Hidden treasures of Paisley Museum collections

Unfortunately, some things are just too precious to be on display.

Paisley Museum has two two very special hidden treasures within its collections.

Arbuthnott Missal

This is the only complete service book of its kind known to have survived the Reformation in Scotland.

It provides a unique and irreplaceable insight into the forms of worship practised in Scottish churches not only at the time it was made, but for a period of about 400 years before.

James Sibbald, priest of Arbuthnott, Scotland, wrote it in 1491 on vellum in Gothic characters with illuminations.

Apart from its unique significance in Scottish religion, the Missal is a rare and important example of Scottish medieval art and letters – a large, beautifully preserved volume of 248 pages, lavishly decorated with twenty three-quarter page border illuminations and illustrations, as well as finely painted miniature initials spaced throughout the text.

The missal was the property of the Arbuthnott family until 1897, when it was purchased by Archibald Coats, who presented it to the town museum.

The Missal is now locked in a vault at Paisley Library, and has only been seen by a handful of people in the past century because of the damage it could suffer through being handled and exposed to artificial light.

Birds of America

The Audubon (or The Birds of America) is a complete collection of books (4 volumes altogether) by John James Audubon which include illustrations of a wide range of birds from across America.

The illustrations are life size prints which have been made from engraved plates, are hand coloured, and measure approximately 99cm x 66cm. The main printing techniques used in creating the illustrations were copperplate etching and also aquatint. Following the printing of the illustrations they were hand painted using water colours.

There are four volumes to a set and it is thought that approximately 200 sets were produced, with approximately 135 complete sets still in existence, and a few individual plates and incomplete sets. Within the United Kingdom, it is thought that there are 21 complete sets.

The set that is part of Renfrewshire Council’s library collection was donated by Sir Peter Coats on the opening of the Paisley Free Library and Museum in 1871. Andrew Coats had originally bought three sets of Audubon’s “Birds of America” in 1843. He kept one set and gave one each to his brothers Peter and Thomas.

Paisley Museum is closed now for a £42m transformation project. When it reopens, it will be a international-class visitor destination showcasing the town’s people, stories and Pattern.

The secret is out about Paisley Museum's collections

Architectural treasures and hidden gems

Many urban areas would love to have a measure of the pedigree that this post-industrial conurbation boasts. Aside from its textile legacy, and illustrious denizens, Paisley has an incredible architectural heritage, from the 12th-Century Abbey, with its glorious Edward Burne-Jones windows, to its Victorian Observatory, to the stunning Art Deco Russell Institute.

Gemma Fullham
Reporter, Irish Independent

I regularly visit the Paisley Museum and Art Galleries and Paisley Arts Centre and try to attend as many of the festivals and events in the town as possible... I particularly enjoy Sma’ Shot Day.

Laura Gray