One of Scotland’s oldest books to go on show

One of the first ever works to be printed in Scotland will go on display at the National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall on St Andrew’s Day (Saturday 30 November).

This copy of the Aberdeen Breviary will be returning to Glasgow for the first time since it was used by Nicholas Ferguson and other local clergy at St Mungo’s Cathedral in the early 1500s. Although the book gets its name from Aberdeen, the city where it was compiled, it was created as the first Scotland-wide service book.

More than 500 years later, people will have the opportunity to see these rare volumes, which include the first mention of St Andrew in print in Scotland.

Rare Books Curator Dr Anette Hagan said: ‘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. 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 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. 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. Family-friendly activities will also be on offer, 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 G3 8AW. Admission is free.