Esther Inglis was a calligrapher and miniaturist; she made exquisite illumi­nated manuscripts of religious verses for numerous aristocrats and monarchs. Inglis was born of French Huguenot parents who had fled France in the atmo­sphere of religious persecution that culminated in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Her father, Nicholas Langlois, and her mother, Marie Presot, estab­lished a French school in Edinburgh. Esther received an excellent education from her parents; her mother also taught her the art of calligraphy. When she was in her twenties, Esther married a minister, Bartholomew Kello, who also performed some administrative services for Queen Elizabeth.* Esther did not assume her husband's last name for the purposes of her work; she anglicized her father's name to Inglis. Though Esther and her husband were constantly plagued by poverty, their marriage seems to have been a happy one. They had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood.
Inglis's talents as both a calligrapher and a miniaturist are evident in over fifty extant manuscripts that she presented to various wealthy patrons, including Queen Elizabeth, King James,* Prince Henry, Prince Charles, the earl of Essex, and the Sidney and Herbert families. Most of the manuscripts are religious verses or translations; the great achievement of the works is their artistic pre­sentation. The books are miniature in size, often only a few inches wide, with intricate borders of foliage and animals, and they are bound in leather, silk, or velvet. The calligraphy is exquisite, extremely detailed, and often microscopic. Inglis was capable of producing over forty styles of the various scripts described in sixteenth-century handwriting treatises.
In many of the dedications of her manuscripts, Inglis apologizes for her te­merity in presenting her work since she is only a woman, yet she also takes evident pride in her labors, finishing off several manuscripts with the motto "Vive la plume." She also includes self-portraits in several of her manuscripts, a sign of ownership of the very works she would then present to potential patrons. In spite of the patronage she received, Esther Inglis was in serious debt when she died in 1624 at the age of fifty-three. Her portrait, painted in 1595 by an unknown artist, now hangs in the Scottish Portrait Gallery.
J. Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands ofthe English Renaissance, 1990.
A. H. Scott-Elliot and Elspeth Yeo, "Calligraphic Manuscripts of Esther Inglis (1571—1624): A Catalogue," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 84 (March 1990):11—85.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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  • Esther Inglis — (married name Kello) (1571 1624) was a Scottish miniaturist, embroiderer, calligrapher, translator and writer. Of Huguenot origin (her surname was originally spelled Langlois ), her family had escaped to Scotland to escape persecution. Learning… …   Wikipedia

  • Inglis, Esther — ▪ Scottish calligrapher also called  Esther Kello  born 1571, London, Eng.? died 1624, Edinburgh, Scot.       Scottish calligrapher (calligraphy) born in London to French parents, who produced about 55 miniature manuscript books between 1586 and… …   Universalium

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