Meet the FLAG Project Team

The FLAG Project Team has been assembled and a new site launched for the project!

Dr Jackson Armstrong (Aberdeen) and Professor Dr Jörg Rogge (Mainz), joint principal investigators will be joined by Research Fellows:

Dr Wim Peters (Aberdeen/Mainz). Wim is a computational linguist with a background in Classical Languages and multilingual knowledge extraction and modelling. He has a PhD from the University of Sheffield at the Department of Computer Science in the areas of computational linguistics and AI. His main interest is the methodological application of natural language processing techniques in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, and the conceptual modelling of the knowledge extracted by means of the synergy between scholarly expertise and language technology. Wim’s conviction is that computational involvement in Digital Humanities is in strictly ancillary to the informational needs of domain experts. Only then Digital Humanities and Social Science researchers – a considerable part of whom still remain to be fully convinced of the advantages of the digital revolution for their research – will embrace language technology across the board, from manual inspection and annotation to fully automated analysis.

Dr William Hepburn (Aberdeen). William completed his PhD thesis on ‘The Household of James IV 1488-1513’ at the University of Glasgow. He recently worked as a Research Assistant on the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers project (Leverhulme Trust, 2016-2019), which focused on Aberdeen’s fifteenth-century burgh registers.

Dr Regina Schäfer (Mainz). Regina is a Research Associate at the Department of Late Medieval History and Comparative Regional Studies at the JGU Mainz. Her research interests include nobility, social mobility and family in the late middle ages. She is especially interested in legal questions and participated in the edition of the court records of Ingelheim (“Die Ingelheimer Haderbücher”). In the FLAG project she will focus on the analysis of Augsburg.

The project will run from 2020-2023.

Songs of Medieval Aberdeen performed in the Scottish Parliament

Last evening ‘Songs of Medieval Aberdeen’ went to Holyrood, for a reception, presentations and performance of the new music written by Dr Claire Hawes and Aberdeen-based musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan. The three were joined by percussionist Craig Spink.

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L-R: Senior Vice Principal Karl Leydecker, Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Dr Claire Hawes, Lewis Macdonald MSP

The performance, held within the Scottish Parliament’s Garden Lobby, was hosted by Lewis Macdonald MSP and introduced by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP. Senior Vice-Principal Professor Karl Leydecker spoke on behalf of the University of Aberdeen which is celebrating its 525th anniversary this year.

The set included the songs composed and performed by the trio last year, at the celebration to launch the Aberdeen Registers Online, and a new song, ‘Who Killed Davy Dun’, inspired by the game developed by Dr William Hepburn in 2019 in connection with an event he designed for the Granite Noir festival in 2017.

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L-R: Davy Cattanach, Craig Spink, Claire Hawes, Paddy Buchanan.

City Archivist Phil Astley transported council register volumes seven and eight from Aberdeen to Parliament, so that they could be displayed for guests. The volumes were open to the pages containing the 1505 ‘aquavite’ entry, and the 1499 entry mentioning ‘brokin folkis’. The latter inspired the musicians to write a song with that title.

The performance involved a set of five songs, each introduced by Dr Hawes who explained the creative process behind their composition.

It was an exciting evening, demonstrating on a national stage the rich creative work that has been derived from the Aberdeen burgh records!

Follow this link to the University of Aberdeen news item about the event.

Augsburg and Aberdeen in comparison: new UK-German research funding to investigate medieval urban government

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View of Augsburg, from the Nuremburg Chronicle (Die Schedelsche Weltchronik) (1493).

This new joint project, entitled ‘Finance, law and the language of governmental practice in late medieval towns: Aberdeen and Augsburg in comparison(FLAG), will examine how urban government was organised, executed and recorded in the late middle ages.

The study will place the Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511 into comparison with Augsburg’s Master Builder’s Ledgers from 1320-1466 (Die Augsburger Baumeisterbücher) .

The project, which starts this month and runs for three years, has been awarded more than £500,000 together from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). It will see the University of Aberdeen and Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) Mainz work together to establish a broader European context for both digital resources.

