William Schevez 1440-1497

From Book Owners Online

William SCHEVEZ or SCHEVES, Archbishop of St Andrews 1440-1497

Biographical Note

William Schevez was possibly the son of John Scheves, clerk register and official of St Andrews. Schevez studied at the University of St Andrews, and taught there during the 1460s, before becoming physician to the King in 1471. His career advanced quickly and he became one of the most powerful men in Scotland during the reign of James III (1460–1488). He was ordained Archdeacon of St Andrews in 1474, and was appointed coadjutor of the See in 1476, before his consecration as Archbishop in 1479. In 1487, he was made Archbishop Primate of Scotland by Pope Innocent VIII. Schevez visited Rome in 1491, where employed the Flemish artist Quentin Metsys to make a commemorative medallion. He subsequently spent time in Louvain. Though not certain, it is possible he studied medicine and astronomy in Louvain earlier in his career. He died in St Andrews.

Inscription of William Schevez (Edinburgh University Library Dd.1.22/1)


Schevez' library is an important example of humanist culture in fifteenth-century Scotland. 12 manuscripts and approx. 29 incunabula have been identified as owned by Schevez, and contain texts on astronomy such as Guido Bonatti’s Decem tractatus astronomiae (Augsburg, 1491) ; and works on medicine, including a manuscript of Raymond Chalin de Vinario’s treatise on epidemic disease, De Epidemia MS Hunter 35 (T.1.3), as well as volumes of the Church Fathers, and 2 manuscript copies of the Scotichronicon. Schevez had a reputation as a learned man and book collector among both his Scottish and continental contemporaries. Jasper Laet de Borchloen’s dedication to Schevez in his treatise on astronomy De-eclipsi soli (1491) specifically mentions the valuable library assembled by Schevez in St Andrews, stating that he had “…instituted at great expense, and with unwonted diligence, a valuable library, which is filled with books of every kind,” adding that he had also “brought from the darkness of obscurity into the light of day the mathematical sciences, which, through the negligence of the Scotch, had become nearly forgotten; and "collected numerous volumes for the restoration of sidereal science.” (Lyon, II, p.344)

At his death, his library was dispersed among individuals in St Andrews and Holyrood, and is thus now spread across individual and institutional collections.

Characteristic Markings

Schevez marked many of his books with a flourishing inscription of his surname, ending with a double diamond shaped mark. Many volumes are also inscribed with variations of “"Schevez. Liber Wilhelmi Sanctiadree Archiepi etc.” He is also known to have annotated a number of his books.

Inscription of William Schevez (Edinburgh University Library Dd.1.22/1)

There is evidence that Schevez purchased books while in Louvain in the 1490s. Multiple volumes were bound in Louvain by Ludovicus Ravescot, and bear his distinctive rebus of bird and bow. These include works by John Chrysostom (Cologne, 1487), preserved at the University of St Andrews TypGC.A87KC


  • Connolly, Margaret. A Manuscript Owned by William Scheves Now at Maynooth, The Library, Volume 17, Issue 3, September 2016, Pages 331–335

C. J. Lyon, History of St Andrews, Episcopal, Monastic, Academic, and Civil , 2 vols (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1843), ii , Appendix 32 (pp. 343–44).