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Book of Deer to return to north-east Scotland for the first time in a millennium


By David Porter

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The Book of Deer will go on show in Aberdeen next year.
The Book of Deer will go on show in Aberdeen next year.

For the first time in more than a thousand years, the Book of Deer – possibly Scotland’s oldest surviving manuscript – will return to the north-east.

Community heritage group The Book of Deer Project has secured £128,588 from the lottery to bring the 10th century text back to the area where it is believed to have originated and to celebrate its return.

It will be on loan from Cambridge University Library, where it has been since 1715, and will be exhibited at Aberdeen Art Gallery next summer.

The Book of Deer is a rare example of a pocket gospel book, and was produced for private use rather than for church services.

It contains the oldest surviving example of written Scots Gaelic in the world within its margins.

The Book of Deer will go on show in Aberdeen next year.
The Book of Deer will go on show in Aberdeen next year.

The programme will include a further archaeological dig at a site thought to be the site of the early mediaeval monastery where the Book of Deer was annotated with the earliest written Gaelic.

This community excavation will take place over ten weeks in summer 2022, the longest excavation yet during 11 years of searching.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture lead, said: "The Book of Deer is a work of national importance with strong local significance.

"We are very much looking forward to working with partners to bring this remarkable 10th century Latin gospel book to the city for the first time and sharing its story with visitors to Aberdeen Art Gallery."

Ali Cameron from Cameron Archaeology Ltd. said: "We are very excited with the announcement of this grant.

"It will allow us to make plans of the remains of the buildings that we know are under the ground in the field west of Deer Abbey.

"We know we have an early mediaeval site but the layout of the buildings, the finds and the dating will help us determine whether it was the monastery where the Scots Gaelic was written in the margins of the Book of Deer, or another important Pictish site.

"Whatever happens we have discovered a very exciting site and our students and volunteers are ready to come along and help with this dig."


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