1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fordun, John of
FORDUN, JOHN OF (d. c. 1384), Scottish chronicler. The statement generally made that the chronicler was born at Fordoun (Kincardineshire) has not been supported by any direct evidence. It is certain that he was a secular priest, and that he composed his history in the latter part of the 14th century; and it is probable that he was a chaplain in the cathedral of Aberdeen. The work of Fordun is the earliest attempt to write a continuous history of Scotland. We are informed that Fordun’s patriotic zeal was roused by the removal or destruction of many national records by Edward III. and that he travelled in England and Ireland, collecting material for his history. This work is divided into five books. The first three are almost entirely fabulous, and form the groundwork on which Boece and Buchanan afterwards based their historical fictions, which were exposed by Thomas Innes in his Critical Essay (i. pp. 201-214). The 4th and 5th books, though still mixed with fable, contain much valuable information, and become more authentic the more nearly they approach the author’s own time. The 5th book concludes with the death of King David I. in 1153. Besides these five books, Fordun wrote part of another book, and collected materials for bringing down the history to a later period. These materials were used by a continuator who wrote in the middle of the 15th century, and who is identified with Walter Bower (q.v.), abbot of the monastery of Inchcolm. The additions of Bower form eleven books, and bring down the narrative to the death of King James I. in 1437. According to the custom of the time, the continuator did not hesitate to interpolate Fordun’s portion of the work with additions of his own, and the whole history thus compiled is known as the Scotichronicon.
The first printed edition of Fordun’s work was that of Thomas Gale in his Scriptores quindecim (vol. iii.), which was published in 1691. This was followed by Thomas Hearne’s (5 vols.) edition in 1722. The whole work, including Bower’s continuation, was published by Walter Goodall at Edinburgh in 1759. In 1871 and 1872 Fordun’s chronicle, in the original Latin and in an English translation, was edited by William F. Skene in The Historians of Scotland. The preface to this edition collects all the biographical details and gives full bibliographical references to MSS. and editions.