Summer conference season

Tuesday 30 August 2022

We were delighted to be able to host two events in mid-August to support work by colleagues in the School of Divinity.

Visit of the British New Testament Society conference

On Friday 19 August the delegates attending the British New Testament Society Conference in St Andrews had the opportunity to drop in to our reading room in Martyrs Kirk to see some books and manuscripts of particular interest to researchers in New Testament Studies. There was especial interest in the folio Luther Bible which we had open at the Book of Revelation (Biblia : das ist: die gantze Heylige Schrifft, Teutsch / Doct. Mart. Luth. Jetzundt von neuwem, nach der letzten Edition, so D. Mart. Luth. vor seinem End selbst durchlesen, mit sonderm fleiß corrigiert Frankfurt am Main: Johann Feyrabend, 1589). This includes some amazing hand-coloured plates representing the vision of St John as recorded in the book.

Images from Book of Revelation from Bib BS239.B89 – whore of Babylon
Four horsemen of the apocalypse as depicted in the hand-coloured Luther Bible

There were a wide variety of editions of the New Testament on show, including leaves from a 13th-century manuscript bible (ms38631) and the volume of Complutensian Polyglot for the New Testament. The Nouum Testamentum grece & latine in academia Complutensi nouiter impressum (Jun BS1.B14 Vol. 3), printed in the University of Alcalá de Henares by Arnao Gúillen de Brocar, 1514-1517, is an amazing production, whose colophon records the date of printing as 10 January 1514. The Greek preface to the New Testament highlights that the manuscript witnesses for the text were ‘the most ancient and correct as possible, and in particular so reliable in regard to their age’ and asserts that ‘there is no excuse remaining to you for not engaging with holy scripture. No more corrupted copies, no suspect translations, you are not at a loss from the copied manner of expression.’

Translations of the New Testament into Bengali, Scots and Irish Gaelic and Chinese were displayed alongside the first Scottish printing of the Bible by Bassandyne from 1579 and a copy of the Douay-Rheims Bible of 1582. Of great interest to delegates were two items originating with the ‘Sisters of Sinai’, Mrs Gibson and Mrs Lewis, to whom the University of St Andrews awarded honorary degrees in recognition of their scholarship and expertise in near-eastern languages. We had on show the photographs taken on Mount Sinai by the sisters of a manuscript copy of Eusebius’s Historia Ecclesiastica, (msBR65.E8) as well as a 9th century Christian manuscript in Arabic (ms14(O)).

Faith in Fife delegates enjoying the display

The next day we were delighted to welcome two groups from the symposium on ‘Faith in Fife: A History of Religious Disruption’ organised by Dr Bess Rhodes. We were tasked with putting on a display of religious records, which we tailored to the papers being given during the day.

Register of the Priory of Pittenweem, ms37521

Highlights included the Register of the Priory of Pittenweem, 1532-54 which is a cartulary of over 200 charters relating to lands administered by the Priory and which includes references to the Isle of May, as well as what is probably the first book printed in St Andrews – “Hamilton’s Catechisme”.  This is more properly referred to as The catechisme, That is to say, ane com[m]one and catholik instructioun of the christin people in materis of our catholik faith and religioun, quhilk na gud christin man or woman suld misknaw. Prentit at sanct Androus: [John Scot], 1552. Although it was sponsored by Hamilton, it was probably written by Richard Marshall. Two early charters bearing seals reflected the life of the Cathedral of St Andrews before 1230. In the first cartulary of St Salvator’s College (UYUY150/1) we were able to see listed the pre-reformation treasures of the church, including vestments, furnishings of the altars, candlesticks, service books, carpets, silver vessels and reliquaries, monstrances, cruets, ewers, censors, images and choir books. These were dispersed or destroyed at the reformation, with the exception of the College Mace, described in the inventory as: “Item ane beddell wand siluer and our gilt with ane chenye and ane sell of the sam” (fB7-8).  Other pre-reformation material on show included a rental of the altar of St Fergus in the Cathedral, 1525, and a book of evidences from Holy Trinity church from about 1500.

Rental of the Altar of St Fergus in the Cathedral, 1525 ms36281

The Valuation of Fife dating from 1695 was particularly popular as it is possible to find listed all parishes in the county with a list of the names of their heritors and the valuation of their lands. The heritors were the landowners in each parish who, until 1925, were responsible for the upkeep of the church, manse, school and (until 1845) the poor of the parish.

There were fragments of early 15th century English music recovered from the binding of a book printed in Cologne in 1479 along with two psalters from early 17th century with metrical psalms with musical settings.

A variety of Kirk Session books were displayed to illustrate the role of the session as a church court, responsible for the economic, social and moral behaviour in its parish, and we also showed material from Episcopal and the Congregational churches of St Andrews as well as the ecumenical council of St Andrews. Architectural plans of alterations to Markinch Church by local architects Gillespie and Scott illustrated another kind of religious record of interest to different researchers.

Plan of proposed alterations to the church of Markinch, 1884, by architects Gillespie and Scott (from ms37778b/BN335)

There was a group of items relating to Lucy Menzies, Scholar and Mystic, about whom a paper had been given earlier in the day, including examples of her work on Evelyn Underhill.

It was a pleasure to host this group which had a broad attendance from across the county and a really engaged academic and lay audience.

Rachel Hart
Senior Archivist (Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments)

1 thoughts on "Summer conference season"

  • Julia Melvin
    Julia Melvin
    Tuesday 30 August 2022, 11.23am

    It is a pleasure to read of this acknowledgement of the life of Lucy Menzies. She is one of St Andrews' luminaries and not recognized enough.


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