The Book of Deer, currently held at Cambridge University Library, has been requested to be returned to Scotland.
The oldest surviving manuscript from Scotland will soon be requested to be returned by Cambridge University Library.
In the upcoming year, SNP council member Glen Reid intends to initiate a conversation with the university regarding the permanent repatriation of the Book of Deer. This book contains the oldest recorded instance of written Scots Gaelic.
The book, which dates back to the 10th century, includes the gospels written in Latin. In the 12th century, Gaelic annotations were added in the margins. These annotations pertain to the monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire, which gives the book its title. Recently, in November, the precise location of the monastery was uncovered through an excavation.
According to Reid, the book was utilized by monks and holds great importance for the Gaelic-speaking population as it demonstrates that Gaelic was the predominant language in Aberdeenshire. He also clarifies that there is a common misunderstanding that Gaelic was solely spoken in the Highlands and Western Isles.
The origin of the text is unknown, but it is presumed to have been taken from Scotland during the wars of Scottish independence. This information was reported by the Scottish newspaper, The National. The book has been in the possession of Cambridge University Library since 1715, with the exception of a short period last year when it was temporarily lent to Aberdeen Art Gallery. It can only be viewed by scheduling an appointment.
According to Reid, the manuscript is the oldest one that has survived in Scotland, but there is limited information about it in the region where it was originally written. This is due to the fact that the book is currently located 500 miles away, locked up and not available for public viewing. However, it was temporarily returned last year and attracted a large number of visitors, prompting the need to rectify this historical injustice.
Reid has made two attempts to present proposals at the SNP conference, requesting that the Scottish government contact the University of Cambridge to initiate discussions about returning the manuscript to Scotland. However, these proposals were not included in the final agenda.
Reid intends to resubmit the resolution at next year’s conference. He also stated, “I will bring this up with our local MP and nearby authority to see if they can have any impact.”
Reid stated that Cambridge University has agreed to give back 116 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria. These pieces were taken by British armed forces during the looting of Benin City in 1897. The Charity Commission determined that the university has a moral responsibility to return the artifacts. Reid is optimistic that a similar decision will be made regarding the Book of Deer.
Reid expressed a sense of responsibility to aid in the book’s retrieval. He explained that this is motivated by cultural, educational, economic, and moral factors.
The request for comment from Cambridge University Libraries went unanswered.