Finally, a public health service ‘sall convene every first Monday of ilk month’ in order to give council to the general population who visited. All this was to encompass a large geographical area in the West of Scotland. This charter created the emphasis of what Peter Lowe was bringing back from the continent. That of raising the medical standards in order to protect the population from misconduct. Through control of the medical profession within a large geographical area.


During the time period there were changes within the structure of the college. At the first meeting of the Faculty there were seven members. These included Robert Hamilton and Daniel Spang. Robert Hamilton was appointed as the first Visitor of the college in 1602.[11] Spang was later appointed Visitor in 1606.[12] In 1612 there was a more rigorous infrastructure emplaced upon the college. This granted the need of a Visitor under which were quarter masters that assessed and taught apprentices. Apprentices were to pay an entrance fee, as well as an end of qualification fee of £10. Examinations of the students occurred in the third, fifth and seventh year of the course. On top of this, if the qualified surgeon or physician wanted to practise as a burgess of the town, there was a further quarterly fee they had to pay to the faculty.[13] By creating a hierarchy and formulating fees, the institution was establishing itself as a powerful regulatory body. Finance and structure was also key to improving the growth of the Royal College, this in time would have a positive effect on the boundaries it could regulate increasing the number of examination that could take place and increase the number of qualified medical professionals. These factors are testament to safeguarding the medical improvement of the West of Scotland.


Unlike Edinburgh and other areas in which surgeons were considered guildsmen, Glasgow distinctly defined them as part of the Royal College. Placing them alongside physicians, their status was upgraded into the medical profession. Such a lexical and actual shift was, at least partly, due to Lowe’s vision of hierarchy and skill as he created this institution which breached the professional divide between that of physicians and surgeons.[14] This was due to the elevated position of physicians within the medical profession, whereas surgery was still seen as a guild trade.  Lowe wanted to do this by implementing of proper education and regulation, and by containing quackery.[15] However, the minute book shows that progress for raising standards was mixed. The minutes include descriptions of barbers who were only qualified to partake in menial barber-surgery. There was also regulation of those who were already qualified as barbers. The Faculty could summon barber-surgeons for examination who practised within the bounds of the charter. George Berrell was the first of the barber-surgeons wo was restricted in the practise of his trade in May 1605 and had to ‘profess the art of Barbery with simple wounds in the flesh’. He could therefore no longer perform his profession without special consent.[16] There were also strict levels of barber-surgery that could be performed under the licence the Faculty appointed after examination. This matches the standards that Peter Lowe wanted to properly regulate the practise of surgery to a level where there was no interference by under-qualified medical practitioners. There was also a formal process of re-examination in order to improve upon the licence granted to the barber-surgeon after their examination.[17] This slowly elevated the levels of surgery that could be performed by already qualified barber-surgeons. Therefore, there is evidence that Peter Lowe’s key principles that he brought back from the continent were being acted upon within the minute book. Regulation and examination were vital in developing medical standards within the time period, thus raising the standards of medical care for all.


Due to the lowly status of the barber, and the impact they had upon the profession of surgery, the history of incorporation within the royal college was volatile. Unlike that of Edinburgh, there was not a joint seal of protection amongst the two professions in 1602.[18] Barbers however, were admitted to the royal college at the time, but in an inferior position to surgeons.[19] This was due to Peter Lowe’s inclination to include the barbers in order to assert that they do not meddle with the practices of surgery.[20] However, in 1656 a joint seal of barbers and surgeons was produced by the council, giving civil protection to barbers and elevating their status within the college. [21] The joint seal, fundamentally questions the work of Peter Lowe, and the progress the minute book exemplifies in distinctly addressing the differences between surgeons and barbers. However, within the minute book, 1656 marks the beginning of the separation of the barbers and surgeons, as the Faculty did not always grant autonomy to the council, leaving the status of barbers vulnerable. This eventually leads to the fallout of the barbers from the college cementing the dominant status of the surgeons.[22]


The first minute book truly represents a microcosm of the objectives and motives the institution was founded upon. Through the analysis of Lowe’s humanist thought and the minute books record of events we can conclude that the ideals of improving medical care within the West of Scotland were conceived and supported. The period marks a rapid change in the fundamental ideas of regulating surgery and medical care by developing the Royal College. It produces modern systems of regulation and examination within its geographical boundaries to enhance society as a whole. The importance of this document has been celebrated and acted upon within the college. Appropriate measures have been taken to ensure that this archival yoke remains a sentiment to the past foundation of the Royal College.



