Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath gets a makeover

Il­lus­trated ver­sion will be re­leased in time for 700th an­niver­sary

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By BRIAN FER­GU­SON

It is widely re­garded as the most im­por­tant doc­u­ment in the his­tory of Scot­land.

Now the Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath is set to be turned into a lav­ish “cof­fee ta­blestyle” book to mark its 700th an­niver­sary.

An Ed­in­burgh-based artist, il­lus­tra­tor and writer plans to “bring to life” the fa­mous let­ter sent to the Pope ask­ing him to recog­nise Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence and ac­knowl­edge Robert the Bruce as the coun­try’s law­ful king.

An­drew Barr said his new ver­sion would in­clud­ing a full English trans­la­tion of the doc­u­ment, which was signed by dozens of earls and barons, as part of a “21st-cen­tury il­lu­mi­nated man­u­script”.

The il­lus­trated ver­sion will ex­plore how it came to be writ­ten dur­ing Scot­land’s wars of in­de­pen­dence with Eng­land, how it has been per­ceived dur­ing dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal eras and its mod­ern-day rel­e­vance and sig­nif­i­cance.

Due to be pub­lished by cul­tural char­ity the Saltire So­ci­ety, it is aimed at rais­ing greater aware­ness of the doc­u­ment, which was given spe­cial sta­tus by the United Na­tions two years ago, “out­side of academia”.

Mr Barr said it would also “ex­am­ine ideas of com­mu­nity and peo­ple power, and ask what free­dom means in to­day’s world”.

He ap­proached the Saltire So­ci­ety with the idea of an il­lus­trated book to mark the an­niver­sary af­ter stag­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of Robert Burns’ il­lus­tra­tions at its of­fices in Ed­in­burgh.

Mr Barr said: “It was an ex­hi­bi­tion about his re­la­tion­ship with pol­i­tics and power. It gave me an op­por­tu­nity to pro­pose an­other project.

“I don’t have a his­to­rian’s back­ground, but I was com­ing at it from the an­gle that it is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant early works of Scot­tish lit­er­a­ture.

“All of the books that ex­ist about the Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath are very aca­demic. I wanted to do some­thing very dif­fer­ent and bring it to life a bit, to make it more ac­ces­si­ble and more widely known out­side the world of academia.

“There is no es­cap­ing that it is a po­lit­i­cal state­ment. Even if it is not spo­ken about much in a con­tem­po­rary con­text, it is still a foun­da­tion stone that still in­flu­ences think­ing on ideas about peo­ple power.

“Most peo­ple have an idea of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath that is very spe­cific, but I want to look at the kind of ideas that are shared across all coun­tries and all pe­ri­ods of time.

“I want to look at the com­mon hu­man­ity in the mes­sages at the heart of the text, as well as ex­plore how it has been thought about in dif­fer­ent ways at dif­fer­ent times.”

Sarah Ma­son, pro­gramme direc­tor of the Saltire So­ci­ety, said: “We are de­lighted to be sup­port­ing An­drew Barr in his en­deav­ours to pro­duce a book in cel­e­bra­tion of the 700th an­niver­sary of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath.

“An­drew came to us sev­eral months ago with a pro­posal for the book to be re­leased in time for the 700th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions in 2020.

“The Saltire So­ci­ety has al­ready es­tab­lished a pos­i­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ship with An­drew, given that he ex­hib­ited his art­work in our head­quar­ters ear­lier this year.

“Whilst most of the Saltire So­ci­ety’s cur­rent pub­lish­ing is fo­cused on the Saltire pam­phlet se­ries, it was de­cided by our board that An­drew’s book idea would be a fit­ting way to mark this spe­cial 700th an­niver­sary.”


The Dec­la­ra­tion of Arbroath was signed by dozens of earls and barons at Arbroath Abbey, be­low right, in 1320. It was sent to the Pope ask­ing him to recog­nise Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence and ac­knowl­edge Robert the Bruce, be­low left, as the coun­try’s law­ful king

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