Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1403-1528. Originally published by Scottish Burgh Records Society, Edinburgh, 1869.

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'Preface', in Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1403-1528, (Edinburgh, 1869) pp. xxxi-xxxvi. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]


THE present Volume contains all that is known to exist of what may be termed the Burghal Legislation of Edinburgh, previous to the 23d of May 1528, at which date King James the Fifth assumed the reins of government. It was originally intended that the volume should come down to the commencement of the regular series of the Council Records in 1551, but the materials were found to be too ample to admit of that, and what remains must be reserved.

The present volume also contains extracts from old records of the City, which, though not of the nature of Burghallegislation, are valuable as illustrating the social life and habits of the burgesses, the municipal arrangements, and the financial condition of the Scottish capital in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The materials for the work have been mainly gathered from the following sources:—

(1.) A volume in the archives of the City, numbered as the first of the series of the Council Minute Books, and containing a miscellaneous collection of Acts and Ordinances by the civic authorities, and other documents, transcribed from earlier records not now existing. The contents are not chronologically arranged, but some of the entries go back as far as 1456. The volume is intituled,—"Breuis et Compendiosa Collectio veterum et maxime vtilium statutorum; ex antiquis libris curiæ Edinburgi." The collection appears to have been made about 1580, and all that it contains previous to 23d May 1528 is included in this work.

(2.) A volume of extracts from old records of the Burgh, many of which are not now extant. This volume is preserved in the Advocates' Library, and is marked 34: 4: 9. Its contents embrace a period extending from 1403 till 1579, and are arranged, not chronologically, but under a number of general heads. The collection appears to have been made about the time of its latest date, viz., 1579, and every entry in it previous to 23d May 1528 is given in the present volume.

(3.) A volume in the archives of the City, numbered as the first of the Register of Burgesses and Guild Brethren. It commences on 17th May 1487, and ends on 12th February 1579. All the Acts and Ordinances relating to the conditions of burgess-ship and guild brotherhood, previous to May 1528, are given in the present collection.

(4.) The Protocol Books of John Foular and Vincent Strathauchin, Depute Town-Clerks and Notaries of the Burgh. From these Protocol Books, which are preserved in the archives of the City, a selection has been made of entries which seemed to possess general interest, as throwing light on the history of the Burgh or on the habits of the citizens.

(5.) A volume in the archives of the City, intituled "Ane Inventar of the whole wreats belonging to the Citie of Edinburgh, conteaning ther whole lands, customes, and priuiledges perteaning to theme; collected and digested be Maister Alexander Guthrie, Commone Clark to the said Citie, as they are conteaned in severall boxes of thair cabinetts presentlie sett up in thair chartour house." This Inventory bears to have been prepared in 1638.

(6.) A volume in the archives of the City, intituled "Inventory of Writs relating to the City, removed from the Charter-house to the Town-Clerk's office in 1653."

(7.) The Inventory of the Writings in the Charter-house of the City, consisting of six large folio volumes.

(8.) Original Seals of Cause granted by the Magistrates and Council to the various Incorporations, so far as these documents are still existing, and access could be got to them. Several of these are recorded in the volumes first and second above referred to; but where access could be had to the originals, the print has been carefully collated with them.

It is much to be regretted that the Charters and Records of these old Incorporations are not more accessible. They contain not only an immense amount of curious and valuable information as to the life of the craftsmen and the general history of the City, but are invaluable as authoritative sources of information in regard to family history. The founders of no inconsiderable number of influential houses of the present day were craftsmen and merchants in Edinburgh; and it might form the subject of a legitimate ambition on the part of the members of the existing Incorporations, to have the records illustrative of their ancient history arranged and placed in safe repositories, where, subject to proper supervision, the genealogical or historical inquirer might have reasonable facilities for examining them.

No one could wish or expect to have access to modern documents connected with the private affairs of the Incorporations; and regulations could easily be adopted to prevent any improper or ungrateful use of the ancient records of these bodies. It is to be feared, however, that the possibility of such abuse has operated against the carrying out, ere now, of some such measure as is here suggested. Presuming to some extent on his official position, the Editor of the present volume ventured in 1864 to call the attention of the office-bearers of the several Incorporations to the importance of their ancient records, and to suggest that they should, as far as possible, be deposited in a central place for safe preservation, subject, if thought desirable, to the exclusive control of the respective bodies. His communication was in every case received most courteously, and if it did not immediately effect its object, it has not been wholly unproductive of good. The Editor has the gratification to know that, under the public-spirited direction of Convener Field, the Convenery are taking active steps to induce the several Incorporations to have their records arranged and properly preserved.

The Editor has to express his thanks to the Deacons and Clerks of the several Incorporations, whose Seals of Cause are printed in the present volume, for the uniform courtesy with which they allowed inspection of their earliest charters. In only one case was the request declined, obviously under a misapprehension, which the publication of the present volume may help to remove, if indeed, it has not already been dissipated by the good offices of the Committee of the Convenery.

In editing the present volume, reference has occasionally been made to Charters of the Burgh, and these have sometimes been used in verifying and correcting the tariffs of tolls and customs, and fixing their precise dates. It has not been considered expedient, however, to insert in the present collection any of the more important Charters of the City. These Charters require volumes for themselves, and it is in the highest degree creditable to the Corporation, which has contributed to the cost of the present work, that it has also authorised the earliest of its muniments to be arranged, transcribed, and printed, with a view to publication in a form befitting their importance and interest. Many valuable charters and documents, illustrative of the history of the Capital, have entirely disappeared; the effacing fingers of time are obliterating others; and every year's delay is adding to the difficulty of the work. Meanwhile, a chronological abstract of the charters of the Burgh, and relative documents, prior to 1528, is given in an Appendix, in the hope that it may throw some light on much in the present volume that would otherwise be obscure.

A Chronological list of the Lord Provosts, Magistrates, and Officers of the burgh, compiled by the Editor from the oldest and most authentic existing records, and extending from 1296 to 1528, is also appended. In that list notes of charters and other documents have been inserted, which, it is hoped, may prove serviceable to those interested in the history of Edinburgh. The list cannot be regarded as anything like complete; but it is given for what it is worth, and in the hope that other workers in the same field may kindly assist the Editor in supplementing it hereafter.

For the same reason, and in the like hope, there are appended lists of the Constables and Governors of the Castle, and of the Sheriffs of the County, of Edinburgh, so far as known, down to 1528. Lists of the Parliaments and General Councils of Scotland; of the Provincial Councils, &c., of the Scottish Clergy; and of the Conventions of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, held at Edinburgh previous to May 1528, are also appended.

The materials for a second volume of extracts from the Burgh Records of Edinburgh being complete, and in the hands of the printer, and the Corporation having generously consented to allow the Scottish Burgh Records Society to print, for the use of its members, the collection of the earliest Charters of the City which is now passing through the press, it has been considered advisable to postpone any historical Preface, so as to make it applicable both to the Charters and to the BurghalRecords of the City.

A Table of Contents, stating the source from which every extract in the present volume is taken, is prefixed; and a Glossary, with a general Index, will be given with the second volume, which it is expected will be in the hands of the members in the course of three of four months.


10 Bellevue Crescent,
December 1869.