Beaton, J.J., Miller, R., Boyle, I. T., Treasures of the College (Glasgow, Carnyx Group: 1998)

Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, RCPSG 1/1/1/1b (Glasgow: 1602-1688)

Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Minute Book 1602-1688, https://rcpsg.ac.uk/library/digital-volumes/1746-minute-book-1602-1688 [Accessed 10.11.2016]

Finlayson, James, Account Of The Life And Works Of Maister Peter Lowe, 1st edn (Glasgow: Maclehose, 1889)

Geyer-Kordesch, Johanna, Fiona A Macdonald, and Andrew Hull, Physicians And Surgeons In Glasgow, 1st edn (London: Hambledon Press, 1999)

Goodall, A. L., “The Royal Faculty Of Physicians And Surgeons”, J Hist Med Allied Sci, X (1955), 207-225

[1]  A. L. Goodlall, “The Royal Faculty Of Physicians And Surgeons”, J Hist Med Allied Sci, X.2 (1955), p208

[2] Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, Fiona A Macdonald and Andrew Hull, Physicians And Surgeons In Glasgow, 1st edn (London: Hambledon Press, 1999) p41

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] James Finlayson, Account Of The Life And Works Of Maister Peter Lowe, (Glasgow: Maclehose, 1889) p20

[6] Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, Fiona A Macdonald and Andrew Hull, Physicians And Surgeons In Glasgow, p50

[7] “Minute Book 1602-1688”, Rcpsg.Ac.Uk, 2016 <https://rcpsg.ac.uk/travel-medicine/73-library-and-heritage/digital-volumes/1746-minute-book-1602-1688&gt; [accessed 10 November 2016].

[8] The first minute book can be found on the Royal Colleges’ website through the following link, https://rcpsg.ac.uk/travel-medicine/73-library-and-heritage/digital-volumes/1746-minute-book-1602-1688

[9] A. L. Goodall, “The Royal Faculty Of Physicians And Surgeons”, p212

[10] James Finlayson, Account Of The Life And Works Of Maister Peter Lowe,  pp22-  23

[11] A. L. Goodall, “The Royal Faculty Of Physicians And Surgeons”, p213

[12] Ibid p40

[13] J.J. Beaton, R.Miller and I.T. Boyle, Treasures of the college (Glasgow, Carnyx Group: 1998) p47

[14] Ibid p48

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid p118

[17] Ibid pp120-122

[18] J.J. Beaton, R.Miller and I.T. Boyle, Treasures of the college p47

[19] Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, Fiona A Macdonald and Andrew Hull, Physicians And Surgeons In Glasgow, p80

[20] James Finlayson, Account Of The Life And Works Of Maister Peter Low, p21

[21] Johanna Geyer-Kordesch, Fiona A Macdonald and Andrew Hull, Physicians And Surgeons In Glasgow, p103

[22] Ibid p81

Marriage Medal of James VI and Anne of Denmark (1590)

Our sixth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Rebecca Niven, who looks at the silver medal produced to commemorate the marriage of James VI to Princess Anne (or Anna) of Denmark in 1590. This copy of the medal is housed in the Hunterian Coin Collection (GLAHM 38056). 

1          2                                                                    3     4


Housed in the majestic coin collection of the Hunterian Museum, that boasts over 70,000 coins, medals, tokens and other such related objects[1], is the Marriage medal of King James VI and Anne of Denmark. The medal was part of the original collection bequeathed to the University of Glasgow as the foundation of the museum after the death of Dr William Hunter (1718-1783). Unfortunately, there is no written record of prior ownership of said medal before Hunter. Briefly, Hunter himself was an avid collector of materials, which is shown by his vast collection of coins – of many different origins and eras – that he accumulated during his lifetime. Additionally, Hunter was active during a period called the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’. Some, such as Thomas Ahnert, believe found its roots during the Scottish Renaissance and Reformation[2]. The medal can also be seen to be a part of a wider Stewart coinage.


The standard reference of this medal is MI. I.157. 136. The archival location is GLAHM 38056. It weighs 44.5g with a width and height of 6.0cmX6.0cm, showing this to be a rather sizeable medal. It is very rare, and there are only two other medals known like it. [3] Whilst there is no definite information that shows exactly where the medal was made, the logical conclusion, which many historians have drawn, is that was produced in the Mint in Edinburgh.[4] Should this be the case it is fair to assume that Thomas Foullis would have had a hand in creating the medal as he was the mint official at the time[5]


The medal is a silver composition, which has been cast and chased with decoration on both sides of the medal. The obverse is decorated quite simply; two ¾ profiles of both King James and Anne of Denmark face one another with a Scottish crown joining the two overhead. Around the outside is Latin script stating “IACOBVS•6•ET•ANNA•D•G•SCOTORVM•REX•ET•REGINA” meaning, “James VI and Anne by the Grace of God King and Queen of Scotland”. The reverse flaunts a great deal of Scottish iconography; the centre shows a lion rampant being held up by two unicorns at either side. Below shows what appears to be collar and badge of St Andrews Cross emblem and above is a fleurs de lys with a thistle wearing a crown in the centre. Around the outside of the obverse is the statement “IN•DE•FNCE•”, meaning ‘In Defence’- the Royal motto.


During the renaissance in Italy, commemorative medals appear to have gained considerable interest for the first time since antiquity. Mark Jones believes that there are three simple reasons why a Renaissance patron would commission. Firstly, he believes the ‘cult of the individual’ was explored during this period and a medal portrait would be far more durable than a painted portrait. [6]Therefore, there is an idea of immortality and legacy in the making of medals, which is obvious with the marriage medal. Additionally, as Jones states that medals, “exchange likeness with his equals and bestow them on inferiors.”[7] To be able to hand out medals shows a sign of importance or perhaps friendship. Furthermore, it is a simple and effective way to convey a message and potentially also as a type of propaganda. Finally, as a medal had two sides, it gave the patron more space to express individuality. The patron had the ability to have a portrait on one side and an obverse to allow the patron to incorporate a motto or emblem that had specific meaning to the individual.[8]The marriage medal’s obverse is able to explore a lot of Stewart monarch iconography which is explicitly linked to the royalty of Scotland. The marriage medal, therefore, is a perfect example of a wider renaissance medal history and is able to show Scotland’s role in this renaissance history.


