Walter Bower

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Walter Bower (or Bowmaker) (1385 – 24 December 1449), Scottish chronicler, was born about 1385 at Haddington, East Lothian.

He was abbot of Inchcolm Abbey (in the Firth of Forth) from 1418, was one of the commissioners for the collection of the ransom of James I, King of Scots, in 1423 and 1424, and in 1433 one of the embassy to Paris on the business of the marriage of the king's daughter to the dauphin. He played an important part at the council of Perth (1432) in the defence of Scottish rights.

During his closing years he was engaged on his work the Scotichronicon, on which his reputation now chiefly rests. This work, undertaken in 1440 by desire of a neighbour, Sir David Stewart of Rosyth, was a continuation of the Chronica Gentis Scotorum of John of Fordun. The completed work, in its original form, consisted of sixteen books, of which the first five and a portion of the sixth (to 1163) are Fordun's—or mainly his, for Bower added to them at places. In the later books, down to the reign of Robert I (1371), he was aided by Fordun's Gesta Annalia, but from that point to the close the work is original and of contemporary importance, especially for James I, with whose death it ends. The task was finished in 1447.

In the two remaining years of his life he was engaged on a reduction or "abridgment" of this work, which is known as the Book of Cupar, and is preserved in the Advocates' library, Edinburgh (MS. 35. 1. 7). Other abridgments, not by Bower, were made about the same time, one about 1450 (perhaps by Patrick Russell, a Carthusian of Perth) preserved in the Advocates' library (MS. 35. 6. 7) and another in 1461 by an unknown writer, also preserved in the same collection (MS. 35. 5. 2). Copies of the full text of the Scotichronicon, by different scribes, are extant. There are two in the British Library, in The Black Book of Paisley, and in Harl. MS. 712; one in the Advocates' library, from which Walter Goodall printed his edition (Edin., 1759), and one in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

See also WF Skene's edition of Fordun in the series of Historians of Scotland (1871). Personal references are to be found in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, iii. and iv.

A revised and updated translation of Bower's work was produced under the leadership of Professor D. E. R. Watt, in nine volumes, published between 1977 and 1997.


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