Scottish Archive Network Research Tools - resources to help you with your research

Back to Research Tools
List of Patients, Smallpox Hospital, Mounthooly
Pitsligo School Log Book 1874-1912
Lieutenancy Book, County of Roxburgh, 1797-1802
Memoirs of James Smith, Stonemason, Dundee
Wick Harbour Trust Minute Book, 1880-1886
Kilsyth Heritors' Minutes 1813-1844
Description of the Isles of Orkney, 1684
Minute Book, Perthshire Highway Commisioners
Notes on 'Old Rock' Shetland, c. 1889-90
Cess Book, County of Lanarkshire, 1724-1725
Stirling Town Council Minutes 11847-64

  Rev. James Wallace: A Description of the Isles of Orkney, 1684
The Orkney Library and Archive MS (DO88)


Manuscript of Rev. James Wallace’s A Description of the Isles of Orkney

The Reverend James Wallace graduated from King’s College, Aberdeen in 1659. He was presented to Lady Parish, Sanday ten years later and in 1672 he became minister in Kirkwall where he remained until his death      from fever in 1688. The monument he erected in memory of his wife and children can be seen against the south wall in St Magnus Cathedral. He left 100 marks for the use of the church which was used to purchase two communion cups for St Magnus. It is suspected that it was James Wallace who suggested to William Baikie that he should bequeath his library to Kirkwall thus founding, in 1683, the Bibliotheck of Kirkwall, the oldest public library in Scotland and precursor of The Orkney Library and Archive.

This manuscript, dated 1684, is an early version of A Description of the Isles of Orkney which was published by James Wallace’s son in 1693, some five years after the author’s death. It is 84 pages in length and illustrated on thirteen pages by twenty-two pen and ink drawings, including a full-page sketch of St Magnus Cathedral.  Inscriptions within indicate that in 1698 it was in the possession of Mr Thomas Baikie, minister of Kirkwall, ; was gifted by George Baikie in 1833 to his friend Thomas Stewart Traill, son of yet another minister of Kirkwall and later editor of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Click on the links in the page' or 'title' fields to take you to the images of a particular chapter in the volume. Click on 'Read transcript' to read a text version only. Alternatively, start at page 1 and work your way through the volume. Please note that these images are large (approx 150-200k) and may take some time to download.

Page Title
1 Chapter 1st: The nature off the countrey & Chief Products yroff
  >> Read transcript
11 Chapter 2d: of Plants animals metalls & Substances cast up by the sea etc.
18 Chapter 3d: off forrests rivers, lochs etc. What moon causeth high water
  >> Read transcript
19 Chapter 4th: The Ancient Monuments & Curiousities of this Countrey
  >> Read transcript
27 Chapter 5th: The peculiar customs, manners & Dispositions of the Inhabitants of this Countrey
  >> Read transcript
33 Chapter 6th: off the Accidents that have fallen out in this Countrey
  >> Read transcript
36 Chapter 7th: of the Toun off Krkwall
  >> Read transcript
37 Chapter 8th: The Severall Wayes how Orkne hath been a Honorarie Title
  >> Read transcript
41 Chapter 9th: The Ancient & Present State off the Church off Orkney
  >> Read transcript
48 Chapter 10th: of the Plantation of the Christian faith in Orkney & off the Bishops thereof
  >> Read transcript
61 Chapter 11th: The Present Ministers of Orkney, with their Stipends & Revenues
  >> Read transcript
66 Chapter 12th: The Historie of the first Plantation of the Iles of Orkney & of the Ancient and Present Possessors of them
  >> Read transcript
82 Chapter 13th: The Present government of Orkney
  >> Read transcript