The medal is important in giving context to a broader history of Scotland. For example, this medal commemorates both the first marriage of a Protestant monarch in Scotland and demonstrates the last Royal Scottish wedding. Therefore, the medal is unique as it is able to represent two incredibly important occurrences that happened within Scotland during the Renaissance. The Reformation was a religious break from the Catholic Church to Protestantism, which happened in Scotland in 1560. However, Scotland did not have a Protestant monarch until 1567 under the reign of King James VI. Before James was the reign of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. Disastrous in regards to her marriages and her reluctance to give up Catholicism.[9]This meant that there was some pressure on James to be a better monarch. Likewise, this meant that James VI had to be careful in his search for a bride. The idea of marriage to produce an heir was an important endeavour for any monarch to undertake. Furthermore, James VI would have wanted to strengthen his claim to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth I, meaning that his choice would have to appease her also. Therefore, Anne of Denmark appeared to be a perfect match due to the good links between Scotland and Denmark. However, more importantly, Denmark was also a reformed country, albeit Lutheran instead of Calvinist. [10] Thus, the marriage is able to give Scotland it’s first Protestant King and Queen, which shows why the marriage would definitely be commemorated by commissioning a medal. Consequently, as the marriage occurred a mere thirteen years before the Union of the Crowns (1603), it is also the last Scottish royal wedding to take place.


Christopher Eimer argued the possibility that the medal could potentially be commemorating the return to Scotland of the newly married Royal couple as oppose to the marriage itself. [11]This line of argument is bolstered by the accounts of the celebration of Anne’s coronation, particularly her entrance to Edinburgh. Anne’s entrance to Edinburgh showed, as Lynch states, “most of the themes and imagery…familiar both to renaissance pageantry and the capital itself.” [12]However, her entrance can be shown to be more lavish than of that James VI’s entrance to the capital in 1579. Considering that James was the King it appears unusual that his entrance to Edinburgh would be less extravagant, yet it could be concluded that Anne’s coronation guarantees succession and lineage [13]. Therefore, it would be logical to believe the idea which Eimer puts forward that the medal is for the return of the couple as it shows the return of a strong lineage and succession for the Scottish Kingdom.


Now, to concentrate on some of the details on the medal which are a show of Stewart iconography specifically from the period of the Scottish Renaissance. Especially, the use of thistles on the reverse of the medallion. As Burnett and Bennet explain, the thistle became a royal flower during the reign of James III, where he was responsible for various changes in royal symbolism[14]. The emblem of the thistle as a royal flower is first depicted on his coin in issue 1471-1483. Therefore, this shows that there was a continuation of symbols of identity that begun during the Scottish renaissance which are used and shown in the medal. Also, the thistle can be viewed as an icon which is in line with the Royal motto “In defence”, as the thistle was a self-defending flower.
Additionally, illustrated on the medal is the collar and badge of St Andrews, another Scottish emblem. However, some historians believe that this could hint at a chivalric order in Scotland at this time. The Order of the Thistle was founded in 1687 with James the II and VII and is the second oldest chivalric order in Britain. Yet, historians such as Kate Stevenson believe that the order was potentially founded by James III[15], which would mean this chivalric order was set u6p during the Scottish Renaissance. However, as Burnett and Bennet explain, there is very little “authentic proof” that there was an order of chivalry in Scotland before 1687. [16] Nonetheless, the marriage medal could give reason to believe there was a potential chivalric order in Scotland pre 1687 which has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy. Complementary to the evidence of James VI’s medal is the main gate at Linlithgow palace, erected by James V. As Burnett states, James V appeared to be proud of this royal insignia and often used it, [17]again hinting at a potential chivalric order.


The best way to make the medal more accessible to the public would be through the means of an exhibition. Potentially, as part of an exhibition that explains the life of James VI and I through different objects relating to him. An in focus exhibition of James would mean the borrowing of different objects from other museums to create a fuller collection. Each item could act as an anchor that a specific part of James’s life can be explained around, giving the exhibition goer a visual aid to match with the event. To make the exhibition easier to understand, it should be in chronological order, from his birth and some historical context, to his death and the aftermath. Therefore, this will make the museum goer feel as though they are going through the trajectory of James’s life. This is preferable to a thematic approach with the exhibition, being split into different sections such as religion, literary or James’ views on witchcraft.

The marriage medal in particular would have to be kept in an upright glass case and held in a plaque or clamps which makes it easier to see both sides of the medal. Furthermore, to help viewers gain a fuller understanding of the medal, close up pictures could provide a visual aid. This would help in explaining each piece of the medal in more depth.

To appeal further to the public, and potentially make the exhibition more interesting and interactive for children, mini clips could be inserted for the viewer to understand each object and what it represents more fully, as opposed to big lengthy texts. This would be perfect in the case of the marriage medal. The almost romantic tale of James VI sailing over to Denmark to get his bride after she was unable to sail to Scotland due to storms. This would most definitely spark public interest, preferring a more romantic and dramatic take on history. Video clips could be mounted on walls next to specific items to give a fuller and clearer understanding of what each item is representing. This could be shown next to perhaps a text of James VI ‘Daemonologie’ (1597) with a video clip explaining what James VI’s stance on witches were and what he had done to try and prevent witchcraft.

