Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, David

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BROWNE, DAVID (fl. 1638), a learned Scotchman, is known only by inclinations in his curious books on calligraphy. His first work was ‘The New Invention, intituled Calligraphia or the Art of Fair Writing . . . by His Majesties Scribe, Master David Browne. Sainct Andrewes, 1622,’ 12mo. It gives a copy of King James’s letter granting the author ‘the only licence and priviledge . . . under paine of 1000 pounds monie to be paid by the contraveners.’ It is dedicated to the king, whose ‘scribe’ he calls himself. Its 270 pages comprise arguments and instructions full of heavy learning, wise saws, puerile illustrations, and the most common matters having reference to writing. King James, when at Holyrood House, appears to have seen and approved of his wonderful exercises, illustrated by certain 'rare practices of a disciple,' a child only nine years old. His book gives spaces here and there to be filled up by his clerks for the various pupils or purchasers, but existing copies are without these necessary illustrations of the art. His second work, entitled 'The Introduction to the true understanding of the whole arte of expedition in teaching to write . . . Anno Dom. 1638,' 8vo, is more extraordinary than the other, as on the title-page he claims to teach his art in six hours, parades his own excellence beyond all others, and asserts that 'a Scotishman is more ingenious than one of another nation;' yet the book itself has little to do with calligraphy, and teaches nothing. There is one plate at the end of the book, a specimen of 'The new, swift, current, or speedy Italian writting,' very inferior in style and execution to the handiwork of other penmen of the century. At the time this book was published the author taught his art. at 'the Cat and Fiddle in Fleet Street,' where 'Mary Stewart and her daughters also instructed young, noble, and gentlewomen in good manners, languages,' &c., by his direction. He afterwards removed to a country-house at Kemmington (sic), near the Newington Butts. The dates of his birth and death are not known.

[Browne's Works; Massey's Origin of Letters.]

J. W.-G.