Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 -1587)

Mary Queen of Scots, daughter and only child of James V of Scotland and his queen, Mary of Lorraine, was born at Linlithgow 5 December 1542. Five days later her father died. She was sent to France for safe keeping, and married 24 April 1558 the Dauphin Francis. Very shortly afterwards Henri II was killed in a tournament, and Francis and Mary ascended the throne of Francis. A year later Francis, who had always been sickly was dead. She returned to Scotland at the beginning of September 1561. She married Boswell on the 15 May 1567. She took refuge in England and was executed for treason by Queen Elizabeth in February 1587.

When her first husband, Francis II, King of France, died, his books remained with Mary and formed the library that she brought back with her from France to Scotland. Most were bound by the French royal binder, and were decorated either with the arms and cipher of Francis II alone, or with the arms of the royal couple together. There is a copy of Munster's Cosmographie, published in Basle in 1556, in the Bibliotheque nationale in Paris with the arms of Francis II, and a printed Paris Book of Hours of 1548 with the quartered arms of Francis and Mary painted on the upper cover in the Bibliotheque of Reims. A servant in a deposition after her flight says that the books had the arms of the King and Queen of France.

Whether Mary possessed any other books is difficult to say. Because of the romantic circumstances of her life, and death, she has been a prime target for both forgery and wishful thinking ever since her death. The National Library of Scotland has an edition of Theodore Beza's Confession, in Italian (RB.s.1598), bound in limp vellum with a gilt inscription `MARIA . R . SCOTORV[tilde]' added to both covers in gold. It is an unattractive binding in its present state, and can never have been a grand one, but there is no special reason for believing that it is other than genuine. The British Library has a manuscript presented to Mary by John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (Add.MS.48180). It is dated 1573, is bound in limp vellum, tooled in gold, and has a royal crown and the intitials M R added, whether at her order or by someone else is not known. Lambeth Palace Library has another presentation manuscript, also from John Lesley in 1572. It is also in limp vellum and has two crowns one above and below the centrepiece with the initials M R below each. Dr Pamela Robertson has described the manuscript and agrees that the case for the genuineness of the stamps in not proven.

The most important group of bindings put forward as being bound for Mary Queen of Scots is the group which contain the impressive stamp on the Du Choul binding (Stamp 1), and those with the rather clumsy arms (Stamp 2) and one other associated binding. These have a number of things in common. All of them are redecorations of existing bindings. This would seem to suggest that Mary bought her books ready bound, and then added her coat-of-arms and the crowned Ms. This is of course possible, though most royal bindings were executed for their owners, and where they bought second-hand, as in the case of George III, who was a keen book collector, they often had the books rebound. Lastly they all have tools in common, those with the stamps of her arms have also the same crowned Ms, used in the same way. The anomalous binding is a copy of the Astronomie of Jacques Bassantin( Lyon, 1557). The book was bound in dark brown calf with a centrepiece and cornerpieces in gold, a pleasant but not sumptuous binding. Above the centrepieces has been added an open M, possibly hand drawn with a fillet, and above this is a crown. The crown tool is that of stamp 2, thus suggesting that the crown in that stamp is a separate tool. The book came from the library of the Stanhopes, Earl of Chesterfield, and in the catalogue of their library is described only as having a crowned M on the sides.

Because of their shared characteristics this group of bindings stand or fall together. The Du Choul and the Paradin look very convincing. The elaborate grid pattern with Ms in the centre panel of the Jacques de Strada, is uncomfortable, and not convincing. What makes me sure, however, is the signature on the titlepage of the Du Choul which is quite clearly cut into by the binder, and shows that Mary could not have been the first owner of the book.

There is one other binding which has claims to have been made for Mary Queen of Scots and that is one in private hands on an imperfect copy of Petrus Paschalius. Henrici Galliarum Regis Elogium (Paris, 1560). The first record of it is in the auction catalogue of the library of R.T.Hamilton Bruce 5th December 1900 lot 874 for £170. It was purchased at that sale by `Hopkins' perhaps for William Beattie, a Glasgow baker, in whose possession it was when it was exhibited in the historical section of the Glasgow Exhibition of 1901. It was illustrated in Scottish History and Life published by Maclehose & Sons in 1902 p. 61 and fig 140; and was lot 519 in the sale of William Beattie's Library at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge on 12 November 1924, and is now in a private collection in Scotland. It has a large oval centrepiece which seems to be a copy of one owned by the great French binder Claude de Picques, who bound the presentation copies of this book. They however are in a different style, the block is not identical, and the tooling, though elaborate, is clumsily executed. The centre block is not evenly impressed. It also overlaps the crowned Ms. The verdict has to be that this binding is also a forgery.Stamp 1 is a copy of one which is alleged to have been used by Mary Queen of Scots. The first reference I know to the original of which this is a copy is in Ernest Quentin Bauchart's Les femmes bibliophiles de France. 2 vols. Paris, 1886. `Marie Stuart' is at pages 105-121 of Vol.2 prefaced by an engraving of the stamp, without its wreath. Bauchart lists seven items as belonging to Mary. Of these only the last has the stamp of the arms. It is on a copy of Guillaume de Choul's Discours de la religion des Anciens Romain. (Lyon: Guillaume Rouille, 1556). He gives the reference Bulletin de la librairie Morgand tome 1 no 2578. It subsequently belonged to C.F. Bishop whose bookplate it contains, was lot 221 in the Lucius Wilmerding sale at Parke-Bernet in New York 5-6 March 1951, and is illustrated in the catalogue. It is now in a continental collection where I was able to examine and photograph it.
While not identical, Stamp 1 is a close copy. What the explanation for this is I can only conjecture. Mr A.R.A. Hobson, with whom I discussed the stamp, said he could only surmise that some collector, devoted to Mary Queen of Scots had chosen to decorate his books this way.
The monogram ? and two Ms for Francis II and Mary was actually used by Francis II and Mary, and was one the monograms that Mary continued to use after her return to Scotland. The most likely explanation is that the Scots College in Paris which was founded by Mary had it cut for use on some of its books. The fact that Charta authentica Seneschallii Scotiae. Paris, 1695 was based on manuscripts owned by the college, and published by them tends to confirm this conjecture.

Stamp(s) Stamp Information
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 - 1587) (Stamp 1) Heraldic Charges: lion rampant within, Heraldic Charges: tressure, double, flory counterflory
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 - 1587) (Stamp 2) Heraldic Charges: lion rampant within, Heraldic Charges: tressure, double, flory counterflory
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 - 1587) (Stamp 3) Coronet: Royal
Heraldic Charges: lion rampant within, Heraldic Charges: tressure, double, flory counterflory
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 - 1587) (Stamp 4) Motto: Sa vertu matire
Monogram: Greek Phi and two Ms
Coronet: Royal