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Of the Book of Deer Mr. Westwood writes, "The initial letter of each Gospel is alone enlarged and ornamented with patches of different colours, being about two inches high, the ends of the principal strokes of the letters terminating in dogs' heads, somewhat in the style of the letters in the Psalter of St. Ouen, and especially like the initials given in my first plate of Irish Biblical MSS., No. 4, from the Harleian Gospels, 1802, and in my second plate, No. 5 of the 'Palaeographia Sacra.' These pages, as well as the miniatures in the volume, are surrounded by ornamental borders, chiefly formed of rudely interlaced ribbons, and with some modifications of the Z patterns, both in the lozenge and rectangular forms." * * *
"The figure of St. Matthew1 is a standing figure in the style of those of the Gospels of Mac Durnan, etc., with the beard of moderate length divided into four points, the feet naked, and the right hand holding a sword of very unusual form, turned downwards, the point of the scabbard resting between the feet. The handle of the sword is guarded not only in the front of the hand (as in Hewitt's 'Ancient Armour,' p. 33, Figs. 9, 10, and 11), but also behind the hand, the guards being curved, but reversed; the scabbard itself appears at first sight, owing to the curved border of the dress, to be shod at the end like Hewitt's Fig. 2, p. 32. The sword is a rare symbol of St Matthew, but it is given as such in Eusenbeth's lists of the Emblems of the Saints. On either side of the head of the Saint is a small figure, possibly intended for an angel. St. Mark is represented in my second figure.2 St. Matthew in the Gospels of St. Boniface, represented in my fourth figure of the same plate, 51, is really well drawn as compared with
this St. Mark, of which the most noticeable feature is the object held to the breast like a casket, which may represent a book in an ornamental binding, suspended from the neck, with the cumhdach or case in which it is preserved (of which the missal of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is an example). I need scarcely add that the book is a very constant adjunct to the figure of the Evangelist in those early drawings, as seen in many of my plates."1
"My Fig. 3 represents the recto of the last folio, 86,2 and is probably intended to represent two of the Evangelists with two angels (being analogous to the tessellated pages of the Books of Lindisfarne, etc.); whilst a similar composition, the centre formed of a six-leaved rosette, occupies the verso of the first folio.3 At the end of St. John (folio 84, verso)4 is also a group of two of these Evangelists (?), and on the verso of the following folio (85 v.)5 is a group of four of these figures (without books), two with uplifted, and one with outstretched arms, the fourth without arms. Quaint little flourishes resembling fern-leaves, and small animals and birds, occupy many of the open spaces and margins of the pages."1 (Westwood's "Miniatures and Ornaments," pp. 89, 90.)
1 Books, and what appear to be cumh- meant to represent the chasuble, considerdachs or book-covers, appear on the sculp- able interest must attach to a representtured stones of Scotland (see "Sculp. Stones ation, however rude, of the vestments of Scotland," vol. ii. Pref. p. 23). I cannot worn by a Gaelic priest in the ninth doubt that the figures on the breasts of century. If, as is probable, the chasuble the Evangelists in the Book of Deer are was derived from the toga, which is inmeant either for cumhdachs, or boxes for dicated by the original circular form of relics like the early Celtic example at Mony- both, the appearance of the rounded ends musk, which is shaped like the present over the knees would be accounted for. figures, and has an arrangement for sus- The collar or rather the neck-folds seem pension (Idem, Plate xi. of " Illustrations "). to be most ample and quite unlike any A different opinion has been expressed by fashion that we are acquainted with in the Mr. Paley, who regards the figure as an middle ages." (Mr. Paley as quoted by apparell or rationale suspended from the Mr. Westwood, p. 90.) neck by three strings. He adds, " Assum- 2 [Plate xx.] 3 [Plate i.] ing that the dress of all these figures is * [Plate xvii.] s [Plate xix.]
A question here naturally suggests itself,—Are we to ascribe the Book of Deer to an Irish or a Pictish origin? and when we recollect the community of religious institutions and art which in their infancy pervaded the churches of both countries, it is one that can only be answered by a consideration of the probabilities and analogies connected with it.
The variety and beauty of the manuscripts of the Gospels, and other works left to us by the early scribes of Ireland, show that the art of writing and illumination was there cultivated and brought to the highest perfection.
There is no reason to doubt that writing was likewise cultivated in the Columbian institutions of Alba, although the productions of the Pictish scribes have not come down to us.
