National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Free Exhibition of Scottish Charters is now on at General Register House

Free Exhibition of Scottish Charters is now on at General Register House

Tuesday, 18 Apr 2017
Scribes and Royal Authority: Scotland's Charters 1100-1250

For the first time precious examples from two of Scotland’s most important collections of medieval charters are going on show in National Records of Scotland.

 The charters from Holyrood Abbey and Melrose Abbey reveal how government developed in the period between 1100 and 1250, as part of the emergence in Western Europe of government as we recognise it today. These charters are but a tiny sample of what survives from the period and they offer a glimpse into the work of Scotland’s medieval scribes. This exhibition investigates how changes in the handwriting of the royal and monastic scribes reflect these crucial changes in charters that granted lands and rights.

This exhibition is a partnership with the University of Glasgow and is part of 'Models of Authority, Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government, 1100-1250', a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project examined the script and physical appearance of these charters, closely analysing the diplomatic and palaeographic features as evidence in the development of the perception of royal authority and governance during a crucial period in Scotland’s history. Professor Dauvit Broun of the University of Glasgow said:

"This exhibition contains some of the earliest surviving documents produced in Scotland. These are well known to historians, but the scribes who wrote them are often overlooked. This exhibition is the first to focus on the scribes themselves, and their role in creating a new medium for government and lordship."

 Charter by King Maclcolm IV, National Records of Scotland (GD45/13/224)

Charter by King Maclcolm IV, National Records of Scotland (GD45/13/224)

You can read more about this project and its findings at You can also find further details on each of the charters on display in the booklet ‘Scribes and Royal Authority: Early Charters from the National Records of Scotland’, on sale in the NRS shop.

The free exhibition will be on display in the remarkable Matheson Dome in General Register House from 5 April to 17 May 2017, Monday to Friday 09:00am-4:30pm. Closed for public holidays on 14 & 17 April and 1 May.