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La.III.249: Esther Inglis, "Vincula Unionis sive scita Britannicae id est De Unione insulae Britannicae tractatus secundus. Per David Humium Theagrium", 1605

Identifier: La.III.249
f. 3r
f. 3r

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 manuscript, Hume adopted Theagrius as a Latinisation of "Godscroft" in his work, and is referred to by this name in correspondence among contemporaries in his humanist scholarly circles. The first part of De Unione was published in London in 1605, and broadly sets out the advantages of Anglo-Scottish union. The second part, as here, circulated only in manuscript form, and considers the practical means through which a greater fusion of the kingdoms might occur.

The script, presentation, and title-page decoration of this manuscript have led to its attribution to Esther Inglis; this attribution was first given by David Laing in 1867, whose inscription can be seen on the inner front board. Besides this presentation copy, further manuscripts of the second part of Hume’s treatise are known; these are Edinburgh University Library, Dc.5.50(2) and Dc.7.46, National Library of Scotland, Adv.MS 31.6.12, British Library, Royal MS 12 A liii, and Beinecke Library, MS Osborn b.25. These others do not appear to have been intended as gift-books; Inglis’ manuscript, however, is carefully prepared for presentation to royal recipients. Although she does not sign her name as its scribe, the floral illustration added to the title-page becomes the equivalent of a signature, connecting this manuscript to the other illuminated works she produces in this period of her calligraphic career.


Folios ir-2v. Blank, except for ruling

Folio 3r. Title page
Folio 3v. Blank, except for ruling

Folio 4r. Dedication to King James and Prince Henry
Explicit: SUBDITUS AC SERVUS HUMILLIMUS, ADDICTISSIMUS, AMANTISSIMUS, DAVID HUMIUS, amoris observantiae, ac veri affectus monumentu[m], dat, dicat.

Folio 4v. Blank, except for ruling

Folio 5r. Address to the reader
Incipit: Hactenus lato campo libere expaciati sumus, lector, et rem in genere facili opera libavimus
Explicit: sed et his liquidum, et illis lympidum: hoc cogita et vale. 12 Calen: Octobris. 1605.

Folio 5v. Blank, except for ruling

Folio 6r - 37r
Incipit: ARGUMENTUM. Vinculorum necessitas; ad ea tractanda exhortatio, tracta[n]dorum propositio.
Explicit: Pastores; nil est nimium, nil credite abunde.

Incipit: Liceat enim sic mihi unionis hoc stadium iterum ingressuro, ab ipso statim vestibulo seu proclamare, seu reclamare, seu petere, seu repetere
Explicit: id illi seu rideant, seu ringantur, dum se non minus, et omnia illa suam sperni sciant. Sic sum cui videor, forte haud incommodus, uti me liceat. SOLI DEO GLORIA.

Folio 37v. Blank, except for ruling


The manuscript is written in a range of humanistic scripts, varying between Roman and italic forms. The title-page (folio 3r), is written in a combination of Roman and italic majuscules, with some flourishing and calligraphic embellishment. The dedication at folio 4r introduces minuscule varieties of Roman and italic scripts, as well as smaller modulations of their majuscule alphabets. The main text of the manuscript is written in Inglis’ characteristic italic style, with curved ascenders and descenders, and slightly filled terminals. Italic majuscules are used within the main text for emphasis, and there is occasional calligraphic embellishment to opening initials.


The title-page of this manuscript is decorated with a red rose stem and bud, in a style closely related to the floral illuminations which Esther Inglis includes in many of the manuscripts she produced between 1600 and 1615. This style of rose is often included the illuminated borders with which Inglis surrounds the title-pages of these manuscripts. In isolated form, as here, a particularly close parallel to this rose is found at folio 25r of Inglis’ 1606 Quatrains du Sieur de Pybrac for Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex (now Copenhagen Royal Library, Thott 323 oktav).

The title-page also incorporates an upright printer’s fleuron, in the same style as found in Inglis’ 1608 Treatise of preparation to the Holy Supper (Edinburgh University Library, MS La.III.75). Smaller additional fleurons are found within the main text, as at folio 24r.


