New treasures display marks 450th anniversary of Scottish Reformation

A fascinating selection of original printed books, manuscripts and letters is to go on display at the National Library of Scotland next month to mark the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation.

The Reformation can be dated to 1560 when the Scots Confession of Faith (which confirmed the abolition of the Pope's authority in Scotland) was ratified by the Scottish Parliament. Now visitors will have the chance to see a copy of this iconic document first hand as one of the key exhibits.

Also central to the display will be the Bassandyne Bible (1576), the first complete Bible printed in Scotland. The church worked with the Edinburgh printer Thomas Bassandyne and merchant Alexander Arbuthnot to produce this edition of the Geneva Bible which had been translated by English and Scots Calvinists.

Anette Hagan, senior curator of rare book collections at the National Library of Scotland, said: 'Our latest display is a fantastic showcase of key artefacts relating to the Scottish Reformation, which is one of the most important events in our country's history and had repercussions reaching far beyond the dramas of John Knox's quarrels with Mary Queen of Scots.

'It marked a switch in international alliances away from Catholic France and towards Protestant England, enabling the Union of the Crowns in 1603, and established Calvinism as one of the dominant influences of Scottish life, leading to centuries of hellfire sermons - but also to a society with a strong sense of social responsibility and the highest rate of literacy in Europe.'

The National Library of Scotland's latest treasures display brings together an impressive collection of items illustrating this significant period. Visitors can watch history unfold with a range of documents predating the Reformation, including a papal bull issued by Pope Leo X in 1517, threatening the German monk and theologian Martin Luther with excommunication, and Archbishop Hamilton's Catechism (1552), a text outlining the Catholic Church's beliefs which is a major piece of Middle Scots prose.

The display also provides a chance to see a first edition of John Knox's most famous and controversial work, The First Blast of the Trumpet, published just a few years later in 1558. For Knox, the Bible taught that women should not bear rule over men and this text was directed against Mary Tudor, Mary of Guise, Catherine de Medici and the youthful Mary Stuart, all Catholics. The tract was originally published anonymously as Knox wanted to conceal his identity until he issued another two 'blasts', but no more were published.

Other key highlights include a tract published by the prominent Catholic cleric Ninian Winzet (Abbot and Mary Queen of Scots' confessor) in 1562, arguing against the Reformation and John Knox in particular, as well as the celebrated 'Good and Godly Ballads', a collection of popular Protestant songs compiled by the Wedderburn brothers of Dundee, probably in the 1530s.

If you would like the opportunity to view these spectacular items, and more, visit the National Library of Scotland's public exhibition space between September 1 and October 31 - entry free of charge.


National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge

28 August 2010

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