Esther Inglis


Laing, ‘Notes’

David Laing, ‘Notes relating to Mrs Esther (Langlois or) Inglis, the Celebrated Calligraphist, with an Enumeration of Manuscript Volumes Written by her between the years 1586 and 1624’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 6 (1868), 284-309

Scott-Elliot & Yeo

A.H. Scott-Elliot and Elspeth Yeo, ‘Calligraphic Manuscripts of Esther Inglis (1571-1624): A Catalogue’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 84 (March 1990), 11-86


With Esther Inglis we stretch the boundaries of literature and authorship to include in CELM one of the most remarkable calligraphers of her time, one who, however, did probably contribute to some of the verses that appear in her manuscripts, and it has been argued that her products are in a sense professional publications. Inglis, who was married to a government official named Bartholomew Kello, contributed to the family income by producing exquisite manuscript volumes or booklets, of sizes varying from tiny miniatures upwards, with usually religious texts, in different languages, impeccably copied in a huge variety of scripts, with often elaborate coloured decoration or illustration, and sometimes including self portraits. She may also have been responsible for the elaborately embroidered covers on some of the manuscripts. She sent these products, suitably addressed and dedicated, with appropriate verses (often by her husband or other Scottish poets), to many of the leading figures of society, including members of the Royal Family, influential aristocrats and courtiers, and even distinguished continental leaders. For each of these presentation manuscripts, which were clearly signed by her (often as ‘Esther Anglois’ or ‘Langlois’), she obviously expected a gracious payment by the grateful recipient. We have no records to show how financially successful this operation was except for one record showing that Prince Henry paid her £5, possibly the going rate.

Attempts to produce a comprehensive catalogue of Inglis's extant and widely dispersed manuscripts began with David Laing in 1868 and progressed to the fine descriptive catalogue by Scott-Elliot and Yeo (1990). Their inventory may be slightly amended and expanded at present by the addition of a few other items that have turned up since 1990 and by a few relocations.

Peter Beal