The Book of Deer

During Scotland’s Year of Stories the remarkable 10th-century Book of Deer illuminated manu

script is returning to the North-East of Scotland for the first time in more than 1,000 years. With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Book of Deer Project community heritage group has secured the loan of this exquisite little book, thought to be Scotland’s oldest surviving manuscript, from Cambridge University Library. Join us as we celebrate its return, and discover its fascinating story through a rich programme of events and activities for all ages in Aberdeenshire and the City of Aberdeen, including an archaeological dig, expert talks, original music, storytelling, creative workshops and an unmissable exhibition.

Read more at the Book of Deer Project website here.

The Book of Deer Read More »

Silver Letter Casket associated with MQS acquired by NMS for £1.8m

From August 2022, the silver casket will be on permanent display in the Kingdom of the Scots gallery alongside other objects from their collection associated with Mary.
Believed to have been owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, the casket is an extremely rare work of early French silver. It is likely that its long-standing association with Mary has kept it preserved for over 450 years. Read more here.

Silver Letter Casket associated with MQS acquired by NMS for £1.8m Read More »

Memorial Service for Professor Edward James (Ted) Cowan

The University of Glasgow is to hold a Memorial Service for Professor Emeritus Edward James (Ted) Cowan. The service will take place on Thursday 19 May 2022 at 3pmin the University Chapel, with a wine reception to follow in the adjacent Fore Hall.  The service will also be livestreamed:

Professor Cowan was born on 15 February 1944, and died on Sunday 2 January 2022, following a short illness. He was formerly Professor of Scottish History and Literature at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the University’s Crichton Campus in Dumfries. Before Glasgow he taught at the Universities of Edinburgh and Guelph, Ontario. A pioneer in the study of the ‘people’s history’, he was passionately committed to communicating Scotland’s past to all its people, and to the world.

He published, co-wrote or edited 18 books and nearly 100 articles or book chapters, ranging over time from the early medieval to the modern: from the Vikings in Scotland and the Wars of Independence to the Covenanters, Scottish popular culture and folk belief, and Scottish emigration. Two books are due to be published this year: Northern Lights: The Arctic Scots, and the edited proceedings of a conference on Gaelic Galloway.

All of Ted’s friends and colleagues are warmly invited to attend the Memorial Service and Reception, to honour his outstanding contribution to Scottish history and the life of the nation.

Memorial Service for Professor Edward James (Ted) Cowan Read More »

Prayer book with ms poem by Mary, Queen of Scots to go on show in NMS

Read the full article here.

“A rare “jewel-like” prayer book featuring a poem handwritten by the young Mary, Queen of Scots is to go on show at the National Museum of Scotland on loan from Liechtenstein.

The Book of Hours, which will be on show from March 31 to August 3 in Edinburgh, originally belonged to Mary’s great aunt, Louise de Bourbon, Abbess of Fontevraud.

The manuscript includes a four-line verse in French which the teenage Mary composed in the late 1550s, around the time of her marriage to the Dauphin Francois.

She signed it with the motto Va tu meriteras (Go, you will be deserving), and her monogram, combining her initial M with a Greek letter which is the phonetic representation of F for Francois.

The translated poem reads:
“Since you wish to remember me here
in your prayers and devout orations,
I ask you first that you remember
what part you have in my affections.”

Dr Anna Groundwater, principal curator of renaissance and early modern history at National Museums Scotland (NMS), said: “It is wonderful to be able to display this rare, jewel-like book.

“It’s particularly moving to see the young Mary, writing in her best script, to one of her closest relations in her mother Marie de Guise’s absence.”

Prayer book with ms poem by Mary, Queen of Scots to go on show in NMS Read More »

Agnus Dei Sacramentals. Wax Agents of Papal Potestas in Early Modern Worlds

Warburg Institute – A Material World: Ritual

Minou Schraven (Amsterdam University College): ‘Agnus Dei Sacramentals. Wax Agents of Papal Potestas in Early Modern Worlds’

Monday 17 January 2022: 5.30pm

Online via Zoom

To the ridicule and outrage of Protestants, early modern Catholics recurred to a wide range of blessed devotional objects, such as crucifixes, rosaries, and medals. Yet none were as powerful as the Agnus dei: small disks of the purest wax impressed with the Lamb of God that by tradition were consecrated and distributed by the Pope during the Holy Week of his first (and then each seventh) year in office. 

Looking closely at the materiality, agency and indexical relation to the Pope, this presentation will explore how Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians perceived of these sacramentals and their supposed extraordinary powers. How can we understand the massive increase in production numbers of the Agnus dei against the backdrop of confessional wars and the missionary effort of early modern global Catholicism? How did contemporaries perceive of the relation of these objects with the pope and his claims as Vicarius Christi? And how were these objects obtained, used and displayed, both then and now?

Minou Schraven teaches art history and material culture at Amsterdam University College and is research fellow at the Amsterdam Centre for Religious History at Vrije Universiteit. A specialist on the art and culture of early modern Rome, she has published on festival culture, the ritual use of portrait medals, and the display of bog bodies and their reconstructions in contemporary museums.  The current research is part of a book project entitled Blessed and Indulgenced Objects in Early Modern Catholic Worlds. Materiality, Agency and the Pope’s Prerogative

This event is part of the A Material World: Ritual series, which brings together academics and heritage professionals from a wide range of disciplines to discuss issues concerning historical objects, their materials, forms, and functions, as well as their conservation, presentation, display, and reconstruction. Organisers: Rembrandt Duits (Acting Curator, The Photographic Collection, Warburg Institute) and Louisa McKenzie (PhD student, Warburg Institute).

For booking see:

Agnus Dei Sacramentals. Wax Agents of Papal Potestas in Early Modern Worlds Read More »

ICMRSLL coming up – digital resources to share?

*** For those of you interested in the cross-section of language and literature in Older Scots ***

The 16th International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Literature and Language is happening very soon online (26-31 July 2021) – details may be found at – registration is still open and very attractive at $20 for non-presenters.

You will see in the programme that our Literature Steering Committee rep Megan Bushnell is giving an exciting talk on ‘Digital Philology: An Introduction to New Corpus Linguistic Tools for the Study of Scottish Makars’ (Monday 26 July, 11:45-12:30 CST (Chicago) = 17:45-18:30 GMT). Megan is happy to mention any other digital resources available for the study of Older Scots literature, broadly conceived, so if you have a project you’d like to share, please get in contact.

ICMRSLL coming up – digital resources to share? Read More »

(Scotsman) 13th Century carving records ‘abbot’s assassination’ at Scottish abbey

By Alison Campsie, 2nd July 2021

The full article can be found here.

Quote: “Restoration of the piece from Dundrennan Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway now clearly shows the figure of an abbot complete with a dagger on his chest. A second, smaller figure at the abbot’s feet is depicted with a gash wound and hanging entrails. Archaeologist Adrian Cox formerly of the cultural resources team at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “It seems possible that this memorial commemorates an abbot of Dundrennan who was wounded or assassinated. The small figure at his feet likely represents his assailant. The symbolism is rather poignant, the scene depicting the abbot as triumphant over his assailant in perpetuity.” Few records from monastic life at Dundrennan survive with the identity of the abbot unknown. The carving would originally have covered a tomb chest and is one of number to be recently conserved at the abbey, which sits in a valley around five miles from Kirkcudbright. “

(Scotsman) 13th Century carving records ‘abbot’s assassination’ at Scottish abbey Read More »