South Scotland

University of Glasgow researcher discovers 'oldest book'

Book Image copyright University of Glasgow
Image caption The manuscript dates back to the 12th century and may have been published in the Borders

What is believed to be Scotland's earliest non-religious manuscript has been discovered by a researcher at the University of Glasgow.

The Consolation of Philosophy was most likely published by monks at Kelso Abbey in the 12th century.

The manuscript contains the ideas of Roman philosopher Boethius and was probably published around 1130 to 1150.

Previously it was thought that only religious or legal books were being produced at this time.

The find was made in the University of Glasgow's special collections by Dr Kylie Murray, of Balliol College, Oxford, who is currently on a visiting fellowship.

The manuscript is a 12th century copy of the Consolation of Philosophy originally thought to have been written in 524AD.

Although its existence was known and had previously been catalogued, scholars had believed it to be English, with Durham being the most likely place of origin.

Image copyright University of Glasgow
Image caption Dr Murray believes the work is most likely of Scottish origin

However, closer inspection has revealed that the manuscript's handwriting and illustrations do not match those of Durham, or other English books, from this period.

Dr Murray argues that instead the manuscript suggests a connection with the Scottish kingdom.

Its unique illustrations more closely resemble the famous Kelso Charter, written at Kelso Abbey in 1159.

Dr Murray believes that this is proof that intellectual and literary cultures were flourishing in Scotland at a far earlier date than has been realised.

She said: "Glasgow's Boethius manuscript allows a fresh understanding of Scotland's early responses to key intellectual works in the Middle Ages, and provides a snapshot of how Scotland's literary culture as we now know it first began to emerge and develop.

"By showing us how alert and alive Scotland was to literary and intellectual influences from Europe at such an early date, the University of Glasgow's Boethius manuscript is a hugely exciting find not only for scholars of medieval Scotland, but for anyone interested in understanding the roots of Scotland's literary and intellectual culture."

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