An exhibition on James VI would benefit from artefacts that are not just painted portraits, meaning that the marriage medal would be an invaluable source for the exhibition.




  1. Ahnert, Thomas- The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment: 1690-1805 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014)
  2. Burnett, Charles J and Bennet, Helen- The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987)
  3. Clark, Neil D.L- Scottish Gold: Fruit of the Nation (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd in conjunction with the Hunterian, University of University)
  4. Cochran-Patrick, R.W- Records of the Coinage of Scotland, from the Earliest period to the Union (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1876)
  5. Croft, Pauline J- King James (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  6. Eimer, Christopher- British Commemorative Medals and their Values (London: Spink, 2010)
  7. Hawkins, Edward- Medallic Illustrations of British History (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885)
  8. Jones, Mark- The Art of the Medal (London: British Museum Publications Ltd, 1979)
  9. Lynch, Michael and Goode, Julia- The Reign of James VI (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008)
  10. Stevenson, David- Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1997)
  11. Stevenson, Katie- “The Unicorn, St Andrew and The Thistle: Was There an Order of Chivalry in Late Medieval Scotland?”,Scottish Historical Review, 83.1 (2004),
  12. University Of Glasgow – The Hunterian – Collections – Collection Summaries – Coins And Medals 2016 <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/coinsandmedals/&gt;
  13. Williams, Janet Hatley- Stewart Style 1513-1542 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1996.)

[1] University Of Glasgow – The Hunterian – Collections – Collection Summaries – Coins And Medals 2016 <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/coinsandmedals/&gt;

[2] Thomas Ahnert, The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment: 1690-1805 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014) P.81

[3] Edward Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations of British History (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885) P. 157-8

[4] Neil D.L Clark, Scottish Gold: Fruit of the Nation (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd in conjunction with the Hunterian, University of University) P. 74

[5] R.W. Cochran-Patrick, Records of the Coinage of Scotland, from the Earliest period to the Union (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1876) P.34

[6] Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal (London: British Museum Publications Ltd, 1979) P.28

[7] Ibid

[8]  Ibid P.29

[9] David Stevenson, Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd, 1997)

[10] Pauline J Croft, King James (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) P. 24

[11] Christopher Eimer, British Commemorative Medals and their Values (London: Spink, 2010) P.45

[12] Michael Lynch and Julia Goode, The Reign of James VI (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008) P. 75

[13] Ibid. P.84

[14] Charles J. Burnett and Helen Bennet, The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987) P.6

[15] Katie Stevenson, “The Unicorn, St Andrew and The Thistle: Was There an Order of Chivalry in Late Medieval Scotland?”, Scottish Historical Review, 83.1 (2004), P. 3-15

[16] Charles J. Burnett and Helen Bennet, The Green Mantle: A Celebration of the Revival in 1687 of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1987)

[17] Charles J Burnett, Stewart Style 1513-1542 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1996.) P. 291

Gold Medal Commemorating the Regency of John, Duke of Albany (1524)

Our fifth blog from the 2016-17 class comes from Cordelia Payson, who examines the fascinating and unique medal commemorating the short regency of John Stewart, Duke of Albany, during the reign of James V. This medal is housed in the Hunterian Coin Collection (GLAHM 38002). 

Medals have a unique place in history because they often occur separate from the government, unlike the minting of coins. Any individual with enough funds can have a medal created for “their own gratification.”[1] In the context of art, medals are unique to “Renaissance and post-Renaissance Europe”[2] and are inspired by Greek and Roman traditions and the renewed interest in the classical world. This fascination with medals spread across Europe and was especially popular among royalty, like most Renaissance trend. This becomes evident in Scotland with the gold medal commemorating the regency of John, Duke of Albany.

img_9529 img_9528







This medal is rather unassuming at first glance. It is only 36 millimeters in diameter, 1 millimeter in depth[3], and weighs 13.15 grams (202.9 grains). The front of the coin, known as the obverse, depicts the arms of the Duke of Albany, as well as those of his wife Anne upon a cross[4]. Around the edge of the obverse, in Latin, are the words IOANNIS . ALBANIE . DVC . GVBERN . In English this means ‘John, Duke of Albany, Regent’[5]. The reverse is turned approximately ninety degrees to the left, in comparison to the obverse. It displays a dove, which represents the Holy Spirit[6]. Below are the arms of the Duke “within the Order of St. Michael”[7] which are surrounded by a ring of “escallop shells.”[8] The Latin on the reverse says SVB VMBTA TVARVM., which translates to “Under the shadow of thy [wings].”[9] Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland notes this medal is “very rare.”[10] The medal is located at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. The provenance of this specific medal is unknown, as Dr. William Hunter did not keep detailed records regarding the various coins and medals that he collected. The collection was bequeathed to the university in 1783 after William Hunter’s death, according to Hunterian archives.








