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Friends of Grampian Stones

Friends of Grampian Stones

Ecclestical History

Friends of Grampian Stones

The Book of Deer is a 9th century illuminated manuscript written in Latin,

hand-copied by a scribe from other manuscripts of the Gospels of the time.

It contains primarily the Gospel of St. John

and parts of the

Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke


It is thought that The Book of Deer was probably transcribed
at the monastery of Deer in Buchan
and gets its name from six Gaelic 'notes',
along with a Latin charter of David I,
confirming grants of land to the monastery of Deer

which were written into the margins and other blank
spaces of the manuscript between AD 1130 & 1150 .
The notes are the earliest known example of Gaelic written in Scotland.
The form of Gaelic used is called 'Middle Gaelic'

[also known as 'Middle Irish'] and was the form of Gaelic
common to Ireland and parts of Scotland AD900 - 1200


The Gaelic notes are written as if in a 'family bible' describing farm names, woodland and other parcels
of valuable land along with those to whom the land has been granted [primarily the Church], but also to landowners, Mormaors [closest equivalent 'lord', laird or 'lord lieutenant'] as well as to local crofters & farmers in Northeast Scotland, in the 11th and early 12th centuries.


The young monk-scribe had little knowledge of Latin as many of his transcriptions contained errors in copying from the original Gospel Latin and he clearly had time on his hands, or a preference for artistic doodling judging by his fondness for stylistic animals such as the two on this page which decorate
panels left blank between passages of gospels.

The original BOOK OF DEER is in safekeeping within the Archives at the University of Cambridge
while there are plans to make its illuminated gospels available on the web by the Book of Deer Project in Aberdeenshire

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