Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

Map Detail
Name: Buchanan, David, 1595?-1652?  
Title: Provinciae Edinburgenae descriptio  
Pagination: 8-9
Zoom view:         Click on the image to view in greater detail  
161 / 162
Scroll through pages:       First       Previous       Next       Last

Translation of text:

or feathers are covers of birds. To the Welsh even today our castle is called Myned agned, that is an eminent or high winged rock. Now Mined is eminent, from Greek 'meno', I remain. This is from Hebrew 'aman', constant. Then our northern ancestors instead of 'agned' preferred to say 'dun ed', putting 'dun' in place of 'agne', which words have the same meaning, and with the subordinate syllable 'en' or 'in' added made Duneden. Now this syllable 'en' is frequently added among us to place names, as here, and inserted into compounds, as Ballendalloch for Ball dalloch etc. Writers in Latin with an easy metathesis have made Edinodunum for Duneden. Modern writers in German have said Edinburg for Edinodunum: for the Germans call a mountain, hill or rock 'burg' or 'berg' from the Greek word 'pyrgos', which has the same meaning. This word comes from the Chaldaean word 'perach', to grow: for mountains are growths on the earth. These words denote, only in a secondary meaning, raised houses, high masses of buildings, which are commonly called towers. And in Hebrew 'tour' or 'tsour' is rock, stone. Hence the word 'ster' for the Saxons is cliff, and 'sterron' for the Greeks is firm, hard, like a rock. Therefore it is nonsense for monks and their followers to write that this place of ours takes its name from Edwin or Ethin, some king of the Picts. The French are accustomed to call this city L'aileburg, as you might say winged town: for 'aile' is wing; but the common people in France wrongly pronounce it L'isleburg. Ptolemy calls this place 'winged camp', and for the same reason. Not that the castle or camp was thought to have wings of the kind that architects, following Vitruvius, call wing constructions, which are twin walls so rising in height as to give the appearance of wings; nor that wings of cavalry were stationed there; since it is obvious that the rock was so called from a very ancient name, before any walls of that kind were erected on it, if they ever were, and long before any wings of cavalry were stationed there, if they ever were. Therefore the reason for the name must be sought elsewhere, namely from its very nature, which clearly supplies the reason: for there are two hills near this rock of ours on which the castle is set (namely Salisbury Crag and Nigel's (Calton) Hill, so called from former owners) which to some extent present the appearance of wings, which you can observe plainly when you come from the south-east along the sea-shore to Edinburgh: for then these aforesaid rocks are seen like wings and the rock with its castle is like the head of a bird with a crest. And this is the true reason for the name. On Salisbury Crag is the peak which is commonly called Arthurs Seat: for we attribute all large objects to Arthur, that famous Briton of ours. From him also many worshippers seek most origins of the families of our nobles, as once Greek story-tellers referred to their Hercules the stock of many families and attributed to him all large objects. However our monks, who wrote in a cursive hand, ignorantly read for 'Castrum alatum' winged castle, 'Castrum alarum' castle of wings, and since they did not know the reason why the castle could be called winged or of wings, thought that it ought to be read 'Puellarum' of maidens. Next, to support the error, they invented a story of the custom of keeping the daughters of noble Picts under guard there, until they were given in marriage. Finally our common people from olden times, when they heard that castle called by the ancients Mined castle, thought it was Maiden Castle. This story of the monks provided the occasion for the common error. As for the age of our castle, at present it may be sufficient for us to trace it to the time of Antoninus, under whom Ptolemy lived, i.e. in the mid 2nd century A.D., although beyond any doubt it is of far greater antiquity. I know there are some, and not unlearned, who wish Ptolemy's 'winged camp' to be in a different part of the region and not to be Edinburgh, since Ptolemy puts his camp among the Pactomages. Certainly one should forgive Ptolemy when he makes a mistake in the location of places, as a foreigner and one so remote from us: for he was by nationality Egyptian, living in Alexandria. Therefore he was compelled to follow the information and good faith of others in this matter, and so it is not surprising if quite often he slips up. Now the rock on which the castle is situated, is very steep on the south, west and north: and so the castle is totally inaccesible from these sides of the rock; on the east, from which is the entrance of the castle, the rock has a gentle slope. This side of the castle is fortified with breastworks and very thick walls. On this slope the city has been built, not certainly in one day: for first the neighbouring people constructed a few houses near the Castle, so that beneath its shadow they should be safer from injury by enemies. Thus gradually, as the population increased, the number of houses grew from the castle to the farthest foot of the slope, almost three miles to the east if you include the suburb of the Canongate. Each side of the slope from top to bottom is adorned with high buildings in a long series, with an ample street left in the middle of the slope from one end to the other. Now the buildings are separated by streets and closes; almost all these streets are narrow, and the houses are so near to each other that there is scarcely free air for them, and in this respect they are mutually harmful. I do not know if anywhere else in such a narrow space you will find so many houses and such a number of people as in this city of ours. There are two principal reasons that have in recent days made this city grow to the size which you see today. First that from the most remote times our Kings have been accustomed to spend more time here than elsewhere. Then in the last century thanks to James V the meeting-place of the Supreme Court of the whole kingdom was fixed here, though previously it had been perambulatory, just as formerly a change of the same kind had been made in France, whose example our King followed in this. Formerly this slope, on top of which the city is built, had on the north side, and today still has a lake which is commonly called the Nor Loch. On the south side of the slope there was likewise a lake, which was called the South Loch. These two lakes closed in the city on the two sides, as still the Nor Loch marks its end on the north. But the South Loch was drained a century ago, and where its banks were is now a row of houses from east to west, between which extends, where the lake itself was, the Cowgate. And thus to the south the garden (4) of the city has been extended in width much beyond the old boundary, and in length to the west. For today the Grassmarket and the Horsemarket are within the city walls, which according to the custom of the people are not so strong that they could withstand the blows of cannons. For the Scots are accustomed to defend their cities by arms, not with walls. There are five gates, viz. two gates on the east, of which the first is commonly called the Netherbow, because it is on the slope of the principal street of the city, i.e. the High Street; the second is the Cowgate Port. To the south there are likewise two gates, of which that further to the east is called the Potterrow Port, the second is the Society (i.e.

  [Continuation of text]

Copyright           Enquiries & Copies           Help