[DUFF, E. GORDON (1893) 'The Two First Books Printed in the Scottish Language ', Papers of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society 1892-93, vol. 3, Edinburgh: Printed for the Society. This was read before the Society on January 12, 1893.]

Edinburgh Bibliographical Society.



N 1503, or thereabouts, two books were issued at Paris which have, or should have, the greatest interest to us as Scotchmen, since they are the two earliest books printed in the Scottish language. That they came from a French press is a matter for no surprise, when we consider the intimate relations of the two countries at that time; and, again, we know that out [lit.] first printer, Androw Myllar, obtained his knowledge as well as his printing materials from France. The advantages in obtaining education had attracted many Scotchmen to Paris, nor as we well know, were they the least eminent sons of a foreign university; while others had gone to the French metropolis purely from the expectation of success in business.
      The learned paper of Mr Scott has traced for us the career of Davis Lauxius, the Edinburgh press corrector in Hopyl's office, who, beginning in the printing office, the refuge of learned men in a foreign country, left it to become the schoolmaster of Arras. He was doubtless a learned man, otherwise he would hardly have gained the friendship of Badius Ascensius, the versatile editor of the early sixteenth century.
      The translator of the two following books must have been a man placed in somewhat similar circumstances—living in Paris, knowing Latin and a certain amount of French. Unfortunately, we have absolutely nothing to give us a clue as to who he may have been. The extreme rarity of the two books I am about to describe makes it quite possible to hope that there may be others of the same class still lying hid in some unexplored library which may contain some fuller information on the subject.
      But let us now come to the books themselves, and take first the least interesting of the two—The Art of Good Living and Good Dying.

p.2 /

      It begins on the recto of the first leaf:—

The book Intytulyd The art
of good lyvyng & good deyng;
and on the verso of the same leaf is a cut of St George and the Dragon.
      The recto of the second leaf contains the cut of a man presenting his book to another man, who is sitting in a large seat; under this the text begins:—
      Our god impera- | tor et makar of | hewen et erth and | in the begynnyng | of tyme and of al | thigys of noth wyth out ony | mater lyeng tharto. And ar al | the said thynges maid cotenit | en fowr thyngys the qwich ar | ewyn yat is to say a thyng et | of a age in the quhyche shyn- | nys. The soweraine myth of | owr makar. The said forthyn- | gys ar the Ewyn Empre na- | ...
      This is the text of the first page, and it gives a good idea of the language of the rest of the book, a language not always too clear.
      The book ends as follows [on ii. 7 recto]:—
      Et thys suffycys of the ioys of paradys & conseqwently | of al the traytte the qwych as beyn translatyt in | parys the xiii. day of May of franch in englysh oon | thowsand v. hondreth et. iii. zears prayant the | reyddars that yt playsyt them that they vold | mend the fawlt9 of the traslator & to pray for | the saowllys of the actor traslator and that | he wold fynaly bryng them in the gloyr et ioy | aboue sayd and al other good crystyn men | Amen. |
¶ Heyr endyth the traytte of | god lyuyng and good deyng et | of paynys of hel et the paynys | of purgatoyr the traytte of the | cummyng of ante cryst the xv. | syngys goyng afor the iugemet | general of god the ioyes of pa- | radys and the iugement gene- | ral imprentyt in parys the xxx | day of the mowneth of May.
      On the verso of this leaf is Verard's device. On the recto of the last leaf is the same cut as occurs on the first, while the verso of the leaf is blank.
      Collation a—z. & .aa—gg6 hh—ii8; 202 leaves (1-202), thirty-three lines to the page, two columns.
      The finest copy known is in the Library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. It is in very good condition and quite perfect.
      There are three other copies known, all more or less imperfect, in the Libraries of Lincoln Cathedral, the Bodleian, and the British Museum.
      This book seems to be very similar to Andrew Chedsey's Passion of p.3 / Christ, with the contemplacions translated out of French into English; but I have never seen a copy of that book, and only know it from odd leaves discovered in bindings. The originals are: Of the Art of good living and Dying, L'art de bien vivre et de bien mourir, in its turn translated from the Ars bene vivendi et moriendi. The Comynge of Antichrist is translated from the Traité de l'avenement de l'Antechrist et des 15 signes précédens le jugement et des joyes du Paradis, 1492; and from L'Eguillon de crainte divine pour bien mourir, ou Traité des peines d'Enfer et de Purgatoire, printed by Gilles Cousteau et Jean Menard for Antoine Verard, fol. 1492.
      A translation of the same collection was published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1505, entitled The craft to live well and to dye well. Copies of this book are in the John Rylands Library and in the library of the Marquis of Bath at Longleat.
      The Ordinary of Christian Men, printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1502 and 1506, is a similar compilation.
      The second book is one of much more general interest, and is the first — let us say British — translation of the well-known Kalendrier des Bergers.
      On a
I recto is the title (see facsimile), which is not printed from type, but is struck from a woodcut thus:—
The kalendayr of
the shyppars.
Below this are twenty-five lines of type, giving a list of the contents of the book.
      On the verso of the first page is a picture of a man, with several companions behind him, presenting his book to another person seated in a large chair.
      On the recto of the second leaf is a cut of the shepherd gazing at the stars, and below this the text begins:—Oon shyppart kepant hys sheyp in the feyldys qwych was | not clerk et had no wnderstondyng of wryttys bot oonly | be hys naturel wyt et wnderstondyng sayd. How weeyl | that leywyng et deyng to the playsyr et wyl of owr lord etc.
      The book ends on the verso of leaf 95 with the following colophon:—
¶  Heyr endyth the kalendar of shyppars
translatyt of franch in englysh to the lowyng
of almyghty god & of hys gloryows mother
mary and of the holy cowrt of hywyn pren-
tyt in parys the .xxiii. day of myng oon thow-

