Monday, 15 June 2015

Everyday I write the book

Last week we had a visit from Tricia Marwick, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, and it was a real pleasure to show her around the archive. One of the documents that we showed her is a particularly treasure, D101 - The Wallace Manuscript, and looking at it again reminded me that it is not only a valuable historical record but is also a very lovely object.

The manuscript, written in 1684 and titled 'Ane account of the ancient & present state of Orkney', is probably the oldest written description of Orkney. It was written by the Rev. James Wallace, minister of St. Magnus Cathedral, and contains lots of information about the island, their plants, animals and much more besides. In many places he has illustrated his descriptions. Here's an example of his writing, about a particular fish caught in Sanday:

"Tuo years agoe, in winter, there wes taken a Strainge but beautifull fish in Sanda (where severalls of them had been gotten before) called be them Salmon Stour. Itt wes about ane elne in Length, deep breasted & narrow att the taile.... The flesh of the half next to the head wes Like Beef, & the other half next the taile, wes Like Salmond. The picture of which, as neer as I could draw itt, is heer sett doun."

The 'Salmon Stour', drawn by Rev. J. Wallace

He also wrote about St. Magnus Cathedral, described by him as "as beautifull statlie a structure as is in the Kingdom...And the steiple elevated to a great hight (standing on four statlie pillars) in which is a sett of as excellent & sweetlie chimed Bells as is in anie Cathedrall in the Kingdom".

St. Magnus Cathedral, drawn by Rev. J. Wallace
We are delighted to have this document in our collection and we have to thank Highland Distillers, who purchased the manuscript at auction and presented it to the archive in 1998.

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