Lismore’s historic book returns to Ireland from Britain

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One of Ireland’s most important historical books—The Book of Lismore, created in the 15th century, goes home. The medieval manuscript, compiled for Fínghin Mac Carthaigh, Lord of Carbery from 1478 to 1505, was donated to University College Cork (UCC) by the administrators of the colony of Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Lismore’s book will be displayed in a Gallery of treasures that UCC plans to develop in its Boolean library.

The book, comprising 198 large vellum leaves, includes ancient Irish texts describing the lives of the saints as well as translations of contemporary European works relating, for example, to the conquests of Charlemagne.

It also contains the only Irish translation of Marco Polo’s travels, native and secular texts dealing with the theme of royalty, and stories centered on the popular mythological hero Fionn mac Cumhaill and the warriors of Fianna, such as the long tale titled Agallamh na Seanórach.

Lismore’s book © Claire Keogh

The book was captured during a siege of Kilbrittain Castle in West Cork in the 1640s and then passed into the hands of the Earl of Cork at Lismore Castle, where it has been kept until its rediscovery. in 1814 during renovation works. Soon after, it was loaned to a Cork antiquarian, Donnchadh Ó Floinn, and was later returned to Lismore Castle where it remained until 1914.

“It was then transferred to Devonshire House, London and from there to his present home in Chatsworth, Derbyshire, the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Devonshire. The manuscript has been the property of the Trustees of the Colony of Chatsworth since its inception in 1946. », Indicates a press release from the colony.

Write for the Irish broadcaster RTÉUCC Professor of Modern Irish, Pádraig Ó Macháinn, states that “the vellum manuscript… is rightly regarded as one of Ireland’s great books. Its content is comprehensive in its portrayal of religious and secular learning in the Irish language as preserved and promoted by the elite scholarly classes of late medieval Ireland. Irish students at UCC now have the opportunity to take a direct interest in a crucial part of Irish book history – the vellum period, he adds.


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