The Aberdeen Burgh Registers spanning the period 1398-1511 are the oldest and most complete set of records of any Scottish town.
In 2013 these eight volumes were inscribed on Unesco’s UK Memory of the World Register because of their outstanding historical importance to the nation.
This recognition puts them alongside such iconic records as the Domesday Book, the Churchill Archives, and the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock.
The registers are held in the Charter Room at the Town House and provide an unrivalled insight into the political and social life of the late-medieval burgh.
Written primarily in Latin, they contain the proceedings of the Bailie, the Guildry and the Head Courts and shed light on a huge array of topics such as elections and trade through to public health and the transfer of property.
Fascinating glimpses of life emerge from the pages including the town’s efforts to keep the plague at bay in 1499 and the employment of ‘pig catchers’ in 1465 to prevent these ‘forbidden beasts’ running amok in the streets.
You may ask yourself: why have Aberdeen’s records survived in such a complete run while those of other Scottish towns for the same period are merely fragments? The answer to this question lies partly in geography: being so far north, Aberdeen escaped the worst excesses of the Reformation, which witnessed the destruction of many records elsewhere in Scotland.
Secondly, there is evidence in the records themselves that there has been a culture of good record-keeping in Aberdeen over the centuries.
These two factors, coupled with a significant pinch of good luck, has meant the survival of the records into the 21st Century.
The 5,238 pages which comprise volumes 1-8 contain a staggering 1.3 million words, more than double the word count of Tolstoy’s War And Peace.
Over the past three years, Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives and Aberdeen University have been involved in a joint project to fully transcribe these records to help make them more accessible.
You can find out more about the project at www.aberdeenregisters.org
- For details about Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives and to find out how to visit the Town House and Old Aberdeen public search rooms go to www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/archives
- Join us at Aberdeen Maritime Museum on Wednesday at 12.30pm for a short talk by Phil Astley and Dr Thomas Brochard of Aberdeen University about Scotland’s earliest recorded transatlantic crossing by William of Aberdeen in 1596. Admission free, all welcome.
- Join us at Aberdeen Maritime Museum to explore the Silver City’s stories through our collections of art, social and maritime history.
These informal dementia-friendly session for adults will take place on Mondays at 2pm–3.30pm from May 27 to July 1. Free – donations welcome. No need to book, just come along. Find out more at www.aagm.co.uk or pick up a leaflet at one our venues.
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery (reopening autumn 2019)
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- The Tolbooth Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Treasure Hub Museum Centre
For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk
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