The gold came from Crawford (Crauford) Moor, near the village of Crawford, which is located in South Lanarkshire.[11] Even with this information it is uncertain as to where the medal was actually made. While it was manufactured from Scottish gold, it cannot be assumed that it was in fact made in Scotland. While John Stewart was still regent he gave Johne Drane of France the position of “washer and refiner of gold”[12] at the mine, showing that there was already a connection between France and the gold. SCRAN states that it was “probably [struck] in France,”[13] while G. F. Hill notes that the medal is coin-engravers work, similar to the “earliest French medals.”[14] On the other hand, the Hunterian Museum archives says that it may have been minted in Edinburgh. Unfortunately there is no way to know for sure where it was made or who made it. The coin gives no clues and there have been no records found to support either side of the argument.


The coin collection at the Hunterian Museum was originally the personal collection of Dr. William Hunter, who procured medals between 1770 and 1783.[15] After Hunter passed away in 1783 he left his collections to the University, which became the foundation for the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. The current coin collection contains around “70,000 coins, medals, tokens and related objects,”[16] half of which were Hunter’s original collection. It is now recognized as the best coin collection in Scotland. The medal of the duke of Albany is unique in the context of Hunter’s collection because it is the earliest dated medal of them all. It was most recently displayed in a temporary exhibition at the Hunterian Art Gallery entitled “Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals.”[17] The only known copies of this medal are located at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow[18] as well as electrotype copies at the Advocates in Edinburgh[19] and the British Museum.[20] It could be assumed that very few medals were originally made, as so few survive today, but it is hard to determine whether or not that is true. The Catalogue of the Medals of Scotland notes that there is a another version of the medal, with the same reverse. On the obverse is a monogram and the legend IELOSENHA, both of which there is no explanation for. It is also unknown if there are any of these medals in existence.[21] Unfortunately very little is known about the coin, except for what can be learned from the object itself. While there are many medals at the Hunterian Museum, the medal commemorating the regency of the Duke of Albany is unique because it is so coin like in appearance. It is rather small, round, and thin for a medal. Unlike many other medals it does not have a portrait of the Duke of Albany. It is unusual in this regard as medals from this time often included some kind of portrait.

The story of this medal starts on the 9th of September, 1513 when King James IV was killed during the Battle of Flodden.[22] This left his seventeen month old son, James V, the king of Scotland.[23] James IV’s will stipulated that his wife Margaret would care for his son, though this was quickly opposed as she was “a woman and, worse still, she was an English woman.”[24] The closest adult male relation was John Stewart, Duke of Albany, the son of James III’s “exiled brother Alexander and his French wife.”[25] Albany was a much more appealing choice, especially because of his close connections with France, which would hopefully allow for a better relationship, especially in terms of foreign policy. It was 1515 by the time John Stewart came to Scotland; he had never been before and did not even speak Scots.[26] He was far more French than Scottish. In the following years Albany spent periods of time in Scotland, when he was not attending to other duties in France. The Duke of Albany had little interest in the throne because he held lands in Auvergne, where “his longterm future was located firmly.”[27] In November of 1516 Albany’s position was “formally recognized by parliament.”[28] In the following years Albany split his time between France and Scotland, which lead to instability in Scotland. He attempted to maintain control over Scotland but had trouble with people who opposed his rule. Albany’s time as regent was supposed to bring “French-assisted good rule”[29] to the country, but instead only lead to “short interludes of order amidst instability.”[30] He neither failed nor succeeded in his position as Lord Governor of Scotland. The Duke of Albany’s time as regent left him feeling like “a hawk mobbed by crows,”[31] prompting to leave for France in May of 1524.[32] When John left he stated that if he did not return by the first of September he would “forfeit the governorship.”[33] In the end he did not return, as François I was happy with the relations with England and therefore refused to allow Albany to return.[34] This medal was struck in 1524, most likely by the Duke of Albany, but it is unknown whether it was done before he left Scotland in May or afterwards, in France. As it commemorates the duke of Albany’s regency it most certainly would have been created prior to his renunciation of his position as regent. Unfortunately very little is know about the medal, from where it was made to who it was given to and how it ended up with Dr. William Hunter.

The public might be interested in the medal commemorating the regency of the Duke of Albany for a variety of reasons. For Scots it would be meaningful as it is made of Scottish gold and also represents an important part of Scottish history. The medal could be interesting to anyone purely because it is made of gold and is almost five hundred years old. Displaying the medal as part of an exhibition would be an easy way to make it accessible to the public. The medal could be used in variety of exhibits, as it is connected to coins and medals, Scottish gold, and James V. Ideally it would also be included in an online component of the exhibition, giving the public easier access to pictures and information. Modern technology could go beyond displaying the medal in a museum and online. In this situation 3D printing could be utilized in a new and exciting way to help the public interact with the coin. This could be done in two ways and ideally both at the same time. First, the museum where the medal is being displayed could have a 3D printer. It would provide an easy and affordable way for visitors to take a souvenir home. Having a three-dimensional copy of the medal to hold in one’s hands would change the experience entirely. Visitors would not be limited to seeing an object behind glass, often with only one side being shown at a time. A copy of the medal would allow anyone to examine the size, colour, and markings on the coin without actually holding the original. Additionally, a tactile experience such as this would help to include younger children in the museum experience, because they would not be left looking at exhibits. Being able to interact with what they are seeing would enhance the experience and make it much more engaging.