p.4 /

      The last leaf is not known, but is almost certain to have contained Verard's device.
      Throughout the book are numbers of cuts, none of them specially made for the edition, but taken from various other books. The larger and more important cuts had already been used in the editions of L'art de bien vivre et de bien mourir, issued by Verard in 1492, 1493, and 1496; and after having been used in this Calendar of 1503, they came over to England, and were used by Pynson in his edition of 1506, and they are found also in many of the later editions.
      Collation a–m8; 96 leaves (1–96), one column, 40 lines to the page.
      Two copies are known, one belonging to the Duke of Devonshire [bought in 1810 from the Roxburghe Sale for £180], which wants the last leaf, and another in the John Rylands Library, wanting sixteen leaves. A fragment of two leaves is amongst the Douce fragments at Oxford.
      There is very little doubt that this book was printed by or for Anthony Verard. Unfortunately, the last leaf is wanting in both copies, so that we cannot tell whether it contained a printer's device. As the earlier book contains no notice of a printer or publisher beyond Verard's device on the last leaf, it is hardly an unjust surmise if we consider it probable that had the present book a last leaf it would contain Verard's device.
      But there is one point especially to be noticed about the book, and that is that the type in which the greater part is printed is not known to have been used for any other book. When I say this I mean that no other book is known in this type; but I found some years ago a leaf, and, lately, fragments of some more leaves in the same type, and these fragments form portions of a book which is also very strongly linked with the history of Scottish literature. The leaves are from what is probably the first edition of Barclay's translation of Gringoire's Chasteau de Labour, and I have very little doubt that the edition was printed under Barclay's eye at Paris before he returned to England and took orders. As he is supposed to have returned about 1505, we may place these fragments about 1503-1504, which brings them into the same period as the other two books. Barclay's work, however, is not written in the Scottish tongue, or any approach to it, so that we may at once dismiss absolutely any idea that he was connected in any way with the other two books. His language was always un-provincial, and, indeed he gives us so very slight a clue to his nationality that, had it not been p.5 / for the very painstaking and careful work of Mr Jamieson, he would probably by this time have been claimed for England.
      Both these books are clearly the work of one man, and he was evidently a Scotchman; and when in 1508 the book was reprinted by Wynkyn de Worde, we have a preface from his translator and corrector, Richard Copland, who had a great knowledge of French, and there we find:—
      . . . . "¶ Not long tyme passed I beynge in my chambre where as were many pamfletes and bokes whiche in avoydynge ydlenes moder of all vyces I ententyfly behelde; thynkynge to passe the longe wynters nyght, and sodeynly there came to my hand one of the sayd bokes of the shepeherdes kalender in rude and scottysshe language, whiche I redde, and perceyvynge the mater to be ryhht compendyous, and remembrynge howe the people desyre to here and se newe thynges I shewed the sayd boke unto my worshypful mayster Wynkyn de worde, at whose commaundement and instygacyon I Robert Coplande have me applyed dyrectly to translate it out of frensshe agayne in to our maternall tongue after the capacyte of myne understandynge accordynge to myne Auctoure."
