James Sutherland ca.1638-1719

From Book Owners Online

James SUTHERLAND ca.1638-1719

Biographical Note

Not much is known about the early life of James Sutherland, apart from it being reported that he was self-taught in the areas of botany and numismatics. Founders Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour of the Edinburgh Physic Garden (a forerunner to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) installed Sutherland as intendant. He was later named the first Regius Keeper and King's Botanist of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

Sutherland had an established reputation as a botanist and taught botany to medical students at the University of Edinburgh for many years. In 1683, he published the first Scottish book on botany, Hortus medicus Edinburgensis.

Sutherland never married and died in 1719. He is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.


Sutherland was an avid collector of coins and medals and possessed a library of over 400 books. His numismatic collections and part of his library were sold to the Faculty of Advocates in 1705 to repay some of his debts. This later came into possession of the Edinburgh Society of Antiquarians and later the National Museum of Scotland.

The remainder of his library was sold in 1707 to the Faculty of Advocates for £782 which was paid to his creditors. However, throughout his retirement he was given access to his books held in the Advocate's Library to continue his research in botany and numismatics.

A catalogue of Sutherland's library lists 303 volumes and includes two incunabula, two manuscripts and several 16th century books. The books cover several subjects including descriptions of herbs and local flora, catalogues of other gardens, apothecaries, practical works on gardening, zoology. Several early publishers are listed in the catalogue: Aldus Press, Vincenzo Valgrisi, Andreas Wechelus, Johann Veldener.

His books are now held in the National Library of Scotland.

Examples: National Library Scotland Inc. 306; Inc. 307