  • Creation: 1605


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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Biographical / Historical

Esther Inglis (c.1570-1624) was a Franco-Scottish Huguenot calligrapher, writer, and artist. She was the daughter of French parents, Nicolas Langlois and Marie Presot, who emigrated as refugees from France to Britain to escape religious persecution, and settled in Edinburgh. Marie Presot was herself a calligrapher, who taught Esther how to write, while Nicolas Langlois was a schoolmaster. Esther Inglis was a prolific and exceptionally skilled scribe; a corpus of over 62 manuscripts survives worldwide, and many of these books were produced as gifts to be presented to prospective patrons. 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. MS La.III.249, however, shows that Inglis also worked as a scribe on behalf of others, and was commissioned to produce presentation manuscripts of their work. Although Inglis usually signs her manuscripts, MS La.III.249 does not directly contain her signature, and its attribution to her is accepted on visual and stylistic grounds. In aspect and materiality, it is closely related to the Treatise of Preparation to the Holy Supper which she produced in 1608, now MS La.III.75. Inglis and her husband, Bartholomew Kello, were associated with the court of King James VI/I; many of her manuscripts were produced for members of the Royal household, and by 1604 they had followed James to London, after his accession to the English throne in 1603. Esther Inglis would return to Edinburgh in 1615.


1 bound MS volume : 38 folios.

Custodial History

Written for James VI/I (1566-1625) and Prince Henry Frederick (1594-1612).

Signature of David Laing on inner front board, dated 1867, accompanied by an inscription, "This book [?] to be in the handwriting of Esther Inglis". As noted by Scott-Elliot and Yeo, the first flyleaf contains the note "Autography Ms. Dedicated to James Ist. According to Lowndes the first Book only has been printed in 1605".

Previous title

Title previously used in the finding aid: "Vincula Unions sive scita Britannica, id est de Unione Insulae Britannicae. Tractatus secundus. Per Davidem Humium, Theagrium.' In handwriting of Esther Inglis"

Related Materials

Other manuscripts associated with Esther Inglis:
- La.III.75: Esther Inglis, A Treatise for Preparation to the Holy Supper, 1608.
- La.III.439: Esther Inglis, Les Quatrains du Sieur de Pybrac, 1607.
- La.III.440: Esther Inglis, De la grandeur de Dieu…, 1592.
- La.III.522 (Not by Esther Inglis, but related to her network of calligraphic production).
- La.III.525: George Craig’s Album amicorum, with inscription by Esther Inglis.
- Dc.5.50 (Contains a manuscript version of David Hume’s De unione insulae Britainnicae… tractatus secundus).
- Dc.7.46 (Contains a manuscript version of David Hume’s De unione insulae Britainnicae… tractatus secundus).


- Christopher Ivic, The Subject of Britain, 1603-25 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), p. 119.
- Paul J. McGinnis and Arthur H. Williamson, The British Union: a critical edition and translation of David Hume of Godscroft’s 'De unione insulae Britannicae', (London: Routledge, 2002), p. xi.
- Jamie Reid-Baxter, 'Appendices to Inglis, Octonaries: Titles and Dedications from Other MSS Containing the "G.D." and "Velde" Sonnets, Who Was "G.D."?', Studies in Scottish Literature, 48.2 (2022), 114–19, p. 119.
- A. H. Scott-Elliot and Elspeth Yeo, 'Calligraphic Manuscripts of Esther Inglis (1571-1624): A Catalogue', The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 84.1 (1990), 10–86, p. 17.
- Georgianna Ziegler, '"More Than Feminine Boldness": The Gift-Books of Esther Inglis', in Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain, ed. by Mary E. Burke and others (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000), pp. 19–37, p. 37.

Physical Facet

Material: Paper. The paper is of a thick, high quality.

Layout: Folios 1r - 38v are ruled in red crayon with a double margin.

Binding: The binding is original, with a gold tooled design on leather-covered boards. Scott-Elliot and Yeo note that the central tooled device is the same as that on the binding of Inglis’ Octonaries produced in 1600/1601, now Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.91. The manuscript would originally have had ribbon ties; the holes for this remain visible.

Foliation: A modern hand adds folio numbers 1-37 in pencil. The manuscript has also been paginated as 1 on folio 6r, and again as 3 on folio 7r. Otherwise this system of pagination is not maintained.

Collation: Too tight to establish


Binding: 205 x 160 mm

Folio: 200 x 155 mm

Written space: 153 x 103 mm

Processing Information

Catalogued by Anna-Nadine Pike in December 2023, with reference to research compiled by Jamie Reid-Baxter.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379