500th Anniversary of the Aberdeen Breviary display

After our display marking the anniversary of the Scottish Reformation, we travel back in time half a century for our new Visitor Centre display, to celebrate the completion of the printing of the Aberdeen Breviary in 1510. The Aberdeen Breviary, so called because it was compiled under the direction of William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, is the book for which printing was originally introduced to Scotland, and the most substantial work to survive from the printing press of Chepman and Myllar, the first Scottish printers.

To mark the anniversary, we have teamed up with Aberdeen University to display books and manuscripts from both our collections. This display, running from 5 November 2010 to 9 January 2011, sets the Breviary in context. Firstly, the context of the kinds of manuscript liturgical books which existed in Scotland before the coming of the Breviary – which gives us the opportunity to display some of our most beautiful and important illuminated manuscripts.

Secondly, the context of the kinds of books being printed elsewhere in Europe, which were imported into Scotland during this period: on display are some of the earliest printed books to be read in Scotland.

Thirdly, the context in William Elphinstone’s Aberdeen. Besides being an active bishop who was concerned with the fabric and worship of his cathedral, Elphinstone also founded King’s College, Aberdeen. Through the scholars, scholarly methods, and books which he brought to the city, Elphinstone made it a centre of Renaissance ideas.

And finally, the afterlife of the Aberdeen Breviary. Although it does not seem to have had a wide or long use across Scotland, the Breviary’s compilation of material about Scottish saints has had a far-reaching influence which is still felt today.

This exhibition is the final stage in our celebration of the coming of print to Scotland. We marked King James IV’s granting to Chepman and Myllar of a license to print books in 2007, and celebrated 500 years of the Scottish printed word with our exhibition Imprentit in 2008.

As with the Reformation display, we’ll be blogging about the items in the exhibition during its run, and you can also find out more on our Treasures Exhibition webpage.