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Register of constitutions and other legal documents concerning the bishopric of Aberdeen, written in the 16th century and covering the 13th to 16th centuries.

Identifier: Adv.MS.34.4.4

Scope and Contents

Chartulary produced in Scotland containing various documents relating to the Bishopric of Aberdeen. The documents include constitutions, ordinances, royal charters, inquisitions, and lists of bounds.

Davis has dated the manuscript to the 1st half of the 16th century. Innes suggests that the volume was begun circa 1520 due to two factors. The first is the mention in an inscription on folio 50r of Alexander Galloway as a canon of Aberdeen and patron of the manuscript. Galloway was a canon of Aberdeen and the prebendary of Kynkell from 1520 to 1550.

This inscription probably reads: 'Exemplare sunt h[a]ec constitutiones ex antiquiorib[us] ecc[les]ie abbirdonen[sis] registris magis approbatis per me fr[atr]em Will[elmu]m Sceuan[am] carmelitanu[m] Abbirdenensem jussu ma[n]dato et sumptib[us] ven[er]abilis viri magistri Alexandri Gallouae Canonici Abbirdone[ns]is.'

The second factor is the mention on folio 22v of Gavin Dunbar as the bishop at the time, whose pontificate lasted from 1518 to 1532.

Folios 1r-50r and 80r-86r were written by a scribe who is also mentioned in the inscription on folio 50r, a Carmelite friar of Aberdeen, probably by the name of William Sceuan[us].

The other parts of the manuscript are near-contemporary or later additions and are in various hands. The charters are signed by the different notaries, occasionally an apostolic notary, who copied them. In some cases the name of the scribe of the original is also given.

There are marginal annotations throughout the manuscript in later hands up to the 18th century.

The contents of the manuscript are as follows:

Constitutions of the See. Folios 1r-8v.

Deeds uniting Churches to the chapter and granting exemptions to canons. Folios 8v-14r.

'Declaratio tabulae questuarie'. Folio 14rv.

Constitutions of the See. Folios 14v-22r.

'Facultas Ecclesie Abbirdonensis'. Folios 22v-24v.

'Carta obituum Jacobi quarti Scotorum Regis et Willelmi Elphinstoun Episcopi Abbirdonensis'. Folios 24v-27r.

'Locatio ecclesiarum communium'. Folio 27r.

'Bulla confirmatiua Pauli Pape super ecclesiis communibus ecclesie Abbirdonensis'. Folio 27v.

'Carta privilegium civitatis Abbirdonensis per Jacobum IV Regem 1498'. Folios 28r-30r.

List of utensils of the Church. Folio 30v.

'Constitutiones ecclesie Abbyrdonensis 1506'. Folios 31r-33v.

'Inventarium Jocalium Ecclesie' 1518. Folios 34r-35v.

'Carte infeodationum episcopatus Abbirdonensis'. Folios 36r-44r

'Carta secundarum deciniarum facta Willelmo Elphinstoun'. Folios 44v-46v.

'Privilegium episcoporum regni Scocie per Jacobum secundum Regem Scocie'. Folios 46v-47v.

'Bulla confirmatiua Innocentii', confirming above privileges. Folio 47v.

'Procurationes episcopatus Abirdonensis'. Folio 48rv.

'Taxatio ecclesiarum et beneficiorum'. Folios 49r-50r.

'Preceptum de privilegiis episcopi Abbirdonensis in portu eiusdem'. Folio 50v.

'Preceptum regni de secundis decimis'. Folio 51r.

'Decretum dominorum Parliamenti', in Scots. Folios 51v-52r.

Bull of Gregory XI, 1372. Folio 52v-53v.

Acceptance by the dean and chapter of a gift of two 'luminaria' for the Cathedral from Alexander Kyd, succentor, 1556. Folios 54r-55r.

Folios 55v-56v, blank, but lined and ruled.

'Carta terrarum de ardlar estirtochyr'. Folio 57r.

'Inquisitio terrarum ecclesie Abberdonensis'. Folios 57v-59r.

'Renuntiatio priscum decimatium de Dee per vicarium de Nyg'. Folios 59v-60r.

'Carta mathei episcopi abbyrdonensis super fundatione hospitalis sancti petri'. Folios 60v-61v.

'Translatio hospitalis sancti petri in duas capellanias ecclesie abbirdonensis'. Folios 61v-63r.

'Confirmatio Eugenii pape super translatione hospitalis sancti petri'. Folios 63v-64r.

'Vicarie perpetua ad presentationem abbatis de Arbroth'. Folios 64r-66v.

'Vicarie perpetua ad presentationem abbatis de Londoris'. Folios 66v-68r.

'Limites terrarum', beginning 'The marchis yat ar decidit of ald of ye kirk and byshopryik of abberdein and divers uuthir lordis landis as ye ald attentik registaris perportis and beris witnes in yairself'. In Scots with some Latin. Folios 68r-76r.