The second step would involve including a copy of the 3D with the online aspect of the exhibition. This would allow anyone around the world with access to a 3d printer to print a copy of the medal. This would widen access to the entire world, rather than just people who could visit the museum. Other museums could utilize it to accompany their display without the cost and process of securing the original medal. High schools could use it for history classes, or even as an aspect of STEM courses that included 3D printing. It could also be useful for university level classes that do not have access to such items in local museums, archives, or collections. Overall sharing the 3D model with the public would increase access and help educate a wider audience about medals and Scottish history.

Allowing for 3D printing of the medal would expand the average museum experience and take it to a new level. It would encourage more interaction with such an important object at a low price and with limited security risks. Introducing 3D printing would also take advantage of new technology that could be expanded beyond medals to objects such as coins and statues. Merging technology and history would allow museums to spread knowledge to a wider audience and renew interest in museums through a new medium.



[1] Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal, (London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1979), 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] ‘Medal (obverse), commemorating John, Duke of Albany’, National Museums Scotland <http://nms.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-100-045-648-C> [accessed 10 November 2016].

[4] Edward Hawkins, Augustus Wollaston Franks, and Herbert A. Grueber, Medallic Illustrations of The History of Great Britain and Ireland to the Death of George II, (London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum, 1885), 28.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Robert William Cochran-Patrick, Catalogue of the Medals of Scotland From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1884), 35.

[7] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[8] Cochran-Patrick, Medals of Scotland, 35.

[9] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Neil D. L. Clark, Alison Sheridan, and Donal Bateson, Scottish Gold, (Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing, 2014), 2.

[12] Ibid., 22.

[13] ‘Medal (obverse), commemorating John, Duke of Albany’.

[14] George Francis Hill, Medals of the Renaissance, (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), 169.

[15] ‘Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals’, The Hunterian <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/visit/exhibitions/exhibitionprogramme/momentsinhistory/#/introduction,objectsofdesire,chasingimmortality> [accessed 13 November 2016] (para 4).

[16] ‘Coins and Medals’, The Hunterian <http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/collectionsummaries/coinsandmedals/#d.en.199557> [accessed 9 November 2016] (para 1, 2).

[17] ‘Moments in History: William Hunter’s British Medals’.

[18] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, 28.

[19] Ibid.

[20] ‘Collection online: medal/electrotype’, The British Museum <http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=953026&partId=1&people=51568&peoA=51568-3-9&page=1> [accessed 13 November 2016].

[21] Cochran-Patrick, Medals of Scotland, 36.

[22] ‘James V’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/14591?docPos=1> [accessed 15 November 2016] (para 2).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Jane E. A. Dawson, Scotland Re-Formed, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 93.

[25] ‘James V’, para 3.

[26] Ibid., para 5.

[27] Dawson, Scotland Re-Formed, 94.

[28] Ibid., 98.

[29] Ibid., 107.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] ‘James V’, para 6.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

Coinage of James III R.1460-1488 (Type II, IV, VI)

Our fourth blog from the 2016-17 class comes from April Hunter, who looks at the evolving portraiture of James III in a series of coins he issued in his later personal reign. The examples used here all come from the Hunterian Coin Collection. 

James III was the King of Scotland from 1460-1488 and is best remembered for his weak and unpopular kingship. Such disdain for the monarch escalated into political uprisings and national discontent which culminated in James III’s imprisonment at Edinburgh Castle in 1482 and his eventual death at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488.[1] Despite his failings however, James III has been regarded by some as the first renaissance monarch of Scotland.[2] Others though have challenged such a view[3] but through a comparative case study of the coinage produced during his reign, it will be found that James III was greatly influenced by the flowering of Renaissance art and ideas of kingship as they emerged out of continental Europe.

James III produced a great number of coins in all metals but is most noted for his issue of six silver groats. All the coins in this set were produced by striking, where the inverse metallic die version of the image was pressed onto a plain coin’s surface. I had the opportunity to see three of the silver coins issued by the monarch, Type II, IV, VI, at the newly-refurbished Kelvin Hall which now hosts the Hunterian Museum’s coin and medallion collection. These coins came to the museum as part of a collection donated by Mrs M. Cuthbert after the death of her husband James W. Cuthbert in 1999. The coins all have the same inscribed legend on the obverse in Latin (albeit different spellings, full Latin inscriptions in footnotes) which when translated read, ‘James by the Grace of God King of Scotland’. The Type IV and VI coin issues also have the same reverse outer legend, ‘God is my Defender and Protector’, which was the motto of House Stewart. All three coins have the inner legend reading, ‘Edinburgh town’[4] which confirms Edinburgh as the minting site which was well established for such craft since the time of David I (1124).[5] Equally, it is unsurprising these coins were minted in the capital as it formed the base from which James III ‘ran his administration’[6] and indeed rarely left, despite enduring heavy criticism.

The first coin examined was a Type II silver base issue 6 pence scots coin, (figure 1) believed to have been minted by the coin master William Goldsmith[7] from 1471 to c1483.[8] The coin, which is on a 180˚ axis and in fine condition, weighs 31.3gr with a diameter of 25mm.