The Augsburg Master Builder’s Ledgers cover 1320-1466 and are municipal financial records of period, whereas the Aberdeen Registers Online are primarily legal records. Thus the project will examine how both towns addressed matters of finance and law as they put government into practice. Particular attention is to be given to the variety of terminology used to record the exercise of government, and to identify similarity and difference between these towns which both used a mixture of Latin and vernacular languages in their administrative documentation.

Although Aberdeen and Augsburg were cities of quite different size and political context, those same differences are an advantage to the project, potentially bringing into relief what common features might be considered ‘urban’.

Like the Aberdeen Registers Online, Augsburg’s Ledgers have been transcribed and digitised in a previous project (which was led from Mainz), and they are now published online. Both digital editions are presented in the form of machine-readable XML data sets. This facilitates their comparison, and researchers in Mainz and Aberdeen will be exploring the opportunities and challenges in addressing these resources together, and investigating new techniques for automatic analysis to support historical investigation.

Follow the links here for the JGU Mainz announcement, the AHRC announcement, and today’s press release from the University of Aberdeen.

Good spirits: the earliest record of a still for aquavite in Scotland

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Entry ARO-8-0466-02 appears on the left-hand page. Photo credit: Sarah Christie/University of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511 contains an entry which mentions ‘ane stellatour for aquavite and ros wattir’. This is the earliest record of a still for aquavite in Scotland. It is in ARO-8-0466-02, from a case heard in 1505 by the bailies concerning the inheritance of goods belonging to a chaplain called Sir Andrew Gray, who died in 1504.

The find was made by Dr Claire Hawes during the transcription phase of the project  when Claire was working through register volume eight.

The reference enriches our understanding of the early development of Scotch whisky, placing the apparatus for making aquavite in the renaissance burgh, an interesting counterpoint to the established story of early aquavite in Scotland within the court of King James IV.

We are delighted to announce a gift of £15,000 in funding from Chivas Brothers, a company with historic connections to Aberdeen and which owns some of Scotland’s most famous distilleries including The Glenlivet and Aberlour. That gift will fund new research into the still and associated stories in the ARO.

For more information see today’s press release and videos for social media: Was Aberdeen the birthplace of Scotch Whisky?

 

 

The Still in context: a list of early references related to aquavite in Scotland

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ARO-8-0466-02 detail. Photo credit: Sarah Christie/University of Aberdeen.

The following is a compilation of early references related to aquavite in Scotland:

Distillation of alcohol was an ancient scientific practice which came to be established in Europe by the twelfth century (especially at Salerno and Cologne).

1494-5 (ER, x, p. 487) Account of the chamberlain of the sheriffdom of Fife: ‘Et per liberacionem factam fratri Johanni Cor per preceptum compotorum rotulatoris, ut asserit, de mandata domini regis ad faciendum aqua vite infra hoc compotum, viij bolle brasii’ [=payment made to Friar John Cor for eight bolls of malt for making ‘aqua vite’].

1497 (TA, i, p. 373) ‘Item, to the barbour that brocht aqua vite to the King in Dunde, be the Kingis command ix s’.

1501 (TA, ii, p. 115) ‘Item, for I galloun of aqua vite to the powder, xxs iiij d’.

1503 (TA, ii, p. 361) ‘Item, for v ½ chopinnis of aqua vite to the curyis of quinta essencia xj s’.

1503 (TA, ii, p. 363) ‘Item, to the maister cuke, that he laid doun for glasses and flacatis for stilling of wateres and othir stuf, and for fire to the stillatouris, iij li. xiiij s’.

1505 (ARO-8-0466-02) ‘The saide day [20 June 1505] It was fundin and deliuerit be ane Inquest of the court that ane stellatour’ for aquavite and ros’ wattir was ayrschipe tharfor the balyeis ordanit and chargit george barbour’ to deliuere the stellatour’ being in his handis pertening tile vmquhile sere Androw gray to mastir Androw crafurd’ procurator to dene Robert Keruour’ ayr to the saide vmquhile ser Androu’.

