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Rare chance to see medieval treasures up close

Posted on 8 May 2017

A new exhibition of unique medieval manuscripts – including a copy of a treaty which brought to an end the First Scottish War of Independence - have gone on display at the University of York.

A copy of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton is on display at the Borthwick

Spanning the 12th-16th centuries, many of the documents were thought to have been lost forever, but have now been restored and put on display at the Borthwick Institute for Archives for the first time.

Experts say the surviving fragments will help historians further our understanding of medieval attitudes to worship and liturgy; devotion and faith; art and music; church and state.

Amongst the highlights on display for the very first time are:

  • A copy of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. Originally signed in 1328 by Robert the Bruce, the treaty brought to an end the First Scottish War of Independence and recognised the Kingdom of Scotland as an independent nation. The copy on display (assumed to date from c 1400) appears to have been used, later, as binding material.
  • Sections of medieval sacred music dating back to the 12th century, including a portion of the York Masses. These are large, 16th century scores used as binding material in the York Consistory Court Act Books.

Many of the items on display come from a collection of medieval manuscript fragments donated to the University by Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya, Emeritus Professor at Keio University, Japan.

Other items on display have been discovered during in-depth conservation and re-binding work at the Borthwick over the last 60 years.

Professor Linne Mooney from the Centre for Medieval Studies said: “Historical books, documents and artefacts do not always survive intact, so our knowledge about once complete items that tell us much about our past is often dependent upon the chance survival of portions, fragments, of the original whole.  

“This exciting exhibition illustrates just how much we can glean about our past from such chance survivals of fragments, in this case fragments of manuscript (hand-written) documents and books.”

The exhibition can be found in the Samuel Storey Exhibition Gallery at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York.

 The exhibition is open to the general public from 8:00am-10:00pm, 7 days a week until the 9th July. 

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