John Slezer was a native of Germany. He moved to Scotland in 1669 to work as an ordnance engineer and was made a burgess of Dundee in 1678. Ten years later the Scottish Parliament appointed him Captain of the Artillery Company. It was in this capacity that he produced his 'Theatrum Scotiae containing the prospects of their majesties Castles and Palaces Towns and Colleges the ruins of many ancient Abbeys, Churches, Monasteries and Convents within the said Kingdom all curiously engraven on copper plates with a short description of each place by John Slezer, Captain of the Artillery Company, and Surveyor of Their Majesties Stores and Magazines in the Kingdom of Scotland' (1693).
The engravings that John produced were noted for their accuracy. The 'Theatrum' is an indispensable source for Scotland's history. It contains some of the first representations of many parts of the country and images of buildings that no longer survive.
Unfortunately it seems that John did not keep his accounts in good order. The fact that he is described in his testament as an 'indweller in the Abbay of Holyroodhouse' suggests that he was in debt. The confines of the old Abbey were used in the past to provide debtors protection from their creditors.
There is a testament of another John Slezer who died in 1709 (CC8/8/84) and who is described as 'John Slezer Gentleman of the canon in the artillery Company of the castle of Ed[inbu]r[gh] under the Command of Cap[tai]n John Slezer .... Faithfully made and given up be Charles Slezer ensign in the right honourable George Earle of Orkneys Regiment of foott brother german to the s[ai]d Deceased John Slezer and only Exe[cuto]r Dative'
Further reading: Cavers, Keith, A vision of Scotland, the nation observed by John Slezer 1671 to 1717 (Edinburgh, 1993)
Laing, David, (ed.), Collection of papers relating to the 'Theatrum Scotiae' and ''History and present state of Scotland'', by Captain John Slezer, 1693-1707. [1695-c. 1700.], in The Bannatyne Miscellany: containing original papers and tracts, chiefly relating to the history and literature of Scotland, Vol.ii (Edinburgh, 1836)
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