Alexander Arbuthnot 1538-1583

From Book Owners Online

Alexander ARBUTHNOT 1538-1583

Biographical Note

He was the third son of Andrew Arbuthnot of Pitcarles and Elizabeth Strachan, daughter of James Strachan of Monboddo His grandfather was Sir Robert Arbuthnot of Arbuthnot. He studied at St Mary’s College, St Andrews. Alexander studied civil law at the University of Bourges, but on his return to Scotland became a zealous supporter of the principles of the reformation, and subsequently began a career in the ministry. His first post was his appointment as minister of Arbuthnot in 1567. In 1569 he replaced Alexander Anderson as Principle of King’s College, Aberdeen, and became its first protestant Principle. he was active in the Church, becoming moderator of the general assembly in 1573 and 1577, & was also closely involved with the second Book of Discipline. .


The majority of Arbuthnot’s library was in Latin, with continental imprints, especially Basel, Lyon and Paris, well represented. Aberdeen University holds at least 35 titles from his library, which includes 2 volumes of the works of both St Basel and Eusebius, reformed authors such as George Witzel, and law books, including Commentarii linguae Graecae (Basel, 1557) by the French humanist Guillaume Budé.

Notable works from Arbuthnot’s library include Ecclesiasticae disciplinae… a work which argued against Anglicanism, by Walter Travers, an English puritan theologian, gifted to Arbuthnot by Andrew Melville (St Andrews TypGHe.B74ST).

Many of Arbuthnot’s books were later owned by William Guild, such Bonaventure’s commentary on the Sentences of Lombard In tertium [et quartum] librum Sententiarum disputata (Glasgow University Veitch Eg7-a.1).

Characteristic Markings

Frequently inscribed his books “M. Alexandri Arbuthnot” (St Andrews TypFP.B26PM)


  • Aberdeen University Provenance Database.
  • Donaldson, Gordon. ‘Aberdeen University and the Reformation’ Northern Scotland Volume 1 (First Series) Northern Scotland (First Series) 1(1): pp. 129–142