JOHNSTON, John Inscriptiones historicae regum Scotorum.

Amsterdam, Cornelius Claessonius for Andrew Hart, bookseller of Edinburgh , 1602


FIRST EDITION, first issue (variant), 4to., pp (xiv) (ii) 60 (xx). Roman letter, double page engr. arms of James I preceding text, ten full page eng. portraits of the Scottish kings and Queens following; printer’s ornaments throughout. Fore edge of last 4 portraits neatly strengthened on blank versos, title dusty and slightly soiled with two small repairs to fore edge, lower blank margin of next leaf and few lower outer corners all with old small repairs, nowhere affecting text; a few small marginal dirt or dust marks, but generally clean and good. Early autograph ‘W. Stonehouse’ plus price at head of t-p, large armorial bookplate of the very distinguished collector William Stirling Maxwell on front pastedown, decorative label ‘Arts of Design’ circling ‘Keir’ on rear. Bound for Stirling Maxwell by Leighton C1900 in crushed dark green morocco, large decorative ‘Arts and Crafts’ style central panel on each cover incorporating Maxwell’s armorial devices, spine gilt (a bit worn), a.e.g.

First edition of this rare work by Johnston (?1570-1611) Scottish poet, who styled himself ‘Aberdonensis’ and whose family hailed from Crimond near Aberdeen – where Johnston studied at Kings College, before spending eight years at various continental universities. He became a friend of Justus Lipsius and doubtless of the other scholars whose epigrams preface the present work – among them Joseph Scaliger, Jan Dousa and Daniel Heinsius. He was also closely attached to Andrew Melville, who probably helped him to obtain the professorship of divinity at St. Andrews c1593, when he was ‘Maister of the new college’. The present work is a series of epigrammatic addresses to the Scottish Kings from Fergus I to James VI (to whom it is dedicated) highlighting their characteristics, exhibiting their virtues and referring to the principal events of their reigns. The verses are more interesting for their historical perspective than their poetry. The anonymous portraits – of Robert II, Robert III, James II, James III, James IV, James V, Mary, James VI and Anne are very finely executed and in excellent strong impression. Neither their source nor maker has been identified. In mid C19 hand on inserted fly “A very rare book. The Roxburghe copy sold for £13.13. In addition to the 10 portraits this copy has a plate of the arms of James VI … which has not been mentioned by Lowndes, + 1 leaf of preliminary matters (beginning with the verses of J.C. Scaliger) seldom found. At a sale in 1854 or 5 (I think at W. Duncan Gardiner’s) a copy was sold for £10 to Lord Breadalbane”.

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