Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland

© Ronald Black, 2011

Adv. MS 72.1.4


Formerly ‘Gaelic ms IV’. 15-16th cent. Vellum. i + 100 ff. 6 x 4.5 cms. This remarkably small, chubby manuscript, ‘Neil MacBeath’s Psalter’, is described by Mgr David McRoberts in Innes Review 19, p. 171, with a plate showing its external appearance. “Cleric and physician,” he concludes, “he . . . had in his vade-mecum, which he would fasten to his belt, all the literature he required (his substitute for the Divine Office and his medical notes) when he set out to attend to the souls and bodies of his parishioners.” The ‘Divine Office’ is Psalm 118, the ‘medical notes’ a compendium of basic definitions.


1 Text, ff.1–23r. Niall Mac Beathadh (23r, 100r). A standard formal hand, rubricated in red.

2 Text, ff. 24r, 25r6–10, 82v. Hand 5 of Adv. ms 72.1.27.

3 Fol. 25r1–5, 25v6–9. Niall Óg mac Néill Mhic Beathadh (25rv, 100r). A rounded hand, less careful than hand 1 (his father’s?). The main text was written for him as ‘mo sesi’ by hand 4 (100r).

4 Text, ff. 25v1–100r. Maol-Sheachlainn mac Iollainn Mhic an Leagha Ruaidh. A small hand akin to that of Cormac Mac Duinnshléibhe. Maol-Sheachlainn is also the chief scribe of King’s Inns Library ms 15, a medical manuscript written in counties Sligo and Kildare in 1512. Sliocht an Leagha Ruaidh were Beatons, according to Christopher Beaton in EUL ms Laing III 21 (CMJ, 2nd Ser., vol. 5, p. 142), and an Iollann Maigbhetha appears in co. Kilkenny in 1596 (Adv. ms 73.1.22, ff. 122r, 185v, 257v). See Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, p. 206.

5 Text, ff. 81r–82r. Hand 1 of Adv. ms 72.1.2.

6 Fol. 100r7–8. An Giolla Dubh Ó Siaghail? Cf. Adv. ms 72.1.27, f. 3v.

7 Text, f. iv.

8 Text, ff. 23v, 24v.

9 Fol. 100r9–10. An Ó Siaghail?

The manuscript was purchased by the Advocates’ Library from Robert Freebairn in 1736 along with Adv. mss 18.2.7, 18.2.11 (q.v.) and 72.1.3; this suggests that it may have been in the possession of Rev. John Beaton. Written in single columns, it is bound by stout thongs and thread to a skin cover which extends into ‘tails’. These would have been allowed the book to be tied to the belt: the one at the front ends in a plaited knot. Fol. i is stitched to the front cover, but the recto appears to bear no text.

Fixed to the outside front cover is a jetton of base metal bearing on the reverse (the only side visible) a reichsapfel design of the type commonly found on stock tokens produced in Nuremberg from about 1553, see Barnard’s The Casting-Counter and the Counting-Board (Oxford, 1916), p. 222 and plates VI, 39, 50; XXIX, 18; XXXIII, 82–92. Four holes have been punched in it, and it has thus been secured like a button by means of a thong, threaded through the front cover and fol. i and ending in a tight knot which obscures part of the text of fol. iv. The back cover extends into a flap containing two holes; it would formerly have been closed by a thong wound around behind the jetton. The manuscript has suffered from rubbing in places with some loss of text. It consists of eleven gatherings: ff. 1–8, 9–16, 17–24, 25–36, 37–49 (3 ff. single), 50–59, 60–69, 70–80 (1 f. single), 81–82 (bound out of place), 83–92, 93–100 (6 ff. single). Foliation modern. Previously catalogued: Mackinnon, pp. 23–26; Mackechnie, pp. 134–37.


i recto Apparently blank.

i verso Hand 7. Prayer in Latin: St Sebastian mentioned. (?)

1 r1 Hand 1. Psalm 118. Beg. Beati immaculati in via qui ambulant in leghe Domini. Ends: “Finit. Mise Niall do graibne an bec sin.”

23 v1 Hand 8. Prayer beg. Ave corpus Iesu Christi.

24 r1 Hand 2. Definitions pertaining to ‘reason’ and ‘nature’. The first, badly obscured by ?erasure, is: “Re sine est .i. an raed bis gan resun is cuis a c....” The other beg. 24r5 Natura est.

24 v1 Hand 8. Prayer beg. Anima Christi sanctifica me.

