John Sinclair ca.1510-1566

From Book Owners Online

John SINCLAIR, Bishop of Brechin ca.1510-1566

Biographical Note

The fourth son of Sir Oliver Sinclair of Roslin, Edinburghshire (d. 1513), and his second wife Isabella Livingstone, and younger brother to Henry Sinclair 1507/8-1565. He graduated from St Andrews in 1527, and received an Arts degree from the University of Paris in 1531. On his return to Scotland in 1537, he was incorporated at St Andrews as licentiate in civil law, before lecturing in canon law at King’s College, Aberdeen, while also holding various roles within the Church. He was admitted as a senator of the College of Justice and as an ordinary Lord of Session in 1540. In 1548, he was appointed Dean of Restalrig. Sinclair fled to France when Restalrig was condemned as a monument of idolatry in 1560. While there he acquired a doctorate in civil and canon law from the University of Paris. Following the death of his brother Henry, he returned to Scotland, where he succeeded Henry as President of the College of Justice. He officiated the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, and was subsequently nominated by the monarch to the Bishopric of Brechin. While he received papal provision in September 1565, it is doubtful Sinclair was ever consecrated. He died in Edinburgh.


Over thirty volumes of Sinclair’s library survive, many of which demonstrate his interest in Catholic reformers and theology, as well as Canon and Civil Law. Sinclair owned a copy of the Articles of Faith of Leuven University (Antwerp, 1555) drawn up by the Dutch theologian and Catholic Reformer Ruard Tapper (1487-1559), as well as the dogmatic work Demonstrationum Religionis Christianae (Antwerp, 1557) by Bishop of Antwerp, Franciscus Sonnius (1506-1576). Works by the Catholic theologians Denis the Carthusian (1402–1471) and Antoninus of Florence (1389-1459) are also present. Legal texts acquired by Sinclair include Consiliorum (Lyon, 1544) by Pier Filippo Corneo (1419/20-1492), an Italian jurist and scholar of both civil and canon law; and works by Nicolas Bohier (1469–1539), the French lawyer, and president of the Bordeaux Parliament. It is not clear when his library was dispersed, and surviving volumes are distributed across many Scottish Universities.

Characteristic Markings

Sinclair commonly inscribed his books with his name and his title as Dean of Restalrig, examples of which are “J. Syncler decanus a restalrig” and “liber magistri joannis sinclerii decani de restalrig”