1505 (Edin. Recs, i, pp. 101-104) Seal of Cause to Barbers and Surgeons, by the provost, bailies & council of Edinburgh [1 July 1505], including that no man ‘within this burgh mak nor sell ony aquavite within the samyn except the saidis maisteris brether and friemen of the saidis craftis…’

1506 (TA, iii, p. 183) ‘For aqua vite to the quinta essencia’; (TA, iii, p. 187) ‘Robert Herwort for aqua vitae taken from him, 14s’; (TA, iii, p. 188) ‘for vij quartis aqua vite to quinta essencia’; (TA, iii, pp. 332, 343, 344) further payments listed, &c.

1507 (TA, iv, p. 79) ‘wyne to the abbot of Tungland [=John Damien] to mak quinta essencia’; (TA, iv, p. 92) ‘Payit to William Foular, potingair, for potingary to the king and quene, distillatioun of wateris aqua vite’;

1508 (TA, iv, p. 122) ‘j galloun small aqua vite to the abbot of Tungland’ [=John Damien]; (TA, iv, p. 137) ‘For making of ane bos hed to ane stellatour of silvir weyand x unce iij quartaris of his aun stuf deliverit to Maister Alexander Ogilvy for quinta essencia’;

1518 (Reg. Episc. Aberd., ii, p. 174) [inventory of items in the wardrobe of Bishop Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen] ‘…The pypis of ane aqua vite falt’.

Date unknown. (Kelso Liber, ii, p. 448) A treatise on plague was composed by John of Burgundy about 1390, the original referring to eaue distilacion and eaue des herbes. A copy of the treatise was held at Kelso Abbey. A short, undated, translation into Middle Scots was kept at Kelso and that refers to ‘water stillit of thir iiij herbys…’. Neither the original nor the translation mentions eau de vie / aqua vitae, or alcohol.

 

Sources (in addition to Aberdeen Registers Online):

[Edin. Recs.] Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1403-1528, ed. J. D. Marwick (Edinburgh, 1869)

[ER] The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, ed. J. Stuart et al., 23 vols (Edinburgh, 1878–1908)

[Kelso Liber] Liber S. Marie de Calchou, ed. C. Innes, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1846)

[Reg. Episc. Aberd.] Registrum episcopatus Aberdonensis: ecclesia cathedralis aberdonensis: regesta que extant in unum collecta, ed. C. Innes, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1845)

[TA] Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, 1473–1498, ed. T. Dickson and J.B. Paul et al., 13 vols (Edinburgh, 1877–1978)

Celebration at the Town House

On the evening of 14 June a special event was held in the Town House to mark the completion of the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers project.

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L-R: Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell, Dr Andrew Simpson, Dr Edda Frankot, Dr William Hepburn, Lord Provost Barney Crockett, Dr Jackson Armstrong, Dr Claire Hawes, City Archivist Mr Phil Astley. Photo Credit: Norman Adams / Copyright Aberdeen City Council.

The eight earliest-surviving council register volumes were on display, and music and talks highlighted vignettes from the new resource created by this project, Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398–1511. Lord Provost Barney Crockett spoke on behalf of the City of Aberdeen, and Vice-Principal Professor Marion Campbell on behalf of the University of Aberdeen.

The event opened with a performance on recorder by Ruaraidh Wishart, Ed Friday, Kate Friday, and Marie McLean of a special composition entitled Fantasia for a Doric Fishman. The piece drew inspiration from the so-called ‘Fishman’, one of the most well-known decorations in the registers (see ARO-2-0102-01). Until recently moving to Abertay University, Ruaraidh Wishart was a senior archivist with the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives.

Short talks and highlights were given by LACR members, including Jackson Armstrong, Phil Astley, Edda Frankot, Andrew Simpson, and Claire Hawes. The evening also showcased some creative follow-on projects in response to the registers.

William Hepburn introduced Playing in the Archives, his Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Economies Engagement Fellowship, which investigates how Aberdeen’s registers could provide the inspiration for video game development. William explained how he is assessing the effectiveness of video games as a scholarly medium for examining the burgh records and the historical subjects they inform.

