The library owns the companion volume, the Book of the Dean of Lismore, and successfully bid £20,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) to secure The Chronicle of Fortingall (previously spelt Fortighall) at Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh.
Estimated at £20,000-30,000 at the May 18 sale, the manuscript will now become part of the libraries collection, reunited with the Lismore manuscript after more than 400 years.
The Chronicle of Fortingall was written between 1554-79 by members of the MacGregor family at Fortingall in Highland Perthshire. The same family compiled the slightly earlier Book of the Dean of Lismore, the earliest surviving collection of Gaelic poetry compiled in Scotland.
The library’s manuscripts curator Dr Ulrike Hogg said: “The two manuscripts are so closely connected that it’s difficult to describe one without reference to the other. It’s a great privilege for us to be able to bring them together again after their compilation some 450 years ago.”
Since at least 1855 The Chronicle of Fortigall was among the furnishings of Taymouth Castle where, at the peak of their wealth, power and influence, the Earls of Breadalbane & Holland lived from the early 18th century until 1922.
The manuscript, written in Latin, Scots and Gaelic, includes passages of local and wider history, diary entries, stanzas of poetry, proverbs and aphorisms plus commentaries on religion.
Noteworthy elements include a list of battles from Bannockburn (1314) to Flodden (1513), a Gaelic poem written in a writing system based on Middle Scots and poetry in Middle Scots by William Dunbar.
The Gaelic elements make a significant addition to the library’s Scottish Gaelic manuscripts collection, which is the largest in the world.
Dr Martin MacGregor, senior lecturer in Scottish history at the University of Glasgow, said: “The Chronicle of Fortingall is a highly significant manuscript which provides insight into public life in the Highlands in the later Middle Ages. It is an important source for the history of the Highlands — social, political, cultural, economic and religious. It also has great linguistic importance as it embodies the interplay of Latin, Scots and Gaelic as written languages in then Gaelic-speaking Scotland.”
The acquisition was made possible with funding from the Friends of the National Library, the Magnus and Janet Soutar Trust, the BH Breslauer Foundation Fund and the Leckie Family Charitable Trust.