Studying the Book
A picture of the Prince and the minister both deep in thought.
In front of them is the Rossdhu Book of Hours. This is the information supplied to us about the book by the Auckland City Library:
The Rossdhu Book of Hours
Auckland City Libraries is pleased to loan The Rossdhu Book of Hours to the village of Luss for the 1500th celebration of the introduction of Christianity to Scotland.
About the Book
Popular throughout Europe from the late thirteenth to sixteenth century, books of hours were prayer books intended for people who wanted to follow the Church’s programme of daily devotions. They included a series of prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary and varied in the choice of other saints and in the number, size and quality of illustrations. People could buy either a readymade book or commission one specially tailored to their own circumstances and interests.
The Rossdhu Book of Hours was hand made in the late fifteenth century in a workshop probably in the Southern Netherlands. Its first owner was Scottish noblewoman, Elizabeth Dunbar Countess of Moray, who lived with her third husband, the laird Sir John Colquhoun, at Rossdhu, near the village of Luss on Loch Lomond. The date of the dedication of the chapel at St Mary of Rossdhu, 6 April 1469, is recorded in the book’s calendar. It also includes brief obituaries, erased but just decipherable under ultra-violet light, for Elizabeth’s father who was killed in August 1429 and her son James who died in March 1493.
The Latin text is written on vellum, mainly in dark brown ink, but with the titles of prayers, chapter headings and instructions in red. The first letters of words at the beginnings of verses are usually in burnished gold or blue. On important pages, these initials become quite ornate, spreading across several lines and incorporating foliage designs and sometimes small pictures that relate to the surrounding text. Many pages also have decorative borders of acanthus leaves, flowers and fruit. Larger illustrations portray the Passion of Christ, the saints, the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the ascent of souls into heaven. There is no attempt at historical accuracy; the figures depicted all wear fifteenth century clothing.
How did the The Rossdhu Book of Hours end up in Auckland?
The Rossdhu Book of Hours was one of several medieval manuscripts that Sir George Grey, Governor and Premier of New Zealand, purchased in 1863 from the London booksellers Thomas and William Boone. It was among the first consignment of precious books that he donated to the Library in 1887.
Sir George Grey, who was also governor of, South Australia and the Cape Colony, was an outstanding British colonial statesman in the nineteenth century. Less well known of Grey is that he was also an obsessive collector of rare books and artefacts, which he selflessly bequeathed to the people he governed.
The Scottish - New Zealand Connection
The United Kingdom and New Zealand have strong ancestral ties. There are many people living in New Zealand who can trace their heritage back to Scotland, England and Ireland. Whilst the 19th century travelers settled through New Zealand, there are some areas with a strong Scottish connection and influence. In particular Dunedin and the Otago region in the South Island and Waipu in the north. Scottish heritage is still strong with pipe bands and kilt wearers participating in many cultural festivals around New Zealand.
Auckland City Libraries
Auckland City Libraries’ special collections is named after Sir George Grey. “Auckland City Libraries is unique in New Zealand in possessing the earliest and most important printed material of both European and Māori cultures. The early Māori material is rivalled only by that in the National Library in Wellington…; the early European material – the incunabula, the Caxtons, the Chaucers and its crowning glory, the four Shakespeare folios – is unrivalled anywhere in this country.” – Rowan Gibbs, book historian and heritage consultant
You can find out more about Sir George Grey’s legacy on the Auckland City Libraries website.
Auckland City Libraries is New Zealand’s largest public library consisting of 17 community libraries. Each year, over 4.3 million visitors borrow almost 6 million items. As well as libraries’ traditional services such as borrowing books, customers have a wide choice of other services for example free Wi-Fi, digital books and reference tools, learning programmes for all ages from early childhood to adults, and events such as author talks, travel nights, musical performances, family history and genealogy classes. See image full size
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