St. Columba was himself a skilful scribe. The copy, which at an early period of his life he made of St. Finian's Gospels, was the remote cause of his mission to Alba from the disputes to which it gave rise. Just before his death, too, as we learn from Adamnan, he was engaged in transcribing the Psalter; and of Connachtach, one of his successors, who died in A.d. 801, it is recorded that he was "scriba selectissimus."2
The "Legend of St. Andrew" preserves the name of one Pictish scribe in the following notice:—" Thana filius Dudabrach hoc monumentum scripsit Regi Pherath filio Bergeth in villa Migdele ;"3 and this, with other historical facts, was copied from ancient Pictish books into the Register of St. Andrews about the middle of the twelfth century,—"Haec ut praefati sumus sicut in veteribus Pictorum libris scripta reperimus, transcripshnus."1
1 [Plates xxi. xxii.] no site have so many of the sculptured
2 Reeves' Adamnan, pp. 233, 388. monuments peculiar to Pictland been dis
3 This is Meigle in Strathmore, which covered. (See " Sculptured Stones of Scotin Pictish times seems to have been a land," vol. i., Notices of the Plates, p. 22; place of high ecclesiastical importance. In vol. ii., Notices of the Plates, pp. 2, 73.)
In the beginning of the eighth century the letter sent to Nechtan, the Pictish king, by the Abbot of Wearmouth, was first translated into the king's own language, and then, as we learn from Venerable Bede, his order for changing the time of Easter and the shape of the tonsure was transcribed and sent for publication throughout all the provinces of the Picts, while the same author describes the Pictish as one of the five languages of Britain in his day.2
St. Ternan, who in our early legends is called Archbishop of the Picts, possessed a copy of the Gospels in four volumes, of which the one containing the Gospel of St. Matthew was preserved at his church of Banchory St. Ternan, on the Dee, till the sixteenth century;3 and St. Boniface, a missionary to Pictland, was popularly believed to have written 150 books of the Gospels.4
The volume of St. Ternan's Gospels was kept in a case of metal, adorned on the surface with silver and gold; and we hear of a copy of the Gospels belonging to Fothad, who was Bishop of the Scots before the middle of the tenth century. The silver cover, which the Bishop made for the volume, remained for admiration on the high altar of St. Andrews in the middle of the fourteenth century.5
1 Chronicles of the Picts andScots,p. 188. 4 Breviar. Abcrd. Propr. Sanct. Part.
2 Hist. EccL lib. i . cap. i.; lib. v. cap. xxi. Hyem. foL lxx.
3 Kalendar in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol . ii. p. 8 Wyntoun's Cronykil, b. vii. c. x. vol. 264. i. p. 180.
On one of the crosses at St. Vigeans there is an inscription which appears to be the only specimen of writing in the Pictish language that has been preserved. It may be reasonably ascribed to the early part of the eighth century, and the form of the letters agrees with that of the Irish and Saxon writings of the period.1
The exquisite ornamental designs of the sculptured crosses of Pictland—which were probably elaborated by the inmates of the Pictish monasteries, and which are identical with those of the early Irish manuscripts and the Book of Deer—fairly entitle us to assume that the men who could carve their intricate patterns on stone with such grace and accuracy would at the same time adorn their writings with similar devices.2
On a review of these facts, there seems nothing improbable in concluding that the Book of Deer may have been written by a native scribe of Alba in the ninth century. The existence of a Fer-leiginn, or scribe, in the neighbouring monastery of Turriff, would entitle us also to look for one in the monastery of Deer; and we learn from Colgan that the duty of these officials was
1 See the reading of it given by Pro- St. Benedict every monk was compelled
fessor Sir James Y. Simpson in "Sculp- to learn some trade, and many of them
tured Stones of Scotland," vol. ii., Notices became the ablest artists, writers, architects,
of the Plates, p. 70. The Pictish cha- goldsmiths,blacksmiths, sculptors, and agri
racter of the inscription is supported culturists in the kingdom. In Ireland the
by Dr. Petrie and Mr. Whitley Stokes in monks were the artificers of the shrines,
"Goidilica," by the latter, p. 37. Calcutta, croziers, book-covers, and bells, which yet
1866. excite our wonder by the grace and at
8 "It seems very probable, on the the same time the minute intricacy of
whole, that the sculptor of the crosses, as their style; while they were also the
well as the 'scribe' who prepared the de- writers of those manuscripts of matchless
sign, was a member of the monastic com- caligraphy to which I have referred."
munity, if indeed the offices were not (Sculptured Stones of Scotland, vol. ii.
united in one person. Under the rule of Pref. p. 16.)