William Guild 1586-1657

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William GUILD 1586-1657

Biographical Note

Born in Aberdeen, son of Matthew Guild, a wealthy and influential armourer. He was educated in divinity at St Mary’s College, St Andrews, between 1604 and 1606, and latterly at Marischal College, Aberdeen. He entered the ministry of the Church of Scotland and was appointed to the charge of Kinneddar in Turiff, Aberdeenshire in 1608. He married Katharine Rowen in 1610. In 1631 he was appointed to the charge of St Nicolas, Aberdeen, and was also appointed to the role of King’s chaplain. He reluctantly agreed to sign the Covenant in 1638, but with several caveats, including swearing loyalty to Charles I. In 1640, he replaced William Leslie as principal of King’s College, Aberdeen, but was deposed in 1651 after General Monck’s visitation of the college. Guild was a generous benefactor to the city of Aberdeen, giving property and funds for the foundation of a hospital and the education of the poor. He wrote 22 works over the course of his life, most of which were anti-Catholic. He died in Aberdeen, leaving 7000 merks to the town council and kirk sessions of Aberdeen for the care of orphans.


175 titles are known to have survived from Guild’s library. He left a bequest of the majority of his books to the University of St Andrews, which arrived after his death. Christine Gascoigne describes Guild’s library as “the working library of one required to expound the scriptures at length each week” (Gascoigne, p.40). Biblical Commentaries is the most common category, followed by works on the Epistles, Gospels and Psalms. His library also included editions of the Church Fathers, including Gregory the Great and Justin Martyr, as well as medieval Christian writers such as Dionysius the Carthusian (1402-1471) and Sacra Canonis missae expositio (Lyon, 1517) by Gabriel Biel (1420-1425). He also owned Commentaries by theologians of the reformation such as John Calvin and Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563). Notably, works on natural history also feature, including Thomas Moffett’s Insectorum theatrum (London, 1634)

Characteristic Markings

Title pages are usually inscribed "Liber Gulielmi Guild S.T.D." Many of Guild’s books are notable for their extensive record of past owners. At least 60 volumes were acquired by Guild second-hand in the north-east of Scotland, from friends, clergy and academics. Gascoigne observes that the extensive provenance of Guild’s books demonstrates that the books of Aberdeenshire ministers tended to remain in the area after their death, passed on to the next generation of ministers. Significantly, many of these ownership inscriptions are pre-reformation, with volumes originally belonging to the libraries of monastic abbeys, including Kinloss Abbey. One example of this, identified by Gascoigne, is a copy of Luigi Lippomanno’s ‘‘Catena in Exodum’’ (Paris, 1550) which had four ecclesiastical owners before Guild, all based in and around Elgin, Aberdeenshire.

Inscription of William Guild (Edinburgh University RB.F.185)