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The Royal Irish Academy’s collection of books in Irish reflects the strong growth in Irish language publications during the twentieth century. Holdings include some modern fiction and poetry in Irish, but it is essentially an academic research collection, specialising in editions of texts, research monographs and essay collections, together with linguistic and philological studies. Most pre-nineteenth-century printing in the Irish language involved religious texts. The Academy library has not actively collected religious books, but some early printings of religious texts in Irish are held. Holdings have been augmented by bequests of specialist collections, including the library of Osborn J. Bergin which is described separately.

The publication of secular books in the Irish language was extremely rare before the mid nineteenth century and some early academic titles emerged out of the antiquarian interests of scholars associated with the Academy. Dual-language editions of texts were necessary to ensure the availability of the authentic Irish texts while increasing their accessibility to readers with little knowledge of Irish but with an interest in the sources for the history of medieval Ireland.

Out of this cultural context there emerged the publications of the Irish Archaeological Society in the 1840s (including many editions by John O’Donovan), and the Celtic Society. These two later merged to become the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society. The Ossianic Society began publishing in 1853, with an emphasis on sagas and tales rather than historical texts. The Royal Irish Academy’s own Todd Lecture Series commenced publication in 1889, and continued irregularly until 1965. The Irish Texts Society, a London-based organisation, commenced publishing scholarly editions of Irish texts with English translations in 1899 in a series that is still in progress. The library has comprehensive holdings of all these series.

The Library holds many of the publications of societies formed to promote the Irish language, most notably Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League), first established in 1893. Editions of texts in Irish published in the twentieth century include a ‘Leabhair ó Láimhsgríbhnibh’ series, edited by Gerard Murphy, and the publications of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, School of Celtic Studies from 1942 to the present.

Twentieth-century government-sponsored publications in the Irish language bearing the imprint of the Stationery Office (Oifig an tSolatháir / Oifig Díolta Foilseacháin Rialtias) are well represented in the collection, along with the output of the various commercial companies specialising in academic books in Irish. These include Foilseacháin Náisiúnta Teo (FNT), M.H. Gill, Coiscéim, Clóchomhar, Cló Iar-Chonnachta. Publishers of textbooks in Irish including Sáirséal agus Dill, and the Christian Brothers, as well as the government-sponsored publisher An Gúm, are also represented in the Academy’s holdings. Regional publications, including imprints associated with the universities, most notably the An Sagart imprint of St Patrick’s College Maynooth, also feature strongly.

The library’s holdings of books in Irish are catalogued on the Main Catalogue. Books and periodicals are available for consultation by registered readers in the Library Reading Room.

Periodicals in Irish

The library’s holdings of periodicals in Irish are itemised in the online Periodicals Catalogue. They range from the late nineteenth-century Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge (1882-1909) to current titles such as Léachtaí Cholm Cille. The library also holds a variety of academic periodicals with Irish subject matter containing articles in either Irish or English. Current titles in this latter category include BéaloideasCelticaÉigseÉriuJournal of Celtic Studies, Studia Hibernica and Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. In general, the library does not collect newspapers and magazines, but does hold some current Irish language periodical publications including Comhar and Feasta.

Bibliographies of Irish language and literature

For a bibliographical survey of Irish vernacular printing to the year 1871, see Richard Sharpe and Mícheál Hoyne, Clóliosta: printing in the Irish language, 1571-1871. An attempt at narrative bibliography (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 2020).

Academic publications (in any language) relating to Irish language and literature prior to 1972 have been listed in published bibliographies by R.I. Best, and R. Baumgarten, and is continued online with Alexandre Guilarte as compiler.

Many periodical articles in Irish published prior to 1966 are listed in R.J. Hayes’s multi-volume listings of articles in Irish periodicals. An online version is available.

R. I. Best, Bibliography of Irish philology and manuscript literature: publications 1913-1941(link is external), (Dublin 1969).

R. I. Best, Bibliography of Irish philology and of printed Irish literature, to 1912(link is external),(Dublin, 1913).

Rolf Baumgarten, Bibliography of Irish linguistics and literature 1942-1971(link is external), ( Dublin, 1986).

Risteárd De Hae, Clár litríocht na Nua-Ghaedhilge: 1850-1936 (3 vols. Dublin, 1938-40).

Alexandre Guilarte, Bibliography of Irish Linguistics and Literature ( is external), 1972-.

R.J. Hayes, Sources for the history if Irish civilization: articles in Irish periodicals (9 vols. Boston, 1970) Search Home ( is external)

Selected further reading

Kim McCone, et al., (eds), Stair na Gaeilge: in ómós do Pádraig Ó Fiannachta (Maigh Nuad, 1994).

Caoilfhíonn Nic Pháidín, ‘Na hIrisí Gaeilge’, in Barbara Hayley and Enda McKay (eds), Three hundred years of Irish periodicals (Mullingar, 1987), 69-85.

Philip O’Leary, The prose literature of the Gaelic revival, 1881-1921 (University Park, PA, 1994).

Philip O’Leary, Gaelic prose in the Irish Free State (Dublin: UCD Press, 2004).

Philip O’Leary, Irish interior: keeping faith with the past in Gaelic prose, 1940-1951 (Dublin: UCD Press, 2010).

Richard Sharpe and Mícheál Hoyne, Clóliosta: printing in the Irish language, 1571-1871. An attempt at narrative bibliography (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 2020).