Scotland

Early book satchels used by monks go on display

reconstructed leather book satchel
Image caption Book satchels allowed monks to carry heavy religious texts easily

Experts have reconstructed satchels that would have been used by monks bringing Christianity to Scotland.

The leather book satchels, which have gone on display in Edinburgh, are part of a three-year research project into early Scottish history.

The designs were inspired by evidence gleaned from early archaeological remains, poetry and sculptured stones.

They were commissioned by whisky firm Glenmorangie and National Museums Scotland.

The two bags are now on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Book satchels played a key role in Scotland's conversion to Christianity by allowing religious texts to be carried easily by monks spreading the word of God.

Early Christian books, which were often elaborate objects, were protected in book satchels which were hung from wall pegs.

Book of Kells

One reconstructed satchel was made from the skin of a roe deer and was based on ancient leather fragments which were found at Loch Glashan in Argyll.

The fragments indicated the bag was quite large, and could have held books such as The Book of Kells, one of the most famous early Christian manuscripts.

The second satchel was inspired by a seventh century text containing a description of a book satchel made from gleaming white sheepskin.

Image caption Book satchels played a key role in Scotland's conversion to Christianity

Its strap features an intricate interlaced design which was a common decoration found on sculptured stones, metalwork and illuminated books during Scotland's Early Historic period between AD 300 and 900.

Edinburgh-based leatherworker Ian Dunlop, of leather accessory company SodaKitsch, was commissioned to create the bags.

Last year National Museums Scotland and Glenmorangie commissioned the first Pictish throne to be built in more than 1,000 years, which is now on display at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain.

Its design was inspired by depictions on Pictish sculptured stones.

Dr David Clarke, from National Museums Scotland, said: "After the success of the Pictish throne recreation, work on book satchels has reaffirmed our belief that working with contemporary artists and craftspeople can throw considerable light on Scotland's past.

"Recreating the book satchels has challenged previous interpretations of the surviving fragments."

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