Figure 1

This coin should weigh approximately 33.65gr,[9] but this difference can be attributed to the missing part of the coin between 6 and 9 o’clock that appears to have worn away. The obverse image is in low relief but depicts James III, facing half-right in a surcoat and armour, wearing a crown of five fleurs. The reverse features a floriated cross with thistle heads and mullets in alternate angles. The addition of the thistle is significant as it was the first time it featured on a coin as the Scottish national emblem. The portrait image, whilst not an accurate depiction of James III, is still noteworthy as it is a real attempt at portraiture and is believed to be the earliest instance of portrait coinage to appear in northern Europe.[10] James III can therefore be seen to be drawing parallels between himself and the great renaissance rulers of Europe such as Francesco Sforza who produced the first realistic coin portrait in 1466.[11]

What detracts from the coin however is that the sterling silver in this issue was debased to a fineness of 0.770 (compared to the standard 0.925 fineness in all of his other issues).[12] James III’s legacy is unquestionably centred around his drastically unpopular debasement of the Scottish coinage, particularly between 1480 and 1482, in which he produced very basic billion and copper coins known as ‘black money’.[13] This led to a monetary inflation which devalued the Scottish coin against its English counterpart and exacerbated socio-economic woes. Worth noting however is that the king was in fact acting in line with the devaluation practices of other European countries like France and Italy at this time. The circulation of small copper coins during James III’s reign was useful in providing change in minor transactions and highlights the influence that renaissance ideas and continental practices had on Scotland.[14] James III’s experiment can however be deemed a failure and was widely unpopular, as evidenced by the fact smaller copper coins were not to be struck again until 1597.

Until the later 15th century, only stylized representations of royal busts had appeared on coins. An example of this style of coin is Type IV[15] (figure 2) light issue 12 pence scots silver coin, weighting 41.6gr with a diameter of 25mm and minted by master Alexander Livingstone[16].

Figure 2

The obverse features a highly stylised forward-facing bust of a generic looking king, wearing a crown of five fleurs. On the reverse, which is on a 180˚ axis, is alternate segments of pellets and mullets of five points separated by the St Andrew’s cross. With James III’s first attempt at portraiture coinage in 1471; it seems surprising that he would then regress back to this older design model between 1482 and 1484. Whilst there is not a definitive reason for why this coin issue featured a regression back to earlier stylised designs, it is possible it was for trading purposes. This forward-facing bust may have been more acceptable in England as it was similar in appearance to the coins produced during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, and therefore might have been useful in facilitating trade between the two kingdoms. Whilst James III does however depart again from this medieval style in favour of new renaissance-inspired portrait coins, James IV during his reign reverts Scottish coinage back to pre-renaissance design. This perhaps suggests that James III was more modern, forward-thinking and receptive to new ideas in terms of coinage design than his son and predecessor.

The last silver coin I had the opportunity to examine was a type VI[17] issue worth 14 pence scots (figure 3). This main issue coin was minted from 1484-1488, weighing 43.5gr with a 25mm diameter but ought to weigh approximately 47.14gr[18]; even with taking into account

Figure 3

reasonable wear. Whilst the condition of the coin is generally fine, I came to the conclusion that this coin had been ‘clipped’ between 4 and 6 o’clock. Clipping was a medieval crime that involved the shaving of metal from the coin’s circumference and then over time melting down the clippings to make new coins.[19] This clipped silver coin thus serves to highlight the various means of coin debasement that continued even late into James III’s reign. Also visible at 7 o’clock on the obverse of the coin is a small annulet on the border, near the shoulder of the bust, which could be a privy mark of the minter, master Alexander Livingstone from 1476-1488 and/or James Criton in 1488.[20]

This coin is particularly noteworthy when compared to the second issue groat (figure 1), which portrays an unrealistic depiction of the king with an open crown, and issue four which features a stylised front facing bust (figure 2). This issue instead displays James III in realistic likeness, aged at least thirty, in a three quarter left profile and wearing an imperial crown. The coin is on a 360˚ axis with the reverse having crowns and pellets in alternative quarters separated by St Andrew’s cross. The crown James III is depicted wearing is significant as following an act of parliament in 1469 a scheme of imperial iconography in royal artwork and architecture was adopted to reflect the king’s belief in the superior power of the Scottish crown.[21] Whilst James III did not undertake extensive building projects during his reign he did commission small-scale work at Linlithgow Palace and Restalrig church in Edinburgh, which were modelled on grand renaissance architecture. Additionally, through the imperial imagery on the coin, James III can be seen to be relating to an Ancient Greco-Roman past in which portrait coins were used as a means of giving credibility and prestige to a ruler’s reign. In turn this coin attempts to establish James III as rex imperator in regno suo,[22] thereby illustrating the king’s use of Renaissance techniques to consolidate royal power during a time of rebellion and opposition to the crown.

It was common practice for renaissance coin portraits to be modelled on larger representations, with the portrait on this coin having been likened to the illustration of James on the Trinity College church altarpiece. The Trinity Altarpiece is a set of four paintings in oil on wood (with the fifth central panel lost) and was commissioned for the Trinity College Kirk in Edinburgh, completed sometime in the early 1480s.[23] The piece has been attributed to the Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes and depicts a devout King James III, wearing an imperial crown, (figure 4)[24] kneeling with his son, James IV, and the queen, accompanied

Figure 4

by the patron saints of Scotland and England. A reasonable assertion has been made that the face of James III was added to the panel after the remainder of the painting had been completed; most likely by a Scottish artist who knew the king rather than Van der Goes himself who had never visited Scotland.[25] This painting of the king alongside the similar portrait depicted on this silver groat, helps reinforce James III’s imperial views of kingship through his patronage to the arts.

