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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - The most beautiful book in Scotland: Regime Change, Reformation and Rebellion on Parchment

19th February 2020, 17:30 to 18:30, Grey College, Professor Wilson Poon (University of Edinburgh)


The collection of medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library includes a 15th century book of hours (or ‘primer’) produced in the south of England ca. 1430 (listed as MS 39 in the catalogue). The early-20th century pioneering codicologist Catherine Borland, who catalogued all the western medieval manuscripts not only in EUL but also in the National Library of Scotland, opined that this was ‘perhaps the most beautiful book in Scotland’. Yet the manuscript, which was owned exclusively by prosperous medieval grocers for at least one whole century of its early existence, has remained little studied. Professor Poon gives a brief description of the sumptuous manuscript, and will then show how three iconic moments of British history have been ‘fossilised’ into its pages by marginalia and other material traces left by successive owners: the ousting of the Lancastrian Henry VI by the Yorkist Edward IV, the attempt by Henry VIII to erase Thomas Beckett from the English religious memory, and the only military victory scored by the Scottish Covenanters against Charles II's Royal forces. Professor Poon will end by speculating on a possible link between this manuscript and the first great English composer of polyphonic church music, John Dunstaple (or Dunstable).

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Professor Wilson Poon

Directions to Grey College

MapGrey College is denoted as building No. 8

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