2.3.3 A new corpus?

Almost a century after it had been first published, the monumental Early Christian Monuments of Scotland was reprinted in affordable paperback format by Pinkfoot Press, with an introductory essay by Isabel Henderson (1993a). This initiative provided an important fillip to the study of Scotland’s early medieval carved stones by making the great reference work newly accessible. However, the reprint, valuable though it still was, exposed the extent to which ECMS was out of date, both in coverage and in approach. Allen’s efforts to record all of Scotland’s early medieval carved stones were indeed heroic, but ECMS did not include everything known in 1903 (for instance, simple cross-marked stones—e.g. Figure 22— are under-represented). There have also been a substantial number of new discoveries in the intervening century, meaning that ECMS includes only a little over half of all stones currently known. The three-part classification system adopted by Allen and Anderson was no longer considered useful and indeed, had become a hindrance, focusing overly on the Pictish symbols and insufficiently differentiating the wide range of non-symbol inscribed stones (see Section 3.2.1).

The publication in 1984 of the first volume of the British Academy’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture, presented a new model for sculpture catalogues that scholars in Scotland were keen to emulate. The NCCSS commissioned a working party of scholars to consult on what a ‘new ECMS‘ recording all of Scotland’s early medieval carved stones to modern standards should look like and their recommendations were set out in a report submitted in 2005 (EMSSS Working Group 2005). In the following years several collaborative attempts were made to obtain funding for a nationwide recording programme along the recommended lines and incorporating the then newly emerging technique of digital scanning, but these were thwarted by the large scale of the undertaking (Higgitt 2005). More recently, a new benchmark in the recording, presentation and analysis of early medieval sculpture has been set by the three volumes of A Corpus of Early Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales (Redknap and Lewis 2007; Edwards 2007; 2013) which have placed greater emphasis on archaeological aspects such as landscape contexts, and monument biography. Both the Anglo-Saxon and the Welsh series have provided a wealth of comparative material for the Scottish stones.

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