BOECE, Hector (c.1465 - c.1536). Scotorum Historiae. Paris: Jodocus Badius Ascensius, for the author, [not before 15 March 1527].
2 parts in one volume, 2° (321 x 221mm). Full woodcut architectural border to both titles with Badé device at centre (Renouard, no. 2), first title printed in red and black, woodcut arms of Scotland with woodcut border pieces above verse 'De insignibus Scotorum Regum', woodcut criblé and historiated initials. (Quire T misbound between Y and Z, small marginal stain in 2 lvs., faint dampstain at fore-edges of final quire.) 19th-century russia, spine lettered in gilt, gilt edges. Provenance: extensively annotated in a contemporary hand (see below) once attributed to William Drummond of Hawthornden (pencilled attribution on flyleaf).
FIRST EDITION of the second history of Scotland to appear in print, following that of John Major (1521). It is written by Hector Boece, Scottish humanist, friend of Erasmus, and first principal of King's College, Aberdeen. As a direct reward for writing the Scotorum Historiae, James V granted Boece a pension of £50 Scots; two years later the pension was doubled.
The Botfield copy is extensively annotated by a close -- and critical -- reader of the mid 16th century. While acclaimed upon publication, Boece's History began to attract critics from the 1540s, most notably the English antiquary John Leland (c.1506-1572). In 1572 the Welsh antiquary Humphrey Lloyd published Commentariolo Descriptionis Britannicae Fragmentum, which further challenged Boece's reputation as an historian. George Buchanan was kinder towards his compatriot, but he too questioned Boece's more incredulous inclusions. Despite these later critics, the Scotorum Historiae was very influential. John Bellenden translated it into a metrical Scots version at the request of James V; it was reprinted with a continuation by Giovanni Ferrerri in 1574; and it appeared in an English translation in 1577.
The annotator of the Botfield copy is firmly in the camp of the most critical of Boece's detractors. The hand is similar in character to that of John Leland, and the criticisms it records reflect Leland's verse condemnation of Boece: 'If you should bid me count the lies of Hector's history, I might as well essay to sum The stars or waves of the sea'. Almost from his first note the annotator proclaims Boece's text a 'manifest lie' ('manifesta mendacia'), a sentiment he repeats regularly. (Erasmus, conversely, had said of Boece that he 'knew not what it was to make a lie'.) He also accuses Boece of poor Latin style (Paolo Giovio had commended Boece's writing as elegant) and for writing speeches, not history. Despite his frequent and vehement condemnation, the reader also found much information of interest, and he reiterates the main events in the margin as an aide-memoire, sometimes adding further information on topics such as the Stone of Scone (fo. IIv). These annotations were previously attributed to William Drummond of Hawthorden (1585-1649), and indeed Drummond owned a copy of Boece's History whose whereabouts (or survival) is not known, however, the annotations belong to an earlier generation. Adams B-2308, Renouard, Badius, II, p.195.