The Stair Society: Scotland’s Legal History Society

2023 Stair Society publication

Volume 69 was published in April 2023 as David Chalmers of Ormond, Compendium of the Laws of Scotland, edited by Winifred Coutts, Julian Goodare and Andrew R. C. Simpson. Completed in 1566, this work is little known but constitutes the first comprehensive survey of Scots law ever written. Dedicated to Queen Mary, it gathers and summarises a large number of laws from different sources, and presents them in a systematic format.

The author, David Chalmers of Ormond (c. 1529-1592), was a Scots lawyer and judge – a senator of the College of Justice – who had studied at the universities of Paris, Louvain and Bologna. His book has never been published before, but a single manuscript is held by the British Library upon which this edition is based.  The volume reproduces Chalmers’ entire text, and adds an editorial commentary to each of his 1,595 chapters. The edition will introduce Chalmers’ book to a modern readership, enabling readers to recognise its importance as a pioneering work of sixteenth-century Scots law.