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Mary Queen Scots Last Letter Now Display For Limited Time

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mary Queen of Scots' last letter will go on public display tomorrow (Tuesday 15 September) for seven days only to mark the official launch of the National Library of Scotland's new visitor centre.

The 422-year-old manuscript, along with a number of other high profile literary and historic treasures, will feature as the focal point for a limited time in the library's new visitor centre, which was the result of a £2.24 million investment package.

The new facilities, which include expanded exhibition and events space, gift shop and café, have dramatically transformed the library's entrance area, creating an enhanced visitor experience and a more welcoming environment.

Martyn Wade, CEO of the National Library of Scotland believes the unique letter is the perfect mechanism to help officially launch the new visitor centre.

He said: "This priceless document is one of Scotland's most prized historical possessions which is normally kept under lock and key. For reasons of preservation, viewings must be restricted therefore I am delighted to be able to bring it into the public domain for a short time only to help celebrate what is a tremendously important occasion for the Library.

"Our new treasures exhibition and re-vamped visitor area is part of our important initiative to widen access and increase opportunities for new audiences to engage with and benefit from one of the country's most famous institutions.   

"There is no better time to sample what the National Library of Scotland has to offer and I look forward to unearthing even more of our much loved national treasures for future public display."

The new visitor facilities will also be officially opened by Scotland's Culture Minister, Michael Russell and broadcaster Kirsty Wark at a special event to be held tonight (14 September).

Michael Russell, MSP adds: "It is vitally important that people can access information about Scotland's history and culture and our national collections play a key role in doing just that.  The unveiling of the last letter ever written by Mary Queen of Scots, to mark the official opening of the NLS new visitor centre, is hugely exciting. The original letter, on display for seven days only, truly is a national treasure. I would urge people from Edinburgh and across Scotland to visit NLS for this once in a life time opportunity to view one of the most significant representations in Scottish history."

Broadcaster Kirsty Wark said: "The National Library of Scotland is an embodiment of who we are and how we got here. To me it is one of the most thrilling places in Scotland and I am very happy that so many more of the library's treasures will be displayed for all to see in such a wonderful new centre.

"I feel very excited about seeing Mary Queen of Scots' last letter, and surprisingly emotional about it. She was an amazing woman. People must come and bring their children in the next seven days to see such an extraordinary and powerful historical artefact."

Eleven other treasures will join Mary Queen of Scots' manuscript in the new visitor centre, including the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first books ever printed with moveable type; the Forman Armorial (a reference book depicting coats of arms) compiled around 1562; the manuscript autobiography of philosopher, economist and historian David Hume as well as a display of 17th Century silver bindings sitting alongside a more contemporary binding by artist Damien Hirst.

Mary Queen of Scots' letter will only be on display from Tuesday 15th - Monday 21st September.

The eleven other exhibits can be seen from 15th September - 8th November. The John Murray Archive will also be open along with the Original Export exhibition highlighting stories of Scottish Emigration.

For more information on the National Library of Scotland's collections visit http://www.nls.uk/

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Notes to editors:

Mary Queen of Scots - a document with more information on Mary Queen of Scots, from historical background to the story of the letter itself, is available on request.
Treasures exhibition - below is the list of the 11 other items set to go on display at the National Library of Scotland more details available on request.

  • § Forman Armorial
  • § David Hume autobiography (manuscript and printed book)
  • § Gutenberg bible
  • § Murthly Hours (a very fine example of a book of hours)
  • § Pride & Prejudice (1st edition)
  • § Gaelic Girdle Book (16th Century) & TCS sa 2LG (A guide to Gaelic for the 21st Century)
  • § Silver bindings
  • § Three Blind Mice (was, until recently, the world's smallest book)
  • § Alasdair Gray's Lanark artwork (framed)
  • § Silk maps from WWII (framed)
  • § Seawards the Great Ships (1960) Scottish Screen Archive

Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of the National Library of Scotland.