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Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (1264-1600)

The exchequer, one of the earliest government departments, developed out of the king's chamber, the branch of the royal household which oversaw the royal finances. The chief financial officer was the king's great chamberlain. It was not a permanent body, meeting only to audit the accounts of the sheriffs and other collectors of royal revenues. James I reformed the exchequer in the 1420s. Its functions were divided between the Comptroller (or Receiver General) and the Treasurer. The Comptroller handled the revenue from crown lands, burghs and customs which was spent on the royal household. The Treasurer received the feudal services and casualties (occasional payments to a superior of lands), the proceeds of taxation and the lucrative profits of justice. From these revenues he met the king's personal expenses (including military and naval expenses, liveries, stables, repair of palaces, alms). The first recorded mention of whisky can be found in an early exchequer roll of 1494.

In 1584 the exchequer was made a separate court of law. It settled permanently in Edinburgh and was staffed by judges from the Court of Session. James VI's reign also saw growth in its administrative functions. Faced with declining crown lands and revenues, the monarchy exploited customs and imposed import duties for the first time in 1597. Taxation became more frequent.

The Library holds 23 volumes of the Exchequer Rolls covering the period 1264-1600. (23 volumes, published 1878-1908).