Codices Hibernenses Eximii III: Book of Uí Mhaine
Published by Royal Irish Academy
Number of pages: 384
The fourteenth-century Book of Uí Mhaine is miscellaneous in content, comprising a wide range of texts in Old, Middle and Early Modern Irish, in prose and poetry, and covering a diverse range of genres from history to poetry, grammar to dindshenchas, glossaries to genealogies. Miscellaneous, however, does not necessarily mean random. Certain thematic clusters can be identified within the manuscript, and the layout and juxtaposition of texts appear to be both deliberate and meaningful. The manuscript contains much that represents senchas—the learned historical discourse of medieval Ireland—but there is also much about it that is more innovative, not least ‘the free mixture and association of contemporary poetry and older poetry in a single book’. Many of the poems in Book of Uí Mhaine are of particular social or political importance, and a significant number of them are uniquely preserved there.
This volume, which is the third in the Royal Irish Academy’s Codices Hibernenses Eximii series, presents revised versions of contributions to a conference on the manuscript by Nollaig Ó Muraíle, Bernadette Cunningham, Raymond Gillespie, Ruairí Ó hUiginn, Michael Clarke, Marie-Luise Theuerkauf, Liam Breathnach, Paul Russell, Deborah Hayden, Pádraig Ó Macháin, Micheál Hoyne and Karen Ralph. It is edited by Elizabeth Boyle and Ruairí Ó hUiginn.
One highlight of the book is an edition and translation by Liam Breatnach (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) of a medieval Irish poem that is uniquely preserved in the Book of Uí Mhaine and which has never been published before. The poem, which possibly dates to the twelfth or thirteenth century, discusses all sorts of medieval occupations – from musicians to doctors, silversmiths to comb-makers, ploughmen to … professional farters (yes, that was a job in the Middle Ages!). In another chapter, Michael Clarke (University of Galway), discusses the important ‘Poems on World-Kingship’, which are ascribed to a scholar and teacher named Flann Mainistrech, from the monastery of Monasterboice, who died in 1056. These poems chart the history (such as it was known in eleventh-century Ireland) of ancient empires ranging from the Assyrians to the Romans. A chapter by Marie-Luise Theuerkauf (University of Cambridge) discusses the manuscript’s examples of dindshenchas, which is the medieval Irish genre of narratives about how places got their names.
Editors Elizabeth Boyle and Ruairí Ó hUiginn at the launch of Book of Uí Mhaine, Royal Irish Academy, April 2023.
Editor Elizabeth Boyle takes us through the book in a thread of illustrated tweets - take a look
Read more about the Book of Uí Mhaine / The Book of Hy Many / The Book of the O’Kellys / Book of Ó Dubhagáin on the RIA library's site
Also in the Codices Hibernenses Eximii series, examining some of the Royal Irish Academy’s most important medieval manuscripts:
Lebor na hUidre and the Book of Ballymote