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The Breadalbane letters

A useful resource for putting your palaeography skills to the test.
© Jane Dawson and the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

This remarkable selection of transcribed letters will put your palaeography skills to the test.

The original spelling and grammar have been retained, allowing you to practise reading early modern Scots in printed form.

Once you have established confidence using printed Scots it will be easier to progress to the trickier handwritten manuscripts.

The collection

The 324 letters were discovered within the Breadalbane Collection, now housed in the National Records of Scotland.

The collection constitutes a variety of sixteenth-century documents belonging to the Campbells of Glenorchy.

The collection was edited by Professor Jane Dawson.

For more information, see here

The letters

The original Breadalbane letters are found in NRS GD112/39 Bundles 1-14 and part of Bundle 15.

The earliest letter is dated 1548 and the transcriptions end in 1583 with the death of Grey Colin.

With some originals having suffered damage, parts of the letters are illegible, though some damaged passages have been reconstituted from the notes in the MacGregor Collection (NRS GD50).

The letters can be found here:





Pay close attention to any conventions or repetitions in the letters – this information will prove invaluable when you are undertaking your own transcriptions.

If you are stuck with any words in the letters then why not ask your fellow palaeographers in the comments section below?

© Jane Dawson and the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
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Early Modern Scottish Palaeography: Reading Scotland's Records

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