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The History and Chronicles of Scotland
Written in Latin by Hector Boece, Canon of Aberdeen and Translated by John Bellenden, Archdean of Moray, and Canon of Ross in two volumes (1821)

John Bellenden's Chronicles of Scotland (1531-1537) is a humanist Scots translation of Hector Boece's Scotorum Historia (1527). As the first full-scale printed national history in the vernacular, the Chronicles assumed a pivotal role in sixteenth-century Scottish literary culture. Despite its contemporary importance, however, relatively little critical attention has been paid to Bellenden's work itself, primarily due to the misconception that it is a neutral translation of the Scotorum Historia. However, as Bellenden successively revised his text in several stages with stylistical, ideological and material alterations, the Chronicles needs to be evaluated as an individual literary work. The Chronicles reveals much about translation practice, cultural attitudes and book history in early modern Scotland.

This thesis situates John Bellenden as a leading vernacular humanist whose concern to heighten the quality of vernacular Scots gave major impetus to the vernacular tradition in Scottish historiography. Chapter 1 shows how Bellenden's overall translation policy is indebted to humanist literary precepts and shows how its embodiment evolves through the course of his revision work. The following three chapters, which deal with Books 1, 12 and 16 of the Chronicles respectively, demonstrate the changing nature of Bellenden's translation and revision practice. A comparative analysis of the first manuscript version, three intermediary manuscript versions and the final printed version exhibits how Bellenden's attitude towards the Chronicles is affected by his ultimate respect for humanistic quality, and his consideration of his patrons and his audience. Chapter 5 examines the contemporary reception of the Chronicles. The conclusion seeks to reevaluate the congruity of the Chronicles with the contemporary cultural milieu and its influence on subsequent historiography and literature within and outwith early modern Scotland.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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