George Bannatyne (1545-?1608), collector of Scottish poems, was a native of Newtyle, Forfarshire. He became an Edinburgh merchant and was admitted a burgess in 1587. Some years earlier, in 1568, when the "pest" raged in the capital, he retired to his native county and amused himself by writing out copies of poems by 15th and early 16th century Scots poets. His work extended to eight hundred folio pages, divided into five parts. The MS. descended to his only daughter Janet, and later to her husband's family, the Foulises of Woodhall and Ravelston, near Edinburgh. From them it passed to the Advocates' library, where it is still preserved. This MS., known as the "Bannatyne Manuscript," constitutes with the "Asloan" and "Maitland Folio" MSS. the chief repository of Middle Scots poetry, especially for the texts of the greater poets Henryson, Dunbar, Lyndsay and Alexander Scott. Portions of it were reprinted (with modifications) by Allan Ramsay in his Ever Green (1724), and later, and more correctly, by Lord Hailes in his Ancient Scottish Poems (1770). The entire text was issued by the Hunterian Club (1873-1902) in a handsome and generally accurate form.
The name of Bannatyne was honoured in 1823 by the foundation in Edinburgh of the Bannatyne Club, devoted to the publication of historical and literary material from Scottish sources. The thirty-third issue of the club (1829) was Memorials of George Bannatyne (1545-1608), with a memoir by Sir Walter Scott and an account of the MS. by David Laing.
See also Gregory Smith, Specimens of Middle Scots (1902).