The first Scottish atlas among the National Library of Scotland’s fascinating exhibits

FASCINATING treasures from Scotland’s past will be on display in Edinburgh this week, opening a window into the country’s history, culture and people.

Presented in English, Gaelic and Scottish, the exhibition is designed to give a unique insight into Scotland’s place in the world.

Opened at the National Library of Scotland on Friday, it showcases the riches of the library’s own collections, including Timothy Pont’s groundbreaking maps that became the main source for the first Scottish atlas, produced by Joan Blaeu in Amsterdam in 1654.

Admission is free, and exhibits are interspersed with interactive exhibits, archival film footage, and specially commissioned new writings and films.

The exhibition will show how the written word in Scotland played a vital role in the dissemination of ideas.

Visitors will be able to see the highly decorated Iona Psalter, dating from 1180-1220, Gaelic medical manuscripts on pharmacy and remedies written in the 15th century and The Lyons in Mourning – an account of the Jacobite Rising compiled by the Reverend Robert Forbes which has it all risky to record eyewitness accounts, capturing testimonies while they were fresh and collating them in complete secrecy.

From more recent times there are records which represent the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution, the first election to the Scottish Parliament and the journey to the opening of Parliament in 1999.

The innovation of the printing press has transformed the production of texts, allowing the rapid dissemination of knowledge and ideas and, until July, a complete Gutenberg Bible will be on display – one of 20 remaining in the world – followed by ‘A copy of the Aberdeen Breviary which was printed in Edinburgh in 1510 by Walter Chapman on the first Scottish press.

There are also superb examples of Scottish binding styles, such as herringbone binding dating from the late 1670s and wheel binding, used in the mid-1720s.

The library’s collections are enriched with travellers’ stories and will feature the papers of Scottish solitary explorer, botanist, artist and writer Isobel Wylie Hutchison (below).

There is a letter containing Ae Fond Kiss, one of Robert Burns’ best-known love songs, and a letter from Ludwig van Beethoven to Fife-born music collector George Thomson. Beethoven and Thomson corresponded with each other from 1803 – resulting in the unique sound of a Scottish song with classic Viennese accompaniment.

In addition, the National Library and Neu! Reekie! have commissioned artists to respond to the collectibles that will be featured in the Treasures exhibition. Each has created a new work of poetry, prose, song, or film in response to their collectible. This will be displayed on the interactive audio-visual gallery of the Treasures exhibition, as well as on the National Library’s website and social media.

“As custodians of the nation’s published and recorded memory, we have an unparalleled collection of documents,” said Amina Shah, Chief Executive and National Librarian.

“The Treasures exhibit gives people a glimpse of the vast collections, many of which are typically stored on the multiple floors beneath them. We are delighted to launch this highly anticipated exhibition, which will provide visitors with a unique insight into Scotland’s history and its place in the world.

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