University reunites musical manuscripts

A new University exhibition has reunited an enchanting collection of manuscripts from cities around the world.

Rare musical texts

The Singing the Reformation exhibition brings together eight manuscripts - the work of celebrated Scottish cleric Thomas Wode - which are usually housed in four separate collections in Europe and the US.

Manuscripts from Georgetown University in the US, Trinity College in Dublin and the British Library in London will join those held by the University of Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland.

The exhibition brings the manuscripts together for the first time in 400 years.

The elaborately decorated texts - illustrated with Renaissance musicians, angels and strange bestial creatures - will be on display at the Main University Library until the 28 October.

St Andrews Psalter

The manuscripts were composed by Wode, a Catholic monk turned Presbyterian minister, between 1562 and 1592 in the aftermath of the Reformation.

The Wode manuscripts - also known as the St Andrews Psalter - are an important musical legacy of one of the most turbulent periods in Scottish history.

Its harmonisations of 106 metrical psalms from the Anglo-Genevan Psalm Book and other songs created the gold standard for post-Reformation devotion and worship in Scotland.

Without Wode's efforts, much of the music heard in the Royal Court and in Scotland's churches would have been lost forever. The Wode Psalter sets the 106 psalms to four-part harmonies.

This exhibition celebrates an ordinary man and his extraordinary legacy. Without Wode, Scotland's treasure store of music would be much poorer. Thanks to these beautifully illustrated manuscripts, we have a fascinating insight into Scottish history.

Jane Dawson

John Laing Professor of Reformation History

Singing the Reformation

The exhibition - organised by the School of Divinity - also includes a display of 16th century musical instruments, such as a sackbut, recorder, and lute.

Also featured are rare books and manuscripts, including the first book printed in Gaelic, the first Psalm book printed in Scotland, and early books on musical theory.

The music in the Wode Partbooks will be celebrated in a performance by the award-winning Dunedin Consort and Players in St Giles Cathedral in August.

An iPhone app has been developed in support of the exhibition, including clips of the music contained within the Wode Psalter. It can be downloaded from:

Singing the Reformation 6 August - 28 October 2011, 10am - 5pmMain Library
The exhibition is free

Image Gallery

Click an image to view the full size version.

Related links

Accessibility menu