Treasured medieval manuscript secured by national library

The National Library of Scotland purchased the Chronicle of Fortingall at auction on May 18.

Treasured medieval manuscript secured by national library Matthew Newby via SWNS

A treasured 16th Century manuscript documenting medieval life in the Highlands has been successfully secured for the nation after being purchased at an auction. 

The National Library of Scotland secured the Chronicle of Fortingall, which was compiled between 1554 and 1579, at auction on May 18.

The scribe was compiled at Fortingall, at the mouth of Glen Lyon in Perthshire, and contains contemporary annals, poetry, and other short texts in Latin, Scots, and Gaelic.

The scribes belonged to the MacGregor family who also compiled the slightly earlier Book of the Dean of Lismore, the earliest surviving collection of Gaelic poetry compiled in Scotland.

Scholarly research and evidence show the two manuscripts were almost certainly compiled by members of the same family.

The scribe contains such information as lists of kings of Scots and notes on their reigns in Latin, a list of battles from Bannockburn in 1314 to Flodden in 1513, also in Latin, and deaths of prominent men and women within the Highlands. 

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.”

Senior lecturer in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, Dr Martin MacGregor, welcomed the acquisition, saying: “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.”

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