A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

Christ Church MS. 180

Book of Psalms, in French; Scotland (Edinburgh), 1599


Language(s): Middle French (with commendatory verses in Latin)

1. Fol. iv


Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, 33 and pl. 16, identify the prototype for the layout of the page, with its ornate architectural frame, to be the title-page of Girolamo Porro’s edition of Bernardino Baldi’s volgare translation of Hero of Alexandria’s Automata(Venice, 1589). In our manuscript, the title announces the work (all in capitals) to be ‘Les Livre des Pseavmes escrites en diverses sortes de lettres par Esther Anglois Francoise’. Below, in the shield where the publication details were given in Porro’s printing, is the statement: ‘Lislebovrg en Escosse 1599.’.

2. Fol. ivv

English royal coat-of arms, with supporters and with the Garter belt held by two seated ladies, garlands in their hair, all set in an ornate all’antica structure

3. Fol. vr-v
Incipit: A TRESHAVTE, TRESEXCELLENTE, ET TRESPVISSANTE Princesse ELIZABETH Roine dAngleterre, France et Irlande. | MADAME, il ne desplaira pas
Explicit: tresheureuse et longue vie. De Lislebourg en Escosse, ce xxvii de Mars, 1599. | De vostre Maieste | la treshumble, tresaffectionnee & tresobeissante seruante a iamais. | Esther Anglois Françoise.
Esther Inglis, Dedication letter to Elizabeth I

Dated 27th March 1599. Printed by David Laing, ‘Notes relating to Mrs Esther (Langlois or) Inglis, the celebrated calligraphist...’, Proceedings of the Society of the Antiquaries of Scotland, 6 (1865–66), 284–309 (293–4).

4. Fols vi-viiv
Incipit: Dum varia pictura album prona imbuis aequor
Explicit: munera rara Dei. IOHANNES IONSTONVS.

A set of commendatory verses by Andrew Melville (or Melvin, 1545–1622), Robert Rollock (1555–99) and John Jonston (c. 1565–1611), on which see Roger A. Mason and Steven J. Reid ed., Andrew Melville (1545–1622), St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Farnham, 2014), Appendix 2 at 289–90. As Rollock died on 8th or 9th February 1599, the verses must have been composed for this volume at least some weeks before Inglis provided her dedication letter.

5. Fol. viii

Frontispiece, with picture of a hatted and seated Inglis at her desk writing in a book while a music book sits to her left

Reproduced by AT, no. 799, with a sibling of it – in the layout of the page, the depiction of Inglis, and the verses on the fictive tablet beneath the portrait – in MS Bodley 990, also written in 1599, reproduced by PA, 1:864, and another at Wormsley Library, MS RH158, fol. vi, produced two years after our manuscript, reproduced in the Barker edition. For further examples, see Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, 18 and pl. 12.

Fol. viiiv: blank except for the frame

6. Fols 1 [olim ix] - 78
Incipit: LE LIVRE DES PSEAVMES | ARGVMENT | Ce liure contient les hymnes sacrés
Explicit: [fol. 1v] quelque instrument de musique. | PSEAVME .I. | O que bien-heureux est le personnage
Psalms (French translation)

The text of the Psalms is the French translation provided in the 1588 Geneva Bible.

Fol. 78v: blank except from frame

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Nota tamen mihi (fol. vii)
Secundo Folio: PSEAVME. II. | Pourquoi se mutinent (fol. 2 [p. 3])
Form: codex
Support: Paper (watermark: coat-of-arms with hunting horn, below HN)
Extent: Fols: iii + 83 + 2
Dimensions (leaf): 186 × 132 mm.
Foliation: Front flyleaves and first leaves are foliated in pencil in roman numerals: fol. i-ix, where fol. ix is also p. 1 in the pagination provided by the scribe; foliation used here follows the pencil foliation to fol. viii and then provides arabic folio numbers, 1–78.


14+1 with added leaf being fol. viii, 2–204, 214–2 lacking two leaves at end after fol. 78, presumably originally blank. No quire or leaf signatures, catchwords at the foot of every page, but for fol. 1 and 76v-77v (pp.1 and 152–154) of the main text.


The ink has bitten into the paper, requiring significant restoration in 1998.


The textblock on each page is placed within a decorative frame, 9mm deep, the outer extent of which is 155 × 110 mm. . All pages are written in long lines, varying greatly in number depending upon the script (see textual presentation).


