Papers of Donald Elmslie Robertson Watt

Scope and Content

The collection reflects Watt's work as general editor of an edition of the Scottish 15th century chronicle, Walter Bower's Scotichronicon, completed in 1998. The papers comprise the many photographs, photocopies and photographic copies of the text as well as microfilms and microfiche of manuscript copies of the chronicle from which the edition was compiled, as well as some transcripts.

Administrative / Biographical History

Donald Elmslie Robertson Watt, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History in the University of St Andrews, is a distinguished ecclesiastical historian. He was born and educated in Aberdeen and the University of Aberdeen and attended Oxford as a Carnegie Scholar. Except for one year at Columbia, U.S.A., his entire career was spent in the department of Medieval History at St Andrews, from 1953-1988, being awarded a Personal Professor in Scottish Church History within that department in 1977. In the 1950s he produced a Fasti of the medieval and early modern Scottish church. Between 1963-71 he was joint Editor of the Scottish Historical Review. In 1977 he produced A Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Graduates to A.D. 1410. From the mid 1970s he worked as directing editor for a new edition of the Scotichronicon. This is a history of Scotland from the beginning until his own time written by Walter Bower in the 1440s. Watt's edition includes the original Latin with facing page translations into modern English.

Bower was one of the first students of law and theology in the University of St Andrews and was the first major literary figure that it produced. The range of his literary and philosophical allusions illustrate the breadth of the learning which the first teachers in Scotland's first university brought to the country. Bower became Abbot of Inchcolm Abbey on the island in the Firth of Forth. The chronicle is divided into sixteen books covering 1000 years of Scottish history from mythical beginnings to the murder of King James I in 1437 in Bower's own day. The book was circulated in manuscript form and was printed for the first time, in latin, in the mid-eighteenth century.

Watt's edition of the Scotichronicon was published in 9 volumes by The Mercat Press, Edinburgh from 1987-1997.


Original arrangement retained since collection was listed on receipt by the library:Versions of Bower's full text; Abbreviated versions of Bower's full text; Versions of Fordun's Chronica and Annales; Versions of the Pluscarden Chronicle; Photocopies; Transcripts; Appendix.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Hard copy list is available in the Reading Room of GB 227.

Alternative Form Available

Much of the collection is copies of various editions of the manuscript held elsewhere.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. The copyright of some of the material may not be held by the library and therefore reproduction may be restricted.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

Given to the Library by Professor Watt in 1998, accessioned in 1999.