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Book of Deer to return to Aberdeenshire after 1,000 years amid search for ancient abbey

The Book of Deer, which is believed to be Scotland’s oldest surviving monastic manuscript, is set to return to the north-east for the first time in almost 1000 years.

The book, which contains the earliest surviving Gaelic writing in Scotland, was in the care of the Monastery of Deer in Aberdeenshire before some point in the 1100’s when the building fell out of use.

The return of the book will be accompanied by a 10-week excavation to search for the Monastery of Deer, near Aden Country Park in the Minlaw area.

The manuscript’s journey is not entirely clear, however it has been in possession of Cambridge University Library since 1715 when it was presented by King George I.

Aberdeenshire-based The Book of Deer Project received £128,588 from the National Lottery Heritage fund to secure its return on loan next year.

Anne Simpson, chairwoman of the Book of Deer Project, said: “”We act as the catalyst for renewed interest, research and community engagement surrounding the book in the north east of Scotland and beyond.”

“The central objective of our project is to celebrate the book and its heritage in a modern context.”

The Book of Deer is also integral to the history of Catholic learning in Scotland.

Dr Jenny Downes, exhibitions and public programming manager at the University of Aberdeen, said: “Artefacts like the Book of Deer are invaluable in shining a light on our past and how that shapes who we are today so we are looking forward to being part of sharing this knowledge with the wider community.”

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