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Book of Knockninny ~ Leabhar Chnoc Ninne

RIA, MS C vi 1 (Catalogue no. 936). 1718. Paper. 26 cm x 20 cm. 890 pp.

This Irish manuscript was compiled in 1718 for Brian Mág Uidhir of Knockninny, Co. Fermanagh. It contains a selection of historical poems and prose texts and is now usually referred to as the Book of Knockninny. It was presented as a reworking of an older compilation that had been made in 1638 for Brian Mac Cú Chonnacht Mág Uidhir. The older manuscript had fallen into disrepair and Brian Mág Uidhir of Knockninny invited scholars to assemble manuscript sources at Knockninny so that scribes could produce a new Book of Knockninny in 1718.

The contents include Gabháltas na hÉireann, Réim Ríoghraidhe na hÉireann, Seanchas na Naomh nÉireannach, Cath Mhaighe Léana, Teagasc Rí Solmain, the Ó Cléirigh recension of the Leabhar Gabhála, and a variety of historical poems. It also contains poems from the early seventeenth-century poetic dispute known as Iomarbhagh na bhFileadh. There is a companion volume, which is now in a similar binding, containing a copy of Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh’s book of genealogies (RIA, MS C vi 2), transcribed in 1715-16 by one of the same scribes.

This Book of Knockninny manuscript (RIA, MS C vi 1) comprises two parts within the one leather binding. Parts 1 and 2 have separate pagination; there are multiple blank pages between sections, and further blank pages elsewhere. A scribal colophon on p. 288 of part one gives the date of completion of that part as 22 December 1718. The colophon reads ‘Ag sin crióchnughadh an chead leabair ar na sgriobhadh le Torrdealghach Ó Dóailen don cCaiptín oirdhearch onórach .i. Brian Mháguidhir an 2 & fichiod do mí December 1718’ (‘That is the end of the first book that was written by Toirdhealbhach Ó Dóaláin for the honourable Captain Brian Maguire, 22 December 1718’). The scribe of the second part was Séamus Mág Uidhir, who also wrote other manuscripts for the patron Brian Mág Uidhir.  A description of how the manuscript came to be written is included at Book 1, page 1, and that note has been translated and published (Walsh, 1947). A descriptive catalogue entry of the Book of Knockninny was published in 1940 (FitzPatrick, 1940).

The manuscript is carefully written. There is occasional use of red ink in headings and rulings, particularly in the first part of the manuscript. Some later notes added to the manuscript are in English. The condition of the paper is generally good, but some of the early pages have deteriorated and a few pages have scribbles and ink blots. Revd Charles O’Conor inserted a description of the contents in English at the beginning of the manuscript; that section is now incomplete. The words ‘Irish manuscript’ are inscribed in gilt on red leather on the spine of the full leather binding. The binding probably dates from the time the manuscript was at Stowe, in the library of the Duke of Buckingham.

The Book of Knockninny was acquired by the Royal Irish Academy as part of the Stowe/Ashburnham collection presented by the British Government in 1883.  The manuscript has been microfilmed (RIA microfilm N 1113). The manuscript has not yet been digitised.


Select bibliography


Diarmuid Breathnach & Máire Ní Mhurchú, ‘Mag Uidhir, Brian (Fl.1660-1726)’,

Bernadette Cunningham & Raymond Gillespie, ‘The purposes of patronage: Brian Maguire of Knockninny and his manuscripts’, Clogher Record, 12 (1988), 38-49

Elizabeth FitzPatrick, Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, fasciculus XXI (Dublin, 1940), no. 936, pp 2697-2705.

Raymond Gillespie & Brendan Scott (eds), The books of Knockninny: manuscripts, culture and society in early eighteenth-century Fermanagh (Cavan: Cumann Seanchais Bhreifne, 2019)

Paul Walsh, Irish men of learning (Dublin, 1947), pp 241-5.

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