Rerum Scoticarum historia .. Accessit De iure regni apud Scotos dialogus, eodem.

[Antwerp : Printed by G. van den Rade] M.D.XXCIII. Ad exemplar Alexandri Arbuthneti editum Edimburgi, [1583]


Folio. ff. [iv], 85, [i], 74-249, [i]. [ 3*)⁴, A⁴, B-M⁶, N-P⁴, Q⁴(-Q4) R⁴ S-2Z⁶.] Roman letter, some Italic. Large woodcut printer’s device on title, grotesque woodcut initials and woodcut headpieces, bookplate of James Maitland Anderson on pastedown. Title page very slightly dusty, general age yellowing, some very minor mostly marginal spotting. A very good copy in C18th quarter vellum over dark grey paste paper boards, title manuscript on spine, all edges sprinkled red, corners worn, edges rubbed.

Rare second edition edition, clandestinely printed at Antwerp, of this important History of Scotland and the most important work of George Buchanan (1506-1582), Scotch historian and scholar, man of affairs and sometime tutor to James VI. The ‘History’ was Buchanan’s chef d’oeuvre and was an immense success. It was immediately translated into the continental languages and was the chief, if not the only source from which foreigners knew anything about Scotland. By the middle of the C18 it had been reprinted nineteen times. The first three books give a description of the physical characteristics of the country and the rest its history by the reigns of its kings. The earliest part is largely fabulous; from Malcolm on it improves, and by the middle of the C13 it is a work of value. By the reign of James V it has the merit of being written by a virtual contemporary, albeit a very partisan one. For Buchanan, Mary could do no right and her opponents no wrong. “For a time Buchanan was on very good terms with Mary, ..Following the murder of Mary’s second husband Lord Darnley, in 1567, Buchanan turned against her and became the Queen’s most violent detractor. Buchanan was instrumental in preparing the case for the prosecution against Mary, narrating her misdeeds and attempting to justify her deposition in the polemical ‘De Maria Scotorum Regina’.. His political theory had the same aim, justifying the rights of resistance against tyrannical monarchs … In his Rerum Scoticarum Historia, published in 1582,the last year of his life Buchanan sought to demonstrate that his principles of resistance were embedded in the grand sweep of Scottish history.” Dr Caroline Erskine. ‘George Buchanan: Political Thought in Early Modern Britain and Europe’. The work was immensely influential in shaping popular opinion, not just in its own time but for nearly two centuries afterwards, and no Scotch historian of the period can neglect it. The work was also particularly influential in England particularly on writers such as Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser. “It is also evident that large numbers of English readers had access to sections of Buchanan’s Rerum Scoticarum Historia, even if they could not read the Latin edition of 1582, through the – admittedly hostile – translation/adaption of Francis Thynne published in Holinshed’s Chronicles when it was revised in 1587, one of whom was William Shakespeare. As it was likely -but hardly inevitable- that James VI of Scotland would succeed Elizabeth, there was an understandably widespread interest in the violent and rocky course of Scottish history in England in the late 1580’s and early 1590’s” Dr Caroline Erskine. ‘

The ‘De Iure Regni’ (pub. 1579) is Buchanan’s principal political work. It is a defence of limited monarchy, a statement of the duties of monarchs to subjects, a plea for popular election of kings and a justification for their popular deposition. Three editions were published in three years and it was read everywhere – until banned in 1584. It was much relied on in Parliamentary England sixty years later.

J Maitland Anderson was Librarian (and at other times Secretary, Quaestor and Registrar) of the University of St Andrews from 1881-1925, as well as acting as Keeper of Muniments until his death. Anderson became an eminent historian of the University and St Andrews in general.

ESTC S107130. STC 3992. Aldis 187.5. Lowndes I 300.


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