Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 - 300 years of Scots language publishing in Ulster?

Lindsay david

Here's another anniversary. In 1714, the printer James Blow, who had come to Belfast from Culross, Fife, in 1696, printed the first of a series of Scots language poetry books.

Belfast, and Ulster generally,  must therefore have had a large enough 'market' of Scots-speaking residents to make these books commercially viable. The first of these volumes was The Works of the Famous and Worthy Knight, Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, alias, Lyon, King of Arms, which had first been published in Edinburgh in 1568. Linen Hall Library in Belfast has one of the original James Blow editions.

David Lindsay (1490-1555) had also lived in Fife, about three miles north of Cupar, but later moved to Haddington. He was attending the Royal Court in Scotland around the time that Patrick Hamilton was martyred at St Andrews in Fife, burned at the stake outside St. Salvator's College where Lindsay had been a pupil in 1508. Lindsay is thought to have been at the siege of St Andrews castle in the 1520s which saw John Knox emerge as the leader of the Scottish Reformation.

In addition to poetry, in 1542 Lindsay also compiled a spectacular album of Biblical, European and Scottish heraldry which is available online here.

ElectricScotland.com has a lengthy biography which says that 'until Burns appeared, he was in fact the poet of the Scottish people, and was appealed to as an infallible authority on the Scottish language'. Here is a later edition of his Works. He also appears as part of the 'living history' experience at Stirling Castle. Wikipedia has a detailed entry about his life.

It is interesting that post-Williamite Ulster was reading pre-Reformation Scots language poetry.

Culross is a beautifully-preserved 17th century village and visiting there today gives some idea of what Scottish-built market towns of 17th century Ulster might have looked like. Some pics below from a visit in May 2013.

(UPDATE AND POTENTIAL CORRECTION - There may have been an earlier Belfast printing of Scots language poetry, an edition of Alexander Montgomerie's The Cherrie and the Slae, printed in 1700 by James Blow's colleague and brother-in-law Patrick Neil)

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