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La.III.522: Specimens of calligraphic styles of writing, 1570-1624 (approximate)

Identifier: La.III.522
f. 2r
f. 2r

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. Other pieces of writing from the period, in a series of high-quality scribal hands, have also been bound with these calligraphy samples. These include a verse paraphrase of Psalm 104 on a large fold-out sheet, and pen-and-ink portraits of Henri IV of France and Marguerite de Valois. Some parts of this manuscript were evidently written in Edinburgh; two pieces bear the name William Geddie, a Scottish scribe who identifies himself as working “at Barnetoun” [Barnton]. Jamie Reid Baxter suggests that this may be the William Geddie who was a lecturer at the Academy of Saumur, founded by Phillipe de Mornay (1549-1623). William Geddie is also a likely relative of John Geddie, a scribe connected with the court of James VI. David Laing seems to have associated these two Geddie scribes; the inner front board contains a transcription, in Laing’s hand, recording a yearly pension awarded to John Geddie from George Buchanan in 1577. Several other pieces in the manuscript bear the name Jacques Dorsanne, and are dedicated to Philippe de Mornay.

From 1865 until 2012, this manuscript was attributed in its entirety to the Franco-Scottish calligrapher Esther Inglis (c.1570-1624). This attribution was first made by David Laing, who noted that a further document had been included among the pages of this manuscript, now lost. This document was a draft warrant which, had it ever been signed, would have appointed Esther Inglis’ husband, Bartilmo Kello, to the position of “clerk of all passports” under King James VI/I. Laing’s assertion is that this draft warrant was in the hand of Esther Inglis. This document is transcribed in full in David Laing’s 1865-66 article, “Notes relating to Mrs Esther (Langlois or) Inglis”, pp. 288-289.

Contents: Folio 1r: Micrographic prayer in an elaborate cartouche, signed by “M.W. Gedde” Folios 2r-21r: Calligraphic samples of writing, compiled from two different writing-books. Each folio introduced with a decorative initial, although not bound in alphabetical order. In French, with the exceptions of folios 5, 7, 13, 14, 15 (Latin) and folio 11 (Italian). Folios 22r-25v: Mis-ordered paratexts of a Greek verse paraphrase of Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis, signed by Jacques Dorsanne. The paratexts comprise a dedication and laudatory poem, both addressing Philippe de Mornay, written and presented in imitation of a printed book. Folio 26r: Latin verses addressed to the planets, and to Time, on a fold-out sheet written in imitation of a printed sheet. Folios 27r-27v: Opening of Greek verse paraphrase of Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis, by Jacques Dorsanne. Written and presented in imitation of a printed book. Folios 28r-29r: Calligraphic samples of writing, in Greek. Folio 30r: Latin verse paraphrase of Psalm 104, titled as “PSALMVS CIII CAR|minibus latinis per G. Geddeū Traditus”. William Geddie may be the scribe of the work; Jamie Reid-Baxter has identified this text as printed in David Hume of Godscroft’s Lusus Poetici (1605). Folios 31r-33r: Further calligraphy samples Folio 34r: Blank Folio 35r: Pen-and-ink portrait of Henri IV Folio 36r: Pen-and-ink portrait of Marguérite de Valois Folio 37r: Pen-and-ink drawing of a naiad.


Written in a wide variety of scripts, including two examples of micrography. The sections of this manuscript taken from writing-books demonstrate styles of Roman minuscule, italic, and secretary hands. These include varieties of lettre plaisante, lettre renversée, lettre entrelacée, letter frizée, and an unusual style of letter coupée which off-sets the lower portion of each minim from the upper. Much of the rest of the manuscript is written, decorated, and presented in imitation of a printed book.


The calligraphy samples throughout this manuscript are embellished with gold ink and decorative details, including printers fleurons, whirlpool designs, and classical motifs drawn in pen. Other folios include copies of printed strapwork designs, and pen-work borders in imitation of printed engravings.


  • Creation: 1570-1624 (approximate)


Language of Materials

English, French, Latin, Greek, Italian

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details


1 bound MS volume : 40 folios


Esther Inglis’s Les Proverbes de Salomon: A Facsimile, ed. by Nicolas Barker (London: The Roxburghe Club, 2012), pp. 83-84.
David Laing, ‘Notes Relating to Mrs Esther (Langlois or) Inglis, the Celebrated Calligraphist, with an Enumeration of Manuscript Volumes Written by Her between the Years 1586 and 1624’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 6.2 (1868), 284–314, 288-289.
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. 32.
Catalogued by Anna-Nadine Pike, with reference to research conducted and compiled by Dr Jamie Reid Baxter.

Physical Facet

Material: Paper

Binding: 17th century calf, gold tooling at edges.

Foliation: i+38+i. Foliated as 1-37, with 31 missing and two blank folios unnumbered.


Varying from 110 x 150 mm to 290 x 365 mm.

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