The manuscript announces itself, in its prefatory material, to be the work of Esther Inglis; she was the daughter of Huguenot émigrés and herself a prolific professional copyist (1571–1624), and is depicted at fol. viii. The fullest discussion of her oeuvre is provided by A. H. Scott-Elliot and Elspeth Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts of Esther Inglis (1571–1624): A Catalogue’, Papers of the Bibiographical Society of America, 84 (1990), 11–86, who list 55 products of her pen, with ours as no. 7; that list is now supplemented by Nicholas Barker’s introduction to the Roxburghe Club facsimile of Stokenchurch: Wormsley Library, MS RH158, entitled Esther Inglis’s Les Proverbes de Salomon ([London], 2012); Barker adds six items to her oeuvre. Information about Inglis can also be found on the on-line Perdita Manuscripts project [accessed 5th May 2014]. Like many of her manuscripts, our codex is a calligraphic tour-de-force, in which she demonstrates her mastery of an impressive range of scripts.


Essential to the attractiveness of this manuscript is its calligraphy, with Esther Inglis demonstrating her ability both to construct a script which appears as constant as anything print can offer and to move from one script to another. The progress of scripts is designed so that the openings usually alternate between one which is devoted to a single script, followed by another which displays a change. There are about seventeen different scripts present in this volume, in two to four different sizes. The fullest classification of her scripts is that provided by Nicolas Barker in the Roxburghe Club facsimile of Wormsley Library, MS RH158; he identifies her primary prototype to be Pierre Hamon’s pattern-book, L’Alphabet de l’invention des lettres en diverses escritures (Paris, 1561), and arranges her scripts mainly by his nomenclature. That classification is followed here, with some alternative names noted for clarity. Also provided are references to printed images of the script, but not to Barker’s edition, where all the scripts below, apart from lettre pattée, appear.

The prefatory material presents, in brief span, something of the range of scripts she intends to deploy, the dedicatory letter being in Hamon’s droicte (otherwise known as littera antiqua or roman), and the verses in italic (one slanted to the right, another to the left, ie couchée ou renversée, and yet another upright), ronde venecienne, lettre destat and lettre destat frizée. For the main text, the arrangement is as follows:

  • Argument [fol. 1r-v]: ronde venecienne
  • Ps 1–6 [fol. 1v-3v]: droicte, c. 23 long lines
  • Ps 7–15 [fol. 3v-5v]: smaller version of the same, c. 31 long lines
  • Ps 16–17 [fol. 6–7v]: ronde venecienne (but with back of h not reaching the line, so it is formed of an ascender and a loop), 16 long lines
  • Ps 18–22 [fol. 7v-9v]: smaller version of the same, 30 long lines
  • Ps 22–23 [fol. 9v-11v]: ronde venecienne, like but subtly different from that for Ps 16–17 (lacking ‘drop’ serifs on ascenders), 17 long lines
  • Ps 24–28 [fol. 12–14]: smaller version of the same, c. 23 long lines
  • Ps 29–30 [fol. 14–15v]: lettre pattée, 15 long lines; seen also for instance at Oxford: Bodleian, MS. Bodl. 990, p. 12, reproduced as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 11
  • Ps 31–33 [fol. 15v-18]: smaller and thinner version of the same, 21 long lines
  • Ps 34–38 [fol. 18–20]: tiny ronde venecienne, 31 long lines
  • Ps 39–40 [fol. 20–22]: lettre plaisante (or lettera piacevolle), 18 long lines
  • Ps 41–45 [fol. 22–23v]: smaller version of the same, 30 long lines; similar script reproduced from BL, MS Add. 27927, fol. 6v as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 13
  • Ps 46–48 [fol. 23v-26]: lettre frizée, 16–17 long lines
  • Ps 49–50 [fol. 26–27v]: lettre chanceleresque, 25 long lines
  • Ps 51–57 [fol. 27v-29v]: smaller version of the same, c.27 long lines
  • Ps 58–60 [fol. 29v-31v]: roman small capitals, 26 long lines
  • Ps 61–66 [fol. 32–33v]: smaller version of the same, c. 27 long lines
  • Ps 67–68 [fol. 34–35v]: the script Barker terms ‘italic small capitals’, notable for the frequent extended flourishes for serifs similar to those in ronde venecienne, 25 long lines; fol. 35 (p. 69) reproduced as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 9
  • Ps 69–72 [fol. 35v-38]: smaller version of the same, 33 long lines
  • Ps 73 [fol. 38–40v]: large lettre destat, 14 long lines
  • Ps 74–76 [fol. 41–42v]: smaller version of the same, 20 long lines
  • Ps 77–81 [fol. 43–45]: yet smaller version of the same, 42 long lines
  • Ps 82–85 [fol. 45–47]: lettre carrée but with lettre ronde y, 22 long lines
  • Ps 86–91 [fol. 47–48v]: tiny version of the same, 36 long lines
  • Ps 92–95 [fol. 49–50v]: lettre ancienne, with descending curve on final n curving beneath the letter, 25 long lines; fol. 50 (p. 99) reproduced as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 10
  • Ps 96–104 [fol. 51–53v]: smaller version of the same, c. 29 long lines
  • Ps 105–106 [fol. 53v-57]: lettre mignardée, 16 long lines
  • Ps 107–110 [fol. 57–58]: smaller version of the same, 22 long lines
  • Ps 111–114 [fol. 58–60v]: lettre destat frizée (or lettera rognosa), 18 long lines; similar script reproduced as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 18
  • Ps 115–118 [fol. 61–62]: smaller version of the same, c. 29 long lines
  • Ps 119 [fol. 62v-64v]: tiny lettre destat, c. 28 long lines
  • Ps 120–123 [fol. 65–66v]: lettre coupée (or lettera tagliata), 14 long lines; a similar but not identical script reproduced from Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, MS 2197, fol. 9 as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 5
  • Ps 124–128 [fol. 66v-69]: lettre chanceleresque penchée, c. 14 long lines
  • Ps 129–135 [fol. 69–71]: smaller version of the same, c. 24 long lines
  • Ps 136 [fol. 71–73]: droicte entrelacée (or ‘broken’ script), the impression of interlace created by ‘teeth’ on all letters, 14 long lines; similar script reproduced from Edinburgh: University Library, MS La.III.522, fol. 8 as Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, pl. 7, and from New York Public Library, Spencer Collection Fr. MS 8, fol. 25 as Georgianna Ziegler, ‘Hand-Ma[i]de Books: The Manuscripts of Esther Inglis, Early-Modern Precursors of the Artists’ Books’, English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700, 9 (2000), 73–87 (pl. 4)
  • Ps 137–145 [fol. 73–75]: tiny droicte (upright roman), c. 32 long lines
  • Ps 146–149 [fol. 75–76v]: slanted roman, 25 long lines
  • Ps 150 [fol. 76v-77v]: droicte enterlacée with the interlace depicted as a cord running in front and behind the letters and ending in tassels, 10 long lines; for a prototype, see Jehan Beauchesne, A booke containing divers sortes of hands (London, [1592]), E[1].
  • Priere a Dieu [fol. 78]: large droicte.

