Questiones Evangelicorum

Juan de Torquemada (1388-1468)
Questiones Evangelicorum tam de Tempore quam de Sanctis, (Strasbourg, c.1485)
Gifted in 1580
Rare Books Collection Shelfmark: Dd.4.20

Of itself this book is unremarkable – a collection of sermons by a distinguished fifteenth-century Spanish Dominican (the uncle of the more famous Inquisitor of the same name). It would have been regarded as old-fashioned by the time it arrived in the University Library as part of the foundation donation of books. A picky librarian of that time may not have been keen on it, but as the University was yet to be founded, and had no library or librarian, there was no one to argue.

As a result, the volume is still with us, and is now an important historical document for our understanding of libraries in medieval Edinburgh.

It was first owned by William Scheves, second Archbishop of St Andrews from 1478 until his death in 1497. He gifted it to the friary library of the Dominicans of Edinburgh. It was there that the horn title label, on the front of the book was added. This type of label was typical in a lectern library, where the book would have been stored on a long, sloped reading desk. The Dominicans’ shelf mark is written on the first page.

After the looting of the friaries of Edinburgh in 1559 it found its way into the hands of Clement Litil who saved it, and bequeathed it for the Tounis College, the original name of the University of Edinburgh.

Clement Litil (c.1525-1580) was the son of an Edinburgh mercantile family. After studying at St. Andrews and Louvain, he returned to Edinburgh to practice as an advocate. He was among a small group who were working to found a college in the town. The aim was to the fulfil the Protestant ambition for a well-educated clergy, and soundly-informed laity. Litil died shortly before this plan came to fruition. His bequest 276 books to the town, for the purposes of founding a library, once the college had been brought into being.

Story by Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian