IT is “incredibly exciting”, of “national importance” and up for auction – but who will buy the 500-year-old text used by the man appointed by royalty to create the first non-fiction book in Scots?

Even without the handwritten annotations in the margins it would be, in the words of manuscripts expert Margaret Ford, a “fantastic piece” – a first edition of Scotorum Historiae, written in 1527 by Hector Boece, the Dundee-born, St Andrews-educated scholar who became the first principal of King’s College, Aberdeen.

Penned in Latin, this seminal account of Scotland’s history achieved European renown and was translated into French.

After King James V came to the throne, he commissioned Moray writer John Bellenden to create an authoritative version in Scots, creating what is understood to be the first non-fiction book in that language and telling Scotland’s story in the words used by its people.

The move helped cement Scots – already the language of law and the royal court – as a language of learning.

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Next month Christie’s auction house in London will sell the very copy Bellenden is thought to have used to create his version, which was published in 1536 as Cronikils of Scotland.

Still in its 16th-century vellum binding, it bears notes in the margins which Ford’s team at Christie’s says prove its provenance. The “extensive” annotations have been made in at least four hands, the earliest of which is thought to have belonged to an assistant working for Bellenden, who was known to employ help.

Ford, international head of the books and manuscripts department at the auction house, said: “From my long experience, I really have no questions that it is what it says it is.

“This is an incredibly exciting thing. It’s something we don’t get too often, a book that shows the working process of an author leaning to another version. To see a critical mind in process is a rare thing.

“It really is a fantastic piece. I would hope that it’s going to be very well received by the market. Research institutes are looking for this kind of thing. For a private collector, it would be a bit of a prize.”

The current owner’s identity has not been revealed, but the Sunday National understands that it was purchased at a regional auction and its true significance was not known until the buyer had it appraised by experts.

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With an estimated value of £25,000 to £35,000, it is expected to attract international interest from both private collections and research institutions.

Michael Dempster, of the Scots Language Centre in Perth, would love to win it, “if we got the money for it”. Short of that, he hopes it becomes publicly accessible, whoever buys it. He told the Sunday National: “It’s of incredible cultural significance. It would be fantastic to see it available for research. There could be incredible academic interest. There would be PhDs and whole careers in that.

“It would be an absolute tragedy if it disappeared and was never seen again. It’s of national importance and international importance and I would hope that if it does go into private hands that they would think about making it available for research.”

The National Library of Scotland (NLS), which holds nine copies of Boece’s first edition, describes the title as “one of the cornerstones of early Scottish history”.

Ford, who has a keen interest in medieval Scotland, says it would be “wonderful” if this copy is purchased by a Scottish buyer. She said: “You can picture a relatively young King James V coming to the throne wanting to assert his own kind of Scottish identity. It fits in very closely with a national programme to develop a Scottish identity and it did serve that function, even though from a strictly historical view some of the tales or history might be a bit more fanciful than modern historians allow.”

That “fanciful” telling includes material flattering to the Stewart dynasty.

The Scottish Government and NLS declined to comment on a private sale.

However, on the cultural significance of Bellenden’s work, Dempster said: “King James V was a Renaissance monarch. He wasn’t seen as a small king in any way. Sometimes Scotland gets contextualised as in how it relates to England, but the Scottish Renaissance court was far more integrated with the courts of Europe. It was absolutely recognised as a modern nation and was a model for other courts to look towards, very much cutting edge and a leader in the fashion in what Renaissance princes were doing. Bellenden’s translation is an expression of the Scottish nation within a European context.”

The auction will be held on July 10, with pre-sale viewings, which are open to the public, to begin later this week.