Wednesday, July 6, 2022
NewsScottish NewsThe National Library of Scotland has acquired an ancient manuscript

The National Library of Scotland has acquired an ancient manuscript

THE NATIONAL Library of Scotland has secured an ancient Scottish manuscript at an auction on May 18.

The manuscript, known as the Chronicle of Fortingall, contains scribes that were compiled between 1554 and 1579 in Perthshire.

The scribes were originally owned by the MacGregor family who also compiled the earlier Book of the Dean of Lismore which is the earliest surviving collection of Gaelic poetry collected in Scotland.

A page from the Fortingall manuscript – Scottish News
Photograph from The National Library of Scotland
A page from the Fortingall manuscript.

Academic research and evidence prove that the two manuscripts were almost certainly compiled by the same family.

The manuscripts curator Dr Ulrike Hogg said: “We consider the Chronicle of Fortingall a partner volume to the Book of the Dean of Lismore, the Library’s single most important Gaelic manuscript and one of our greatest treasures.

“The two manuscripts are so closely connected that it’s difficult to describe one without reference to the other. It’s a great privilege for us to be able to bring the manuscripts together again after their compilation some 450 years ago.

“The Gaelic contents of the Chronicle of Fortingall make a significant addition to our Scottish Gaelic manuscripts collection, which is the largest in the world. And securing the manuscript for the national collections means we can make the contents publicly accessible and ensure its professional preservation.”

Curator Dr Ulrike Hogg with the manuscript – Scottish News
Photograph from The National Library of Scotland
Curator Ulrike Hogg with Fortingall Manuscript.

The manuscript contains a range of different contents including lists of kings of Scots along with notes on their reigns which are written in Latin.

There is also a list of battles in Scotland written in Latin, including Bannockburn in 1314 and Flodden in 1513.

There is a record of deaths of prominent men and women throughout the Highlands from 1290-1579 which is written in both Latin and Scots.

The manuscript contains a Gaelic poem written in a writing style based on Middle Scots.

The contents of the manuscript also contain poetry by Middle Scots written by Robert Henryson and William Dunbar along with verses, aphorisms and proverbs written in Latin.

There is also a range of short prose writings in Latin and Scots which cover a range of topics including divisions of Ireland, medicine and cures, commentary against women and inebriation and religion and belief.

Detailed text from the manuscript - Scottish News
Photograph from The National Library of Scotland.
Detailed text from the manuscript.

Senior lecturer in Scottish history at the University of Glasgow, Dr Martin MacGregor, said: “It is a relief that the National Library was successful in securing the Chronicle of Fortingall, especially as they hold the companion volume, the Book of the Dean of Lismore.

“The Chronicle of Fortingall is a highly significant manuscript that provides insight into public life in the Highlands in the later Middle Ages.

“It is an important source for the history of the Highlands – social, political, cultural, economic and religious. It also has great linguistic importance as it embodies the interplay of Latin, Scots and Gaelic as written languages in then Gaelic-speaking Scotland.”

The acquisition by the National Library of Scotland was made possible with the kind support from the Friends of the National Library, the Magnus and Janet Soutar Trust, the B H Breslauer Foundation Fund and the Leckie Family Charitable Trust.

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