The beauty of the scripts is set off by the orderly decoration of each page, with the textblock set within a frame with a bead and ball motif. Each psalm is preceded and followed by an ornamental bar or frieze, of varying designs. The decoration has some repeated designs, including sea monsters (fol. 5, 21, 36v), grotesques and a bell (fol. 6v, 25, 44, 69v), sheep, goats, horses and cattle (fol. 4, 29v, 47, 73v), a fictive slab inscribed with the date ‘1599’ (fol. 12, 28v, 44v, 49v. There are also two inhabited initials: fol. v (countryside with a city in the background) and 1v (a resting man with an army encampment in the middle ground, and a city in flames in the background; same motif at BL, MS Add. 27927, fol. 3). At fol. 1, there is a frieze of foliage and grapes, at centre of which sits a crowned lady, naked to the waist, with a lion seated, paws on the lady’s right knee, and a stag, the lady’s left arm embracing its neck; this faithfully reproduces the headpiece of the 1588 Geneva Bible, sig. *ij.


Bound at the time of completion of the volume in spring 1599, with embroidered pink velvet over pasteboards made from re-used paper. The embroidery has beem assumed to be by Esther Inglis herself: Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, 21. There are similar, if less ornate, bindings on two of the other manuscripts she made at the same time, BL, MS Add. 27927, and Washington, DC: Folger Library, MS V.a.93. The binding on our manuscript is embroidered with stumpwork in silver, green and gold thread, and seed pearls, depicting a crowned Tudor Rose, surrounded by a laurel garland, within a border of flower motifs, on upper and lower boards. There is some damage, with lose of the top of the crown at the upper board, and some beads missing. Blue silk ties, now lost, edges gilt, rebacked in reverse calf. ChCh bookplate at inside of upper board.


