Studies on the Book of Deer


Katherine Forsyth, editor

Hardback €76.50
Catalogue Price: €85.00
ISBN: 978-1-85182-569-1
March 2008. 536pp; colour ills.

‘Personally I hope the time will come when the Book of Deer spends six months every year in a special museum in Aberdeenshire, on loan from Cambridge. Until that happens Studies on the Book of Deer is the second best thing. It is big, splendid, authoritative, contains 21 pages of coloured images from the Book of Deer itself – and as we read it, we can almost hear the sound of scholarly chains being broken’, Ronnie Black, The Scotsman (review originally appeared in Gaelic).

‘The Book of Deer is a small gospel-book written in the late ninth or tenth century. It is now preserved in the Cambridge University Library, but in the twelfth century it was kept in the precursor of the Cistercian abbey of Deer, where, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, some documents were written into the margins or into vacant pages. The team of scholars led by Katherine Forsyth, whose work is presented in this handsome volume, has made major strides towards interpreting the gospel-book itself and the other texts that came to be added to it … Studies on the Book of Deer is a book of fundamental importance for Scottish medieval studies', Thomas Charles-Edwards, TLS (December 2009).

‘The Book of Deer, a tenth-century manuscript with twelfth-century additions whose history has been touched by such luminaries as John Aubrey and M.R. James, is the subject of this new collection of studies edited by Katherine Forsyth. Four Studies on the context of the Book of Deer give a new dimension to recent work on the ecclesiastical material, on the artistic style of the manuscript, on analysis of place names, and on the relation between the property records and the structure of Scottish society at the time. Where this volume makes great strides is in revealing the complex connections between this text and the Northeast of Scotland … of interest to folklorists is the way in which the manuscript, now in the Cambridge University Library, has become as symbol of things over and above the ecclesiastical, poetic, and Gaelic language material of its contexts', Juliette Wood,  Folklore (December 2009).

‘[This is a] sumptuous and beautifully produced volume … the completed book is a rare and much-needed scholarly delight. This collection of studies by a galaxy of outstanding scholars, whose principal representatives are not in the Celtic Studies section at the University of Glasgow, is meticulously crafted … the greatest single achievement of this book, however, is to “demystify” and “normalise” the Book of Deer, long seen as something of an aberration in terms of Gaelic Scotland, and more akin (if we are to believe earlier scholarship) to exemplars in Ireland, both in format and (very much more surprisingly) in its form of Gaelic (usually regarded as “Middle Irish”) … the crafting and design of the book, to say nothing of its scholarship, are a supreme achievement … the case, in short, is set out at every level, and cogently argued in this masterly volume, with its interlocking themes and interweaving threads of discussion … the rounded approach to comprehending the Gaelic literature of the Middle Ages, involving specialists in several different fields, has never been more powerfully exemplified than in this well-crafted book … This state-of-the-art book represents one of the highest points to date in the development of Gaelic scholarship in Scotland. It is not only scholarly – it is also a work of scholarly art, exemplifying the art of scholarship, and contains pretty well all the tools for a solid understanding of both the texts and contexts of the Book of Deer. Copies should be in all libraries throughout Scotland, academic and general, as a shining example of what scholarly enquiry is all about … at long last, Deer has been well served, and its records, in every sense, have been put straight', Donald E. Meek, Scottish Gaelic Studies (Winter 2010).