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Inglis, Esther, c 1570-1624 (Scottish calligrapher)



  • Existence: c 1570 - 1624


Esther Inglis (c.1570-1624) was a Franco-Scottish Huguenot calligrapher, writer, and artist, associated with the court of King James VI/I. She was the daughter of French parents, Nicolas Langlois and Marie Presot, who emigrated as refugees from Dieppe to Britain, shortly after 1570, to escape religious persecution. “Inglis” is an Anglicism of her family name, “Langlois” or “Anglois”, which Esther adopted in her work from 1606. Marie Presot was herself a calligrapher, who taught Esther how to write, while Nicolas Langlois was a schoolmaster. The family eventually settled in Edinburgh, where Esther was to spend most of her life and career. Esther Inglis was a prolific and exceptionally skilled scribe; a corpus of over 62 manuscripts survives worldwide, and she produced these books as gifts which were often presented to prospective patrons. Many of her manuscripts include dedications which show that they were intended for recipients including English and Scottish royals (Elizabeth I, James VI/I, and Prince Henry), members of European royal families, and Scottish nobility. Inglis married a Scotsman, Bartholomew Kello, in 1596. Inglis’ manuscripts are often miniature, and might contain up to forty different scripts within the same book, from letters just one millimetre high, to elaborate alphabets which she copies from the manuals of sixteenth-century writing-masters. Some of Inglis’ manuscripts have embroidered covers; some imitate the appearance of printed books; some are illuminated in styles which are associated with earlier traditions of manuscript-making. The texts of Inglis’ manuscripts are all religious, copying either the words of the Geneva Bible, or works of devotional prose or verse. Inglis included self-portraits in many of her manuscripts, which usually show her in the act of writing; she presents herself as being guided in her craft by her Protestant belief. Within her lifetime, Inglis was praised by writers including Andrew Melville, and by contemporary scribes who saw her manuscripts. The Inglis manuscripts now held at Edinburgh University Library were formerly owned by David Laing (1793-1878), who was Inglis’ first collector.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Album amicorum of George Craig, written by various scholars and professors in England, France, Switzerland, and Germany., 1602-1604

Identifier: La.III.525
Scope and Contents From the Series: Bound volumes constitute Section III of the Laing Collection with shelfmarks La.III. This long series of bound volumes includes copies of the scriptures and portions of the scriptures on vellum; breviaries and missals on vellum; treatises, discourses, sermons and notes on theological matters; and, treatises and notes on philosophical matters. There is historical, legal, and biographical material, and also letters. Within the series too there are some well known Scottish musical texts, poems,...
Dates: 1602-1604

Esther Inglis, "A Treatise of Preparation to the Holy Supper and of our only Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ", 1608 (dated)

Identifier: La.III.75
Scope and Contents The manuscript contains a prose religious treatise, copied by Esther Inglis as a gift for Sir David Murray of Gorthy (1567-1629), her friend and companion to the Prince Henry. Sir David Murray was the recipient of three of Inglis’ manuscripts, with this being the first; the others are a Book of Psalms prepared in 1612 (now Wormsley Library, Oxfordshire, BM 1851), and a miniature illuminated manuscript of the "Quatrains of Guy du Faur" (now British Library, MS Harley 4324). The text itself...
Dates: 1608 (dated)

Esther Inglis, "Les Quatrains du Sieur de Pybrac", 1607 (dated)

Identifier: La.III.439
Scope and Contents This manuscript contains the popular religious and moral Quatrains written by Guy du Faur, Seigneur de Pybrac. This calligraphic copy of the Quatrains was produced by Esther Inglis as a gift for the New Year ("pour ses estrennes"), offered to Robert Cecil (1563-1612), 1st Earl of Salisbury. It is one of Esther Inglis’ floral, illuminated manuscripts, which she produces between 1600 and 1608. Within her corpus of...
Dates: 1607 (dated)

Esther Inglis, "Livret traittant de la grandeur de Dieu et de la cognoissance qu’on peut avoir de luy par ses oeuvres", 1592

Identifier: La.III.440
Scope and Contents This manuscript is a decorative copy of Pierre Du Val’s De la grandeur de Dieu et de la cognoissance qu’on peut avoir de luy par ses oeuvres, first published at Paris in 1553. Written by Esther Inglis in 1592, when she was around 22 years old, it forms part of a group of manuscripts produced between 1586 and 1592 which show her early experiments calligraphy and print imitation. The other manuscripts in this group are now British Library, MS Sloane 987 (...
Dates: 1592
f. 3r
f. 3r

Esther Inglis, "Vincula Unionis sive scita Britannicae id est De Unione insulae Britannicae tractatus secundus. Per David Humium Theagrium", 1605

Identifier: La.III.249
Scope and Contents The manuscript is a presentation copy of Book 2 of the ‘Treatise on Union’ composed by David Hume of Godscroft (1558-c.1630), intended for King James VI/I and Prince Henry Frederick. Hume was an important humanist scholar, political theorist, and Neo-Latin poet in Jacobean Scotland. His De Unione insulae Britannicae advocates for the closer political union of England and Scotland, and the formation of a new Britain. As seen on the title-page of this...
Dates: 1605
f. 2r
f. 2r

Specimens of calligraphic styles of writing, 1570-1624 (approximate)

Identifier: La.III.522
Scope and Contents MS La.III.522 is a composite manuscript of late-sixteenth and/or early-seventeenth century pieces of calligraphy, assembled by a later collector. The bulk of the manuscript is a combination of two different calligraphic alphabets with sample-texts, which follow the aspect and structure of early-modern writing-books. One of these decorative alphabets is composed of gothic, knotwork intials, while the other is structured by Roman capital letters against backgrounds of delicate, swirling vines....
Dates: 1570-1624 (approximate)