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Book of Uí Mhaine / The Book of Hy Many / The Book of the O’Kellys / Book of Ó Dubhagáin

RIA MS D ii 1: Cat. No 1225 A.D. 1394 Vellum: 44cm x 27cm 161 folios (4 of these in the British Museum: MS Egerton 20; original number 368)

Written in Irish, probably in the ancient territory of Uí Mhaine (east Galway, south Roscommon, part of Clare, and the parish of Lusmagh in Offaly) by ten scribes of which the two principal ones were Adam Cusin and Faelan Mac a' Gabann na Scél. It was written for Muircheartach Ó Ceallaigh, Bishop of Clonfert, and later Bishop of Tuam (1378-1394). The contents are described in a marginal note as 'bolg an tsolathair' (bag of mixed content/miscellany). Contents include genealogies, historical and religious matter, a metrical dinnshenchas (lore of places), a banshenchas or chronicle of famous women, and Sanas Cormaic.

The writing is in double columns and there are some fine decorated capitals with interlaced designs coloured in red and yellow.

The manuscript remained in O’Kelly hands until 1757 and it was acquired by William Betham in 1814, who sold it to the Duke of Buckingham for £150. It was one of the 156 manuscripts of Irish interest in the Ashburnham Collection of Stowe manuscripts and it was deposited in the Royal Irish Academy by the British Government in 1883.

The 19th-century binding in green velvet with gilt to the edges was removed for photography by the Ordnance Survey in 1941 for the facsimile edition. Severe damage was done to the spine folds and there were fine flakes of mica-like material on the vellum leaves. In 1985-7 the manuscript was cleaned, repaired and rebound by Anthony Cains (TCD Conservation Laboratory) at a cost of £4,000. Old patches of vellum were removed, the leaves were hydrated and flattened, tears in the vellum repaired with goldbeater’s skin. The leaves were re-sewn on four double linen cords, laced into quarter sawn Irish oak with an alum-tawed pigskin spine. To prevent cockling, the manuscript is kept under slight pressure in an oak case made by Eric Pearse.

Digital images of the manuscript can be viewed on Irish Script on Screen.

Select Bibliography

 

  • The Book of Uí Maine, with introduction and indexes by R.A.S. Macalister, collotype facsimile (Dublin, 1941).
  • Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin, 1943), Fasc. 26: 3314-35.
  • R.A. Breatnach, ‘The Book of Uí Mhaine’ in Great books of Ireland (Thomas Davis Lectures) (Dublin, 1967).
  • John Carey, ‘Compilations of lore and legend: Leabhar na hUidhre and the Books of Uí Mhaine, Ballymote, Lecan and Fermoy’ in Bernadette Cunningham and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 17-31.
  • Bernadette Cunningham and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Aon amharc ar Éirinn: Gaelic families and their manuscripts [exhibition catalogue] (Dublin, 2013), 8-11.
  • Nollaig Ó Muráile, ‘Leabhar Ua Maine alias Leabhar Uí Dhubhagáin’, Éigse 23 (1989), 167-95.
  • Timothy O’Neill, The Irish hand (Cork, 2014), 46-7, 101.
  • Timothy O’Neill, ‘Quills, inks and vellums’ in Bernadette Cunningham and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 45-9.
  • William O’Sullivan, ‘The Book of Uí Maine formerly the Book of Ó Dubhagáin: scripts & structure’, Éigse 23 (1989), 151-166.

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