'Fundatio' of a gift of 2 wax candles by Alexander Kyd. 1557. Folios 76v-79(a)r.

Folio 79(a)v, blank, but lined and ruled.

'Ordinatio Chori', in the hand of William Sceuam. Folios 80r-86r.

Folios 86v-87r, blank, but lined and ruled.

'Privilegia capituli abberdonensis'. Folio 87v.

Charter of the office of baillie of the Bishopric in favour of George Earl of Huntly and his ancestors, in Scots. Folios 88r-89v.

The manuscript contains a few illuminations. On folio 1r there is a complete floral border decorated in conventional foliage and thistles, but this is badly damaged due damp, dirt, and loss of parts of the folio. There are two floriated illuminated initials on this folio, but their colours and gold are worn and damaged. There is a further illuminated initial on folio 31r in which is depicted the arms of Bishop Elphinstone. The initial is blue and red relieved by white tracery on a background of gold. In the margin there is a partial border of conventional foliage and gold balls.

Other capitals throughout the manuscript are blue and red alternately with filigree ornamentation. Paraphs are in blue and red and a running title is present in the upper margin in red with blue ornamentation.

In the sections of the manuscript written by later hands the decoration is limited to initials stroked with red and red paraphs.

Each folio has been lined and ruled in red recto and verso.

Pricking is often visible for both the horizontal and vertical lines.

The foliation is present in the upper right corner in Arabic numerals, but appears to have been completed by several hands and at different times.

The manuscript is badly damaged in parts by dirt and damp, especially towards the start of the volume, which can at times make the text illegible.


  • Creation: 1st half of 16th century.


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1 Volumes ; 26.3cm x 19.5cm x 4.5cm

Language of Materials



i-iv + 91 folios + v-viii. The foliation in the manuscript runs to 89 as it includes the double foliation of folios 47 and 79, since renumbered as 47a and 79a, respectively.

Collation as recorded by Catherine Borland:

a⁸, single leaf, bcd⁸, 2 single leaves, ef⁸, g⁶ (6 blank 7 cut out), h-l⁸, m²

Custodial History

According to an inscription on the verso of folio iv, the volume was in the possession of Dr George Middleton (d. 1726), Principal of King's College, Aberdeen.

This inscription reads: '13th June 1710. This is the Chartullarie exhibited by Doctor George Middletone and to which is oath in the actione of declaration att the instance of Charles Menzies against the Earle of Panmuir of this date doth relate. J. Murray.'

It is unclear who J. Murray, the writer of the inscription, may be or the nature of his relationship to the manuscript.

Davis suggests that this may be one of four chartularies relating to Aberdeen which was in the possession of John Ker, but there is no indication within the volume itself to support this.

The manuscript was probably bought by the Library of the Faculty of Advocates from Archibald Constable in 1798.

There is an ownership inscription for the Library of Faculty of Advocates on the recto of folio ii.

The previous shelfmark assigned to the manuscript by the Library of the Faculty of Advocates is on the recto of folio ii, 'Jac.5.6.4', with a smaller 5 placed above the 4. This shelfmark has since been superseded.


Borland, C. R. 'Catalogue of Mediaeval Manuscripts in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh', 4 Volumes. (Unpublished manuscript, Edinburgh, 1906-1908). Volume II, folios 443-444, 447-449, 452-453. NLS Reference: FR.198a/2.

Davis, G. R. C. (ed.) 'Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland. Revised by Claire Breay, Julian Harrison, and David M. Smith' (London, 2010), page 228, number 1114.

'Folio Catalogue of Manuscripts: Chartularies' (Unpublished manuscript, Edinburgh [18??]), folios 10-11. NLS Reference: FR.189.

Innes, C. (ed.) 'Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis' 2 Volumes, Spalding Club (Edinburgh, 1845).

'Scottish Manuscripts: National Library of Scotland' (Edinburgh, 1967), page 6, number 11.

'Summary Catalogue of the Advocates' Manuscripts' (Edinburgh, 1971), page 15, number 140; page 108, number 1401.

Turnbull, W. B. D. D. 'Fragmenta Scoto-Monastica: Memoir of what has been already done, and what materials exist, towards the formation of a Scotish (sic) Monasticon.' (Edinburgh, 1842), page 3.

Physical Description


The binding is of 17th-century brown leather covering cardboard. The front and back boards have blind-tooled borders and floral corner designs. The spine is blind-tooled and has raised bands. There is a remnant of a library sticker on the tail end of the spine.

Folios i-viii are watermarked with a pot design which does not appear to be in Briquet. The pot is short, with two handles and a fleur-de-lis design in the centre. There are flowers and foliage coming out of the top of the pot.

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
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Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

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