The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XVIII. The Book-Trade, 1557–1625

§ 33. Gourlaw’s Inventory

The inventories of property recorded with the wills in Scottish registers of testaments afford some extremely interesting glimpses of the stock-in-trade of the printer and bookseller of this period, and those of the printers indicate that the impressions of many of the popular works were surprisingly large. The list of the books in the inventory of Robert Gourlaw, bookbinder and bookseller of Edinburgh, who died in 1585, occupies no less than six pages as printed in the Bannatyne Miscellany, and, if it may be taken to represent the current demand, points to a wide and cultivated standard of reading. Most noticeable are school books, chiefly Latin, and small books of devotion, such as psalms and books of prayers. The classics are well represented in the Iliad and the Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Ethics of Aristotle, Virgil, Terence, Apuleius and Silius Italicus. Erasmus is much in evidence, probably in school editions. Theology, especially of a contemplative character, is the chief element; two copies of Bradford’s Meditations are followed impartially by three copies of “ane lytill Fortoun buik.” The immense popularity of Sir David Lyndsay is easily perceived, and lighter literature is well represented in ballads and other vernacular pieces. Piers Plowman and Sir John Mandeville appear, but contemporary English literature is practically absent, and there are no plays. There are also two copies of Gargantua and a Hebrew grammar.