Claire Hawes and musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan performed four Songs from Medieval Aberdeen. Claire’s introduction to their music explained that their composition project was made possible with a 2018 Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council. The trio set out to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. These original songs were the result, inspired by stories and themes from the records, and the Scots language of the registers.

There was also a special cake, decorated by Aberdeen cake makers O’Caykx, which displayed some of the information about the words and languages of the registers in icing.

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ARO Infographic Cake: Showing proportions of Latin and vernacular words in each register through the scrumptious medium of icing. Photo credit: Jackson Armstrong.

The cake icing depicted the proportion of words in each register in Latin (dark icing) and Scots (light icing). The small amount of orange marked in registers five and six reflects the appearance of a small amount of Dutch (or Middle Low German) in those volumes. The later registers have a greater proportion of content in Scots, and a greater number of words overall. It was a delicious way to mark the completion of the project!

Out now: Aberdeen Registers Online

We are very pleased to announce the publication of Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511 (ARO), the digital transcription of the first eight volumes of the Aberdeen Council Registers.

digital transcription

From the new ARO website housed within the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, the complete resource is available for download as a set of XML files. The website also links to a prototype search platform which allows searching and browsing within the ARO, and display of corresponding images from the registers.

For more information see the following press release, out today: Opening up Aberdeen’s ‘jewel in the crown’ to the world

 

Songs from Medieval Aberdeen

Dr Claire Hawes has collaborated with musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. As part of the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival the trio performed today a set of original songs composed in response to the contents of the Aberdeen council registers.

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The performance included an introduction by Claire into the nature of the collaboration, its steps and dialogues, and the question of how historians can contribute to the creative process. Claire, Davy and Paddy set out to answer the question by writing songs based on Aberdeen’s medieval town records. The introduction explained how the group encountered some expected differences between historical research and song writing, but also found some similarities.

The Songs from Medieval Aberdeen experiment was a success – resulting in composition of four songs, entitled Balingar, Kervel, Candilmas Time, The Brokin Folkis, and The Fisher Folk of Futy. Each song tells its own story from the Aberdeen registers, and was performed on guitar and bodhran with vocals in Scots. Claire’s introduction examined how the lyrics were crafted neither in Middle Scots nor Modern Scots (nor Doric), but still drew from the language of the registers.

A full audience in the Linklater Rooms at King’s College was given a special treat to hear these songs performed as a set for the first time. The trio said they were keen to record the songs when time allows!

The project was made possible with a Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council.

Paddy and Davy

Playing in the Archives

LACR alumnus William Hepburn has begun a Fellowship to investigate how Aberdeen’s UNESCO-recognised medieval records could provide the inspiration for video games design.

In the role he will assess the effectiveness of video games as a scholarly medium for examining the burgh records and the historical subjects they inform.

The project is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Economies Engagement Fellowship through the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities. It is called ‘Playing in the Archives: Game Development with Aberdeen’s Medieval Records’.

William will spend nine months investigating the potential for creative development from the Burgh Records, working alongside experts from industry. See the recent media announcements at the links below:

Press release: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/12911/

SGSAH: https://www.sgsah.ac.uk/about/news/headline_633508_en.html

January Lectures on ‘The Common Books of Aberdeen, 1398-1511’

This month LACR alumna Dr Claire Hawes delivered a pair of joint lectures for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Scottish History Society.

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The subject was ‘The Common Books of Aberdeen’ and the presentation gave a fascinating overview of the historical richness of the council register volumes which have been at the core of the LACR project.  Claire delivered her talk to substantial audiences in Edinburgh on 14 January at the National Museum Scotland, and on 15 January in Aberdeen for the Aberdeen & North East Section of the Antiquaries. The lecture illuminated some of the aspects of medieval life that are apparent in the volumes: the role of crafts, the presence of animals, the regulation of behaviour, and the place of the burgh in the political affairs of the Scottish kingdom, to name just a few. The Scots language was also prominent in the colourful examples explored by Claire as she set out some of the ways in which the registers will serve as a bountiful resource for future research. Well done, Claire!