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Stirling exhibition marks the 400th anniversary of Archbishop Robert Leighton

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The University of Stirling Library is hosting a special display of books to mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of Archbishop Robert Leighton.

The exhibition from the Leighton Library in Dunblane highlights some treasures, including a 1562 edition of the New Testament in Syriac, a 1667 index of books prohibited by the Catholic Church, as well as volumes of Buffon’s Histoire naturelle (1749-1804) with superb illustrations.

Stirling history lecturer Dr Alastair Mann, and Helen Beardsley, of Academic Liaison and Development at the University, curated the display.

Helen Beardsley said: “This exhibition gives snapshots into the life of Robert Leighton and into Scottish history which visitors will find extremely interesting. Leighton was a very important man and quite a controversial figure in his time, though he was a mediator and a man of great integrity.

“It is an honour for the University to host this display and hopefully it will encourage visitors to go on and view the extensive and fascinating collection in the Leighton Library in Dunblane.”

Leighton lived through one of the most turbulent periods in Scottish history. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, yet took up the office of Bishop in the then small and poor diocese of Dunblane, in the restored Episcopal Church. This was Leighton’s attempt to reconcile Presbyterians and Episcopalians in a united Church of Scotland.

He was later installed as Archbishop of Glasgow, though he failed to bring about the reconciliation in church affairs which he hoped for.

Leighton was a learned scholar, with wide ranging interests. He bequeathed more than 1500 books and pamphlets to the Cathedral of Dunblane and left £100 in his will, with a request that a library be built to house his collection.

The Leighton Library was built between 1684 and 1688 and was used by the local clergy. From 1734 it became one of the first subscription libraries in Scotland and thrived until around 1870. It is the oldest purpose built library in Scotland.

Leighton’s collection of books was supplemented by 18th and 19th century additions, bringing the total number of titles to around 3500.

The collection covers a variety of subject areas including politics (particularly 17th century), history, medicine, travel, language and the occult. The library is also of interest to book historians.

The exhibition will run in the University of Stirling Library until 24 February 2012 and is free and open to all.

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