      What I have just quoted is from the third edition, and I have put it first because it plainly declares the language to be Scottish; but the translator or reviser of the second edition, printed by Richard Pynson in 1506, was doubtful about the language of the first edition, though he does not definitely say what he considered it to be. He says: "Here before tyme thys boke was prynted in parys in to corrupte englysshe and nat by no englysshe man wherfore these bokes that were brought into Englande no man coude understande." Now, if we can take this sentence as truthful "in substance and in fact," it shows us two curious things—first (though this is only implied), that the editor did not know that the version of 1503 was in Scottish, and secondly, that English people could not understand it.
      As to the personality of the translator we have little to guide us. At the end of the Kalendar of Shepherdes he has added a chapter on the "Ten Christian Nations," not found in the French original, and says in the introduction to it: "I pretend in thys lytel traytte to speyk of maynay nacyons crestyens the qwych ar dywydyt in .x. queyr of I shal declayr after ys [this?] I have fond be wryt in the latyn tong and shal translayt in englysh after the capycyte of my lytel wnderstondyng and doyand thys yf I ar that yf pleys to at translaturs to excus my zowtheyd [youth?] in the qwych I am and amend my fawltes, for yf I haue faylltzyt I put me to al amendyng."
      This passage, so far as it is possible to understand it, seems to show that the translator was young.
      His knowledge of French was certainly very poor; for instance, he p.6 / translates "Combien que vivre et mourir soit au plesir et volonte de nostre seigneur si doit," etc., by "How weeyl that leywyng et deyng to the pleasyr et wyl of owr lord shold man lyue," etc.
      One small point in the book shows, I think, conclusively that the translator was a Scotchman. Speaking of the Latin nation, and mentioning the kings of Europe, he puts the King of Scotland first.
      A facsimile of the Kalendar has lately been published, with "prolegomena," by Dr Oskar Sommar. His remarks, though voluminous, do not much advance our knowledge. He concludes thus:—
      "Bearing in mind the existence of these intimate relations between the two countries [France and Scotland], we cannot be at all surprised to hear that, besides those young Scotchmen who went to Paris to pursue or to complete their studies, there were others who came over to learn a profession as, e.g., printing. It is more than probable that the translator of the Traytte and the Kalendayr was a young Scotchman of this description, who came into contact with Antoine Verard, the declared pbulisher of the Traytte, who most likely also published the Kalendayr. Verard had certainly no idea of the difference of English and Scotch, or he would never have ventured a speculation with so doubtful a success as the publication of the two books."
      Dr Sommar seems to me to look at the matter in quite a wrong light. I do not for a moment suppose that the books were intended for sale in England. They were printed in the Scottish language for sale in Scotland.
      Again, the excessive number of misprints, often of the most careless and stupid description, and the rendering of "&" by "et," surely point to the fact that the book was set up by Frenchmen, and that there was no Scotchman in the office either to assist in printing or to correct the proofs.
      We know from the colophon of the Traytte that the translator was in Paris in May 1503; beyond this we have no information.

The Edinburgh Bibliographical Society.


Issued with Printed Papers of Session 1893-94.

First leaf of 'The Art of Good Living and Good Dying', 1503

St. George and the Dragon, from 'The Art of Good Living and Good Dying', 1503

Title and contents of 'The kalendayr of the shyppars', 1503


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