Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Alexander Ales / Alane / Alesius and the Bible in the 'Scotish Language', 1500s

I have posted about Edinburgh-born Alexander Ales / Alane / Alesius (1500–65) before (see 2016 article here) an early Scottish reformation convert who sought refuge in Luther's Germany in 1530, where he changed his surname and where he is still today remembered through a street name in Leipzig. From Germany he wrote to the then King of Scotland –

"in two eloquent Latin epistles, indited and printed in Wittenberg itself, in behalf of liberty to his Scottish countrymen, to read and to teach the Word of God in their mother tongue" – Peter Lorimer, Precursors of Knox, p168 (1857) 
Interestingly he addressed the King as "To the renowned King of Scots, James the Fifth, Duke of Albany, Prince of Ireland and the Orkneys". These two letters were entitled Alexandri Alesii Epistola contra Decretum quoddam Episcoporum in Scotia quod prohibet legere Novi Testamenti libros lingua vernacula (1533) and Alexandri Alesii Scott Responsio ad Cochlaei Calummas (1534). This chapter on Archive.org seems to include translations of each; his aim seems to be to bypass the bishops and appeal directly to the King to campaign for religious liberty for the people of Scotland.

Alesius' great opponent Johann Cochlaeus, claimed that Alesius was about to produce a bible in the 'Scotish language', to be translated from Luther's German edition, but Alesius pointed out to the King in one of the letters that 'I do not know the German' (p 460 in this book).

I do wonder if, someday in an archive somewhere in Germany, an unpublished manuscript of an Alexander Alesius Scots language Bible translation might be found.

Dictionary of National Biography entry here
• 62 original Alesius manuscripts are listed here
• 98 original Alesius manuscripts are listed here
• This biography by the Tudor Society is succinct
• A chapter about him in The Scots in Germany (1902) is online here
This short reference is also interesting: