Letter book of transcriptions of letters of Samuel Rutherford, 1637

Scope and Content

Letter book with transcriptions in a contemporary hand of 61 letters of a devotional and exhortatory nature from Samuel Rutherford to various personsincluding Lady Craighall, George Dunbar, James Hamilton, the laird of Gaitgarth, Lord Boyd, Lady Culross, Sir John Hope of Craighall, Lord John Gordon of Earlston. With references to his banishment and feeling a prisoner after he had been sent to Aberdeen. Written in Aberdeen while Rutherford was confined there.

ff.173-4 miscellaneous financial jottings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Rutherford (c.1600-1661) was a controversial figure within the Church of Scotland, as the leading political theorist behind the covenanters. He was born in Nisbet around 1600, studied divinity at Edinburgh and became regent of humanity, involving himself with radical presbyterians there until a sexual scandal lost him his post. He then worked as a Church of Scotland minister in Anwoth, Kirkcudbrightshire. He continued his nonconformist activities, organising a campaign against royal ecclesiastical policy, until ousted by a new bishop in 1636. He was confined to Aberdeen, disputing with local ministers and writing letters to notable men all over Scotland, many of whom would later join him in the leadership of the Covenanters. Just after the signing of the national covenant, he returned to Anwoth, and in 1639 was appointed professor of divinity at St Mary’s College at St Andrews University. Here he worked to remove all vestiges of the episcopacy so recently abolished, until commissioned to attend the Westminster Assembly in 1643. He passionately defended the use of force against Charles I in Lex, rex, or The Law and the Prince (1644) and was an advocate of the right to persecute heretics and sectarians.

However, four years in London left him disillusioned about the state of Presbyterianism in England. On returning to Scotland in 1648 he opposed the moderate covenanters in their agreement with Charles I, creating a militant wing of the kirk against those allied with the king, drafting an act for the abolition of patronage, and spurring on the convenanting army against Cromwell, only to see it suffer ignominious defeat. In 1650 further deep divisions split the Church after the crowning of Charles II at Scone, leading Rutherford to deny the lawfulness of the general assemby in St Andrews the following year. He continued to preach and rail against the moderates from his position as principal of St Mary's College. After the Restoration Lex,rex was denounced and burned by the public hangman. Rutherford was deposed from all his official posts and only his death prevented him being tried on a charge of treason.


Single item

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Purchased Oct 1944


Call number used to be ms645

Other Finding Aids

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

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Binding: Vellum. Holes for two ties. 'J.A. Junr' on spine.Paper: 9.5x14.2cm

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

Bookplate of James Annandale, junior. Autograph of Jane Collingwood of Foorde.



Related Material

University of St Andrews GB 227 msBS540.R8: Dictates of praelectiones by Samuel Rutherford, 1648


The letters are printed in full in A A Bonar Letters of Samuel Rutherford, Edinburgh, 1891. The manuscript text of the end of the first letter [to Lady Boyd, Bonar Letter CVII] is now damaged / missing but is printed complete by Bonar. Similarly letters 2 beginning, 34 end, 35 and 36 beginning are missing.

Geographical Names