Great Britain

500-year-old book with first mention of nation's saint to go on display on St Andrew's Day

The Aberdeen Breviary, owned by the National Library of Scotland.
The Aberdeen Breviary, owned by the National Library of Scotland.

One of the first ever works to be printed in Scotland, which includes the first mention of St Andrew in print, will go on display at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Glasgow on St Andrew’s Day.

The 500-year-old copy of the Aberdeen Breviary, will go on show on Saturday 30 November at the Kelvin Hall, will be returning to the city for the first time since it was used by Nicholas Ferguson and other local clergy at St Mungo’s Cathedral in the early 1500s.

The Compassio Beate Marie, 16-page book at back of the Breviary

The Compassio Beate Marie, 16-page book at back of the Breviary

Although the book gets its name from Aberdeen, the city where it was compiled, after being commissioned by the Bishop of Aberdeen, it was created as the first Scotland-wide service book.

READ MORE: Aberdeen Breviary added to collection
READ MORE: Aberdeen Breviary goes online The Breviary was the first printed book to collect the lives of the Scottish saints, including St Andrew.

This copy of the Breviary is of special significance because of the extra item bound at the back, a 16-page book called the ‘Compassio Beate Marie’.

Besides the ‘Compassio’, an order of service, it contains readings about the arrival of St Andrew’s relics into Scotland.

It is the only known copy in existence and the only evidence that printing continued in Scotland between 1510 and 1532.

It is believed to have been compiled by the best Scottish historians of the day.

"This book is a huge deal" - Dr Anette Hagan, National Library of Scotland rare books collector

The ‘Compassio’ was printed for a monk who was matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1519.

Visitors to the National Library at Kelvin Hall will be able to see pages from the Breviary and Compassio.

Dr Anette Hagan, NLS rare books curator, said the book was of great national significance.

“This book is a huge deal. We managed to secure it for the national collections five years ago, and are delighted to be taking it back to the city where it was first used centuries ago.

“There are only three other surviving sets of the Aberdeen Breviary.

“The way this book was put together tells us a lot about how printing developed in Scotland.

“It was printed by Walter Chepman in 1509, and we can clearly see the corrections and modifications he made as he was developing the process.”

Dr Hagan added: “The Breviary was the reason James IV granted a licence for the first printing house – Edinburgh-based Chepman and Myllar – and it is a fine example of Scottish Renaissance education and culture.”

The NLS has already digitised both the Breviary and the ‘Compassio’ which are available for the public to read on its website.

Family-friendly activities will also be on offer at the Kelvin Hall on St Andrew’s Day, featuring intricate colouring-in materials and an animation station.

As Kelvin Hall is the home of the National Library’s Moving Image Collections, there will also be interactive touch screens to view a range of films of Scotland – from sport and industry, to ballet and music hall.

The Aberdeen Breviary display is open from 10am–4pm on Saturday 30 November at the National Library of Scotland, Kelvin Hall, 1445 Argyle Street, Glasgow. Admission free.

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