With ‘history’ becoming more popular and commodified in recent years due to TV shows like ‘Tudors,’ ‘Reign’ and ‘Outlander’, there is now a growing curiosity surrounding Anglo-Scottish medieval history and kingship. Consequently, I believe that these coins will be of great interest to the public. In regards to increasing their accessibility, a small temporary public exhibition at the Hunterian Museum, or a private tour at the New Kelvin Hall would be a fantastic way of showcasing the coins. Currently, the Hunterian has a small medal exhibition which has proven to very popular and there is no reason why a similar coin exhibition, perhaps alongside other pieces from the Cuthbert collection, would not be as well. Also, by advertising through newsletters such as Glasgow University’s own campus e-news to university staff and students, as well as through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, a wider audience can be reached. Kelvin Hall also has its own online beta database and therefore would be a solid platform for detailed coin description, analysis and imagery. I personally feel that an online resource like this would be especially useful as there is currently limited information online in regards to 15th century Scottish coinage. Ultimately, I feel that technology would be one of the best means of engagement, however a free exhibition at the Hunterian is unquestionably the greatest stage for displaying such important historical artefacts. I have found the most interesting information in researching for this project to have came from viewing and engaging with these coins on a close and personal level and believe that the public would truly benefit from such an experience as well.

To conclude, there are significant signs that James III attempted to become a different kind of ruler from previous monarchs with the second and last issue of his silver portrait groats, alongside his small-scale building efforts at Linlithgow and Restalrig, reinforcing the idea of the Stewart as Scotland’s first renaissance king. Deeply interested and influenced by renaissance style of art and architecture, James III used Scottish coinage to convey his desire to appear in line with current European trends but lost his reputation and life at the hands of his enemies. Ultimately, this work has examined in detail the relationship between the renaissance and reign of James III but it is only through further detailed analysis and investigation of fifteenth century material culture that James’s renaissance legacy will be fully understood.




Bateson, J. D., Coinage in Scotland, (Spink, 1997).

Brown, Michael., and Tanner, Roland., Scottish Kingship 1306-1542, Essays in Honour of Norman Macdougall, (John Donald, 2008).

Cochran-Patrick, R. W., Records of the Coinage of Scotland: Volume I, (Edmonston and Douglas, 1876).

Cooper, George., The origin of Finnancial Crises, (Harriman House, 2008).

Lynch, Michael., The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, (Oxford University, 2011).

Macdougall, Norman., James III a Political Study, (John Doland, 2009).

Porteous, John., Coins in History, (Weindenfeld and Nicolson, 1969).

Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2016.

Stewart, Ian., The Scottish Coinage, (Spink, 1967).

[1]Michael Lynch, The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, (Oxford University, 2011), P.102.

[2]Norman Macdougall, James III a Political Study, (John Doland, 2009), P.368.


[4]Inscriptions as seen on the coins: Type II obverse: IACOBVS. DEI. GRA. REX.SCOTORVM, reverse: VIL.LA E. DINB. (VRGH).

Type IV obverse: IACOB(VS). DEI. GRA. REX. SCOTORM, reverse: (—–).ECTOR.(–)ES(–) IB.EATVR ER and VILL.A EDE. NBEO.VRGE.


[5]Lynch, Scottish History, P.65.

[6]Macdougall, James III, P.368.

[7]R. W. Cochran-Patrick, Records of the Coinage of Scotland: Volume I, (Edmonston and Douglas, 1876), P.20.

[8]Coin reference: Hunterian catalogue GLAHM 14607, Spink 5270, Stewart 103 and Burns 580 No.10. Note the Burns reference was exceedingly difficult to find and therefore this is the only coin I will provide this reference for.

[9]Ian Stewart, The Scottish Coinage, (Spink, 1967), P.141

[10]J. D. Bateson, Coinage in Scotland, (Spink, 1997), P.66.

[11]John Porteous, Coins in History, (Weindenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), P.144.


[13]Macdougall, James, P.158.

[14]Bateson, Coinage in Scotland, P.73.

[15]GLAHM 14609, Stewart 105, Spink 5280. According to Stewart, Scottish Coinage, p.141, coin should weigh 39.26gr.

[16]Cochran-Patrick, Coinage of Scotland, P.20.

[17]GLAHM 14608, Stewart 105, Spink 5288.

[18]Ian Stewart, The Scottish Coinage, P.141.

[19]George Cooper, The origin of Finnancial Crises, (Harriman House, 2008), P.46.

[20]Cochran-Patrick, Coinage of Scotland, P.20.

[21]Roland Tanner, ‘James III (1460-1488)’, in Michael Brown and Roland Tanner, Scottish Kingship 1306-1542, Essays in Honour of Norman Macdougall, (John Donald, 2008), P.214.

[22]Latin for ‘emperor within his own kingdom’.

[23]Macdougall, James III, P.249.

[24]Permission for image reproduction granted by Royal Collection Trust /© HM Queen Elizabeth II 2016.

[25]Macdougall, James III, P.249.