Origin: Scotland (Edinburgh); 1599

Provenance and Acquisition

As is made clear in its opening leaves, this manuscript was produced by Esther Inglis in Edinburgh for presentation to Elizabeth, queen of England. Esther completed her work on 27th March 1599. In the days after that, she also completed other manuscripts, two intended for English recipients, Anthony Bacon (1558–1601), now BL, MS Add. 27927, and Bacon’s patron, Robert Devereux, earl of Essex (1565–1601), now Bod., MS Bodley 990, as well as one destined for Maurice of Nassau, prince of Orange (1567–1625), now Folger Library, MS V.a.93. Our manuscript (presumably along with these others) was taken south by her husband, Bartholomew Kello, together with a letter of recommendation for himself from James VI, king of Scotland, but he himself was not the presenter of the manuscript to the Queen. We know this from a letter that Kello wrote to the Queen on 18th July of the same year, following up on the presentation with a euphemistically phrased request for a reward; the letter survives at BL, MS Add. 4125, fol. 355, and is printed by Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’, 35. Also relevant is the letter of the same date, which is BL, MS Add. 4125, fol. 354. Its addressee unnamed but we can surmise it was Anthony Bacon, to whom Kello states more explicitly his concern that the wait for a reward would exhaust its value because of his having to stay in England until he received it. That the situation was resolved very soon after that date is revealed by Kello’s next letter to the same person (BL, MS Add. 4125, fol. 357, also without addressee named), recalling that he had taken his leave of him on 21st July and sailed to Edinburgh on 26th July, reaching his homeland four days later. The contents of the letter also demonstrate that Kello had taken on the role of being Bacon’s informer. The context is discussed in outline by Georgianna Ziegler, ‘“More than Feminine Boldness”. The Gift Books of Esther Inglis’ in Mary E. Burke et al. ed., Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain (Syracuse, NY, 2000), 19–37 and, in more detail but with significant errors, by Susan Frye, ‘Materializing Authorship in Esther Inglis’s Books’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 32 (2002), 469–91 (where Kello’s correspondent in BL, MS Add. 4125 is mistakenly said to be Robert Cecil).

Elizabeth’s ownership of the manuscript is noted at the front pastedown, at both the top, deleted, ‘this booke was giuen to Queene Elizabeth’, and the centre, ‘This book was queen Elizabeths’. A misreading of the first of these notes led Thomas Hearne, who saw the manuscript in Christ Church in 1706, to assume that it had been given to the House by her (Remarks, 1:174–175). In truth, it had a slightly more varied life. A note at top of the first flyleaf (fol. i) records ‘Anne Ancram her book’. This is Anne, only daughter of William Stanley, 6th earl of Derby, by Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward Vere, 17th earl of Oxford (they married 26 January 1595); Anne first married Sir Henry Portman of Orchard Portman, Somerset, who died 21 February 1621, and, at the end of the same year, she took as her second husband Robert Ker, who was made 1st earl of Ancram on 24th June 1633 (on whom, see David Stevenson in Oxford DNB). As a royalist, the earl went into exile following the execution of Charles I and died in Amsterdam in December 1654; his wife remained in Britain and was buried at Westminster Abbey on 15 February 1657 (Scots Peerage, V.467). The terminus ante quem non for the ownership note, thirty years after the queen’s death, strongly suggests that we should dispense with any assumption that Elizabeth gave our manuscript directly to Anne who, at that time, could have been no more than a toddler (Frye, ‘Materializing Authorship’, 474).

It was the Countess herself who presented the book to ChCh, as is recorded in the Donors’ Book, p. 109ª, under the year 1654: ‘Nobilissima Heroina Anna Comitissa d’ Ancram pro Sua in Rem Literariam Benevolentia, et in Sexus sui Honorem, D.D. insignem Libellum complectentem Psalmos Davidis Gallico Idiomati Fœmineo Calamo exaratos, vario Charactere, et ad virorum invidiam Eleganti. Qui vel eo Nomine gratior accedit quod olim Dominam suam habuit Serenissimam Principem Elizabetham’. What occasioned this donation by a royalist wife to a royal foundation is unclear. The note in the Donors’ Book reflects the interest in the gender of its scribe, echoed in the 1676 Catalogue (where it is number [22]) and in Thomas Hearne’s comments, mentioned above, on this ‘most curious book’. It has been central to later discussions of the œuvre of Esther Inglis. It was mentioned by George Ballard in his Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain (London, 1752), 267–70 (268), repeating Hearne’s error about the donor to ChCh (Ballard also mentions that Inglis’s son, Samuel Kello, attended Christ Church). It was later recorded by Laing, ‘Notes relating to Esther Inglis’, no. III; Dorothy Judd Jackson, Esther Inglis Calligrapher 1571–1624[privately printed] (New York, 1937) as no. III; and by Scott-Elliott and Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts’ as no. 7.

The volume contains, at the centre of the first flyleaf, fol. i, the New Library shelfmark ‘C.3’, deleted (see Appendix IV).

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna and David Rundle, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts, to c. 1600, in Christ Church, Oxford (Oxford, 2017).


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact Christ Church Library.

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.

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