Esther Inglis’s work is a good example of the porous boundaries between manuscript and print at the time. Many of her works transcribe printed texts back into manuscript.
Her primary source was the Geneva Bible, both the French version of 1588 and the English translation of 1560, of which there were many editions. She primarily used the Psalms in English, French or Latin, in verse or prose ( 12 manuscripts), as well as Proverbs (6), Ecclesiastes (4), the Song of Salomon (1), and the Lamentations of Jeremiah (1). The French Psalms in verse are from the Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze version, and the Latin from that of Helius Eobanus Hessus, as noted by Scott-Elliot and Yeo. In addition, at least four times she used Guillaume Paradin’s Historiarum memorabilium ex Genesi descriptio tetrastichis versibus (Lyons 1558), which is a summary of Genesis in four-line verses with illustrations.
In a newly reported discovery, Esther Inglis used a Latin verse summary by Rudolf Gwalther (1519-1586) of the Gospel of Matthew and of the Apochryphal book Ecclesiasticus. She presented these manuscripts in 1607 to William Douglas, Earl of Morton and to Thomas Puckering, respectively. Gwalther was a popular Protestant preacher and Bullinger’s successor as head of the church in Zurich, where his verses were first published by Christoph Froschauer in 1542 before being republished several times. It is possible that Inglis came across them in Gwalther’s Argumentorum In Sacra Biblia (Frankfurt, 1556), where the verses on Ecclesiasticus appear in the first part, beginning on sig. [Nn5v], while those on Matthew are found in the second part, beginning on sig. A2.
In 1615, Inglis made a manuscript for her son, Samuel Kello, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a Protestant cleric. Titled Verbum Sempiternum, the tiny book is just under two inches high. It reproduces the summary of the Old and New Testaments in verses from the Thumb Bible (1614) by John Taylor, the Water Poet, a very tiny book which fits nicely in the hand. Inglis has her manuscript bound “dos-a-dos,” or “back-to-back” with the Old Testament first, followed by the New, in a green embroidered binding, probably made by herself.
After the Bible, Inglis’s major sources were two series of religious quatrains and octaves by French writers, Guy du Faur, Sieur de Pybrac (1529-1584) and Antoine de la Roche Chandieu (1534-1591). Pybrac was a judge, diplomat and poet whose morally uplifting Quatrains were published many times, first in sets of 50 from 1564, then from 1576 as sets of 126 which is what Esther Inglis used. They were also printed in part-books for singing with music by Orlande de Lassus from 1581 and Guillaume Boni from 1582, as well as several other composers. Inglis used these French Quatrains as a copy text for fifteen of her manuscripts, beginning in 1599.
Chandieu was a Protestant theologian and chair of Hebrew at the University of Geneva who wrote about the persecutions of the Protestants in France. Some of his fifty Octonaires sur la vanité et inconstance du monde were published from as early as 1580 in Strasbourg. As Elliot and Yeo point out, they were eventually published in 1586 in a composite volume also containing Pybrac’s Quatrains as well as Pierre du Val’s poem, De la Grandeur de Dieu, which Inglis also used. Inglis used the Octonaires as a copy text eleven times, three of them in an English translation which she likely made herself, according to Inglis scholar and editor, Jamie Reid-Baxter. In 1582, twenty-six of Chandieu’s Octonaires were set to music by Paschal de l’Estocart, and several more, set by Claude Le Jeune, were posthumously published in 1606.
The poetic Sommaire Discours de la Foy, presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1591 is one of Inglis’s earliest manuscripts and offers a puzzle. No printed version of this Discours has yet been discovered, leading Scott-Elliot and Yeo to think it was by Inglis’s father, Nicolas Langlois. More recently, Jamie Reid-Baxter has argued that it could be by Inglis herself. The jury is still out. The Discours comprises forty, six-line stanzas in French setting out the church’s creed from a specifically Huguenot perspective.
In 1605, Inglis made a copy of David Hume’s Vincula Unionis so that Hume could present it to James VI and I. The first part of Hume’s treatise on the union of Britain was published in 1605. This, the second part, was not published, but Hume wanted to make sure the King received a copy.
Finally, in the last year of her life, Inglis copied a book by another woman writer that she had known for many years. This is Georgette de Montenay’s Emblemes Chrestiens. The French poet first published her book in 1567, then it was reissued in 1571 during a break in the religious wars in France. Inglis knew the book from at least the late 1590s, as she used the portrait of Montenay as the source for her own self-portraits. She also copied the emblems with variations based on the English court and presented the whole – one of her largest and most ambitious manuscripts – to Prince Charles in 1624.