25 r1 Hand 3. “Iste liber pertine / Is se so lebar Nel Oig / Hic est liber unius scolaris qui vocatur Negelus”.

25 r6 Hand 2. Definition beg. Medicinalis speculacio. Constantinus cited. Also at 51v4.

25 v1 Hand 4. “Longa solent sperni gaudent brevitate moderni .i. cleachtar na raite faide do taircasniugud 7 for bhailtigit lucht na haimsire nuaidhe roim incumaireacht in cait nuasin.”

25 v6 Hand 3. ‘Se so lebar Nel Oig’ followed by definition beg. Si ne ponadir.

26 r1 Hand 4. Compendium of DEFINITIONS. Beg. Quem scientia vivificat non moritur, Galienus dicit in septimo de Ingenio Scientiae .i. adeir Galien in septimo de Ingenio Scientiae gach nech aithbeoduighes an ealadh a ni marb he. Gurab uime sin dob áil lim in compendium so ar difinicion gach aon neith da ficfither dúin do scribadh,uair is tre difinicion na neithed ticmait dochum an aithne 7 a tuicsina; 7 ose Dia is cruthaigh oir duin, is dó is coir duin labairt ar tús. The definitions are linked with discursive matter, and are cited in full in Latin and Gaelic. The tract is described in Shaw’s ‘Medieval Medico-Philosophical Treatises in the Irish Language’ in Ryan (ed.), Féil-Sgríbhinn Eóin Mhic Néill, p. 156. It was written for a physician. The introductory section is cosmological, beginning with definitions of God, firmament and sky, moving on to astrology and its importance to the physician (27v y), then the elements (28v1), matter, substance and form (30v10), philosophy and science (34v5), the soul and the body. Its conclusion is crushed in inelegantly before the start of the main section. Authorities cited: ?Nestrolanus (26v2), Iohannes de Sacro Bosco (26v8), Aristotle, Theodosius (29v4), Thaddeus (30r2), Avicenna (34v11), Boethius (34v y), Almogestus (35rz), Arnaldus (36v x). Main section beg. 37v5 Do berar in difinicion so o Sanctu s Tomas de Aquino a ngluais Boesius air. After a theological preamble on the soul it moves on to a wide range of medical definitions, both theoretical and practical. Continues 83r1. Authorities cited: St Thomas Aquinus, Boethius, Iohannes Damascenus (37v z), Aristotle, St Augustine, Regnidus (40r9), Guido, Alibertus (43v10), Thaddeus (passim, 44r–57r), Plato (44), Constantinus, Franciscus de Pedemonsium (47r1), Galen, Isaac, Avicenna, John of Gaddesden (58v6), Petrus, Geraldus (passim, 61r–86v), Averroes, Gilbertinus, Bernard of Gordon, Petrus Hispanus (71r5), Rhazes, Hippocrates, Iohanisius, ‘commentator’, Hugo (91v). At 93r1 is a section on logic (subject, form, accident, object, man, etc.), beg. Subiectum est illud quod. Authorities cited: Constantinus, Avicenna, Iohannes. Scribal entries: ‘Misi mac Illainn mec in Lega qui’ (38v); ‘Misi mac Illainn’ (40r); ‘Misi mac maith Illainn’ (41r); ‘Misi mac Illainn’ (41v); ‘Misi mac Illaind’ (63v); “Misi mac maith Illainn qui’ (68r); ‘Misi M.’ (69r); ‘Misi mac Illainn M hic in Lega’ (77r); ‘Misi mac Illainn’ (83r); ‘Misi mac Illainn do Niall’ (88r); ‘Misi mac Illainn’ (96r). The tract ends: “.i. Ainmniugud diles 7rl–. Misi Mailechlainn mac Illainn Mhic in Lega Ruaid do scrib sin do Niall m ac Neill Meigbetadh .i. mo sesi.” The sole marginalium is ‘beat’, 69v (also hand ?4).

81 r1 Hand 5. Definitions of ‘angel’. Beg. Angelus est substancia incorpuralis intellectualis.

82 v1 Hand 2 resumes. Definition pertaining to the lungs. Beg. Pulmo semper. Below a modern hand has written ‘25’.

82 v6 Brief definitions of Fantastica, Longastica, Memorialis.

83 r1 See 26r1.

100 r7 Hand 6. “Misi an Gilla Dubh O Si676il(?)”.

100 r9 Hand 9. “conc63gxs ps sibg6sil bmf3 b3fib” (?). 100v blank.

© Ronald Black, 2011