John Geddy, Methodi, sive compendii mathematici, 1586

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

John Geddy (or Geddes), Methodi, sive compendii mathematici, libri quator, volume 1 only.

The book is a calligraphic copy of Geddy's work, possibly in his hand, dedicated to James VI, king of Scotland. It has a dedicatory preface bearing the dates 1586 and 1631, illuminated, to the king, together with an acrostic poem to James by Geddy and declamatory verses addressed to Geddy by Francis Bodin, 'counsellor of La Rochelle' [France].

Capitals illuminated with cityscapes, tables of numerals in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Phoenician and Egyptian.

With the volume is an autograph letter, signed, David Hay Fleming to [John Johnston] Smith [Keeper of the Muniment Room] advising him that the above volume is being forwarded as a gift to the University library.Signed D. Hay Fleming.Embossed headed notepaper, 4 Chamberlain Rd, Edinburgh, 23 July 1930. (1 sheet folded, 3pp.)

Administrative / Biographical History

John Geddy or John Geddes was probably born in St Andrews to one of the local Geddes families, and studied at St Leonard's College from 1571 to 1574. He worked as amanuensis to George Buchanan, the well-known Scottish historian and poet, and twice received a royal pension from James VI, in 1577 and 1588. He is also thought to have been responsible for a bird's eye plan of St Andrews, known as the Geddy map, as the writing on the map captions matches that of the Methodi, sive compendii mathematici, and was probably produced in the early 1580's. Perhaps his mathematical treatise was dedicated to James VI in an attempt to gain a royal post. He was secretary to a commission sent by James VI to the princes of Germany in 1590, and may have served on earlier diplomatic missions, but later seems to have been working for the English. In late 1593 or early 1594, after a shipwreck on the way to the Low Countries, in which he may have perished, incriminating documents were discovered on the beach. Nothing more was heard of him after this date.

Geddy may also be the same man mentioned in GB 0227 msDA788.G4B91, being appointed secretary to the Queen, Anne of Denmark, in 1591.


Single item

Conditions Governing Access

By appointment with the Keeper of Manuscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the Library by Dr D Hay Fleming, 23 July 1930.


Preface states 'Ab editione Juliana', but no printed edition has been identified.

One page excised between ff.6-7 was missing when Hay Fleming acquired the volume.

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Binding vellum with embossed decorative covers bearing the initials IR [Jacobus Rex] in the centre with a crown above within an ornamental circlet. Titles in gold with title heads of pages in gold, most initials in gold and letter strokes above and below the median also in gold. Decorative floral designs throughout.

The whole in a modern sleeve case by John Clerk, with title Methodi Mathematici, Geddaeo, 1586.Paper: 13.6x18.5cm approx.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Custodial History

A dedication in a hand of the first part of the seventeenth century to Sir George Hay, Chancellor of Scotland.

On the front cover, in a hand of the seventeenth century, 'For my Lord of Scottystarvet' [John Scot of Scotstarvit, Fife ?].

Formerly in the library of Principal Hunter. Purchased at the sale of Principal Hunter's library by David Hay Fleming, 2 April 1878.



Related Material

University of St Andrews: GB 0227 msDA788.G4B91: Writ of James VI and Queen Anne of Scotland, 1591.


RN Smart, 'The sixteenth century bird's eye view plan of St Andrews', Three Decades of Historical Notes, St Andrews Preservation Trust, 1991, pp81-87.