Hanged & Drawn: How the story of a Scottish martyr spread across Germany

By Nina Lamal |

Working on books printed in the German lands in the first half of the seventeenth century, I came across a few publications describing the martyr death of the Scottish Jesuit John Ogilvie, the first Jesuit to be executed in Scotland. These publications are not recorded in VD17, the German national bibliography for books printed in the seventeenth century, because the majority of the surviving copies are located in libraries outside of Germany.

On 10 March 1615 the Scottish Jesuit John Ogilvie was hanged and drawn in Glasgow. Born into a noble family in Scotland, he was raised as a Calvinist.  Like so many of his social standing he went to the European continent for his education, where enrolled at the recently established Protestant University of Helmstedt. In 1596 he enrolled at the Scottish College at the University of Leuven where he converted to Catholicism. Three years after his conversion he joined the Society of Jesus in Brno in Moravia. John frequently requested permission from Claudio Acquaviva, the general of the order, to undertake a mission to Scotland. After a few years his request was granted and in 1613 he secretly arrived in Glasgow to preach to the few remaining Catholics in the city. In 1614 his activities were discovered and he was imprisoned and tortured for five months. He was tried for refusing to pledge allegiance to King James and he was publicly hanged and drawn the following year. An official account of his trial and the execution was printed in Edinburgh in the same year, but soon another version of these events appeared in Catholic cities throughout Europe. For Catholics this was yet one more Jesuit who had been killed because of his Catholic faith in the British Isles.

Relatio incarcerationis, University of Glasgow Library , Sp Coll Mu41-i.5
The Mainz edition of Relatio incarcerationis & martyrij, R. P. Ioannis Ogilbei (USTC 2152794). University of Glasgow Library, Sp Coll Mu41-i.5.

A Latin account was first published in Douai in 1615 (USTC 1117438), a hotspot for printing by Catholic émigrés from the British Isles. It was printed by the widow of Laurence Kellam, himself an English exile, consisting of a 52-page compilation of letters sent by Ogilvie to friends and to Aquaviva, as well as an account of his imprisonment and trial. The Douai version was subsequently published in several Catholic cities in the Holy Roman Empire. It was reprinted in 1616 in Mainz (USTC 2152794), Würzburg (USTC 2152799), Ingolstadt (USTC 2152802) and Constance (USTC 2152803). Not all of these editions were simple copies of the Douai version: the Ingolstadt edition printed by Elisabeth Angermaier also contained a commentary on martyrs in England by Cornelius a Lapide, professor of Holy Scripture at the University of Leuven, and one of the people who convinced Ogilvie to convert to Catholicism. In Constance the printer Lorenz Straub also printed a German translation of this pamphlet (USTC 2152821, 2152823)

“An official account of his trial and the execution was printed in Edinburgh in the same year, but soon another version appeared in Catholic cities throughout Europe.”

The Latin editions were aimed both at local and a more international audience. Local religious houses such as the Jesuit College in Mainz or the Schottenkloster in Würzburg were potential customers. The University of Glasgow Library, one of our Preserving the World’s Rarest Books partners, holds a copy of the Mainz edition printed by Johannes Albin, featured above (Sp Coll Mu41-i.5). The only known copy surviving in Germany, from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, has annotations stating that it belonged to the local Jesuit College in Mainz. Würzburg was one of the several German cities which hosted a Schottenkloster, a medieval Benedictine monastery, which since 1595 housed a number of Scottish monks who had left their homeland after the Reformation. Many of these publications have survived in several religious libraries: a copy of the German accounts printed in Constance today survives in the Capuchin Provincial Library in Prague.

These publications demonstrate the importance of European Catholic print networks in spreading martyrologies. The German imprints and their survival in libraries outside of Germany are an important part of this story.


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Nina Lamal is a FWO Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Antwerp. From 2015 until 2017 she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant on Preserving the World’s Rarest Books. She is currently compiling the first bibliography of seventeenth-century Italian newspapers. Her research focuses on the role of handwritten newsletters and printed newspapers in the seventeenth century. You can follow her on Twitter at @NinaLamal.


Cover image of John Ogilvie by M.K., after C.S., etching from 1615. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG D21441CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Title page image used with permission from the University of Glasgow Library.


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