We find in the burgh Court Records some information regarding the manner in which controversial books upon the great questions which the excited the public mind were introduced into the town.
James Rollok, an enterprising Dundee merchant, was one of the burgesses who embraced the reformed doctrines and were convicted “and condemned for certain heresies.” He had not judges it prudent to appear before an ecclesiastical tribunal, and fled to Holland, where he established himself in business at Campvere.
From the Lord Treasurer’s accounts we learn that his brother David thereafter made a com[position on the escheat of his property, paying “one moiety of twenty pounds;” and the Register of Privy Seal shows that, in 1538, he obtained “the gift of all guids, heritages, debts, tacks, steadings, corns, cattle, money, gold, silver, jewels and others whilk perteinit to James Rollok, and now perteining to our Soverane Lord be reason of escheat through being of the said James fugitive frae the law for certain points of heresy imput to him.” At the same time Walter Scrymgeour of Glasswell obtained “the gift of the tacks whilk James Rollok, burgess of Dundee, had of the common mill and windmill of the burgh.
At Campvere there was for long a trading community of Scotsmen which exhibited much enterprise and held important commercial privileges. James Rollok during his residence there had risen into a good position among his compatriots, for we find him designated “Portar of Camfeir,” an office probably the same as that entitled “Conservator,” which placed the holder at the head of the community as guardian of the common privileges. In 1554, while he was abroad he bought a number of books from John Maillier, printer at the White Bear in Botolph’s Lane near Billingsgate, London, a scholar and a zealous reformer who, in 1541, was in trouble on account of the Six Articles, and for being a sacramentary and railer against the mass.”
The books which issued from his press were mostly of a controversial character written to support the reformed doctrines, and such, no doubt, had been those which Rollok bought.
Through inadvertence, probably, the payment of them had not been entered by the printer, and some time after Rollok’s return home, which took place before 1551, they appear to have again been charged to him. On this “James Rollok, elder, producit before the Bailies ane acquittance written be John Maillar, citinar of London, of the date as follows: - ‘The 24th day of Junij in the year of God 1544 years: I, john Mailere, prenter in London in Sanct Bottellis paroch, grants me weill contentit and payit of all soums of money awing to me be James Rollok, Portar in Campfeir, and in special of ane obligation owing to me be the said James of seven pounds Scots and odd money, for certain buiks bocht an recevit frae me be the said James, of which soums I discharge the said James and all others in his name. In witness of the which I have written and subscrivit this my acquittance and discharge by my hand and signet by me John Maillier, same day and year of before said.’”
Notwithstanding the production of this receipt the charge was not departed from and about a month later James Rollok compeared at the instance of John Guthre (who seems to have held authorisation from the printer), “and producit John Maillier’s acquittance, and desirit ane obsolvator of the soum conteinit in the samin, and thereupon requirit an act in court.”
Transcribed by Innes A. Duffus, Honorary Archivist to the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee.
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