Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

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Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Provinciae Edinburgenae descriptio  
Pagination: 10-11
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Translation of text:

of Brewers) Port. The fifth is the West Port. The castle has been favoured and repaired by recent Kings, and fortified by breastworks on the east. There is in the city one great Basilica, which today is divided into three churches, i.e. east, middle and west; each of these three has its own separate parish. Near this Basilica is a Palace, commonly called Parliament House, where the three Estates of the Kingdom meet to consult on the Kingdom's hardships, and where also the College of Justice meets. To the south beyond the Cowgate is a new building of elegant construction, which is commonly called Heriot's Hospital from its founder. Not far from this Hospital, to the east, is the Church of the Greyfriars (who have their name from the blended colour), where the public cemetery of the city within the walls is situated. On the south also is today the city's University, outstandingly extended and decorated by its buildings. After it is a new church, called Yester's, built very recently at the expense of Lady Yester. Near it is the Public School, in which the humanities are taught. On the south side of the great or High Street is a magnificent new building next to the Auld Tolbooth, whence it is commonly called Tolbooth House. There is also a new exchange to the west, where Castlehill ends and the High Street begins: it is commonly called the Tolbooth. On the northern side of the great Basilica and near it is the public Prison, where the old Customs' House was. The public Cross is in the middle of the High Street; at it all public acts are accustomed to be proclaimed by a herald. From the Netherbow in a smooth descent is the long street commonly called the Canongate, which extends in length to Holyrood Abbey. This street likewise on both sides is decorated from top to bottom with elegant buildings joined to each other. In this street on the south (5) is the elegant Tolbooth, where the public Prison is. About the middle of the street a cross has been erected, where the market for this suburb is held on fixed days: for this street and road of the Canongate is within the walls of the city. And nearer to the Abbey another Cross has been erected, which is commonly called Girth Cross, because between it and the Abbey a fixed area is girded, which once served as asylum for those who did not dare go out in public for the rigour of the law or injury of the supreme law. The Abbey has been converted to other uses since last century: for there stands the elegant royal palace built by James V, although the work has not been completed. The houses of the Canons serve the courtiers. There is there a church of quite elegant construction, but partly in ruins. On the south side of the Canongate, not far from the public Cross, are the gardens along with the house of the Earl of Moray, of such elegance and cultivated with such industry that they easily rival the gardens of warmer regions, indeed almost of England herself. And here you will be able to see the power of human art and industry in supplying the defects of nature herself: hardly anyone would believe that in cold regions such horticultural beauty could be achieved. But to return to the Netherbow of the city, from it to the north is a sloping street, commonly called Leith Wynd, because by it one goes to Leith. At the foot of this street is a gate, next to which is a quite pretty church, commonly called College Church from the College of Canons, who there devoted themselves to sacred matters at the time of the Roman superstition. This church was constructed by the widow of James III. To note the individual moments at which this city was enlarged and from which princes it obtained privileges by this increase, I cannot speak at present. The government of the city is carried on by the Provost, who for some time has been chosen yearly from the number of the citizens, although previously one of the neighbouring nobles would hold this magistracy. The Provost has as assessors the ex-provost and four scabini[?] whom they call Bailies, and these likewise are chosen each year from the number of more honourable citizens. From time to time the magistracy of Provost and Bailies is extended beyond a year. The suburb of the Canongate is under the rule of the Provost of the city, from which it receives a Bailie with a Clerk or Keeper of the Register. The city of Leith likewise has for some time been under the rule of Edinburgh, which each year also gives it Bailies with a Keeper of the Register. The suburb outside the West Port also has its own Bailie. The whole township comprises not only the city within the walls, but the two largest named suburbs, i.e. the suburb outside the West Port and the Canongate, and Leith. Edinburgh is the best known market-town among us, where not only home-produced goods are sold to neighbouring people, but also foreign and imported goods are distributed along with home-produced throughout the whole kingdom. The whole township is divided into eight districts or neighbourhoods, which are commonly called the Quarters of the township. In each district or quarter the young men have their own Leader or Captain, Leader’s Legate and Commander, whose lead follow in war. Leith is situated at the mouth of the synonymous river; from each side of it it is thus divided into two districts, which are joined by a stone bridge over the river. Each district has its own church. There is only one Customs’ House and one public prison serving both, and one public school. The harbour is at the actual mouth of the river, the most commodious as well as the best known in our country. From both sides of the mouth piers running into the sea have been constructed from piles fixed into the ground, which are at frequent intervals linked by transverse beams. Between the piles or stakes and the transverse wood of the beams large stones have been put in, with which the whole space between the stakes is filled to the top, which is usually covered with boards; and thus the whole mass of the pier is completed. The pier on the east side is far larger than the other: so commonly it is called the Pier of Leith par excellence. Leith frequently and in time of war is surrounded by a rampart or wall of turf; in peacetime the inhabitants pull it down, lest occupying soldiers should seize the city, who usually in fortified places obstruct those carrying on trade.

End of A description of the Province of Edinburgh [by David Buchanan]

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