Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland

© Ronald Black, 2011

Adv. MS 72.1.46


Mackinnon, p. 201; Mackechnie, p. 202.

15th cent. Vellum. 8 ff. Quarto, 26 x 19 cms. The “Emanuel MS.”, so named by Astle from “Emanuel” (“Emanuel amen”, f.6r) being prominently inscribed by the text-hand at the top of most pages, generally boxed in red. It is written, as Mackintosh says (Gaelic Ossian 3, p.567), in a “strong beautiful hand”: that of Tadhg Ó Cianáin. His colophon (f.2v), now very indistinct, appears to be dated 1462; at any rate he wrote the manuscript, he tells us, during the kingship of Tomás Óg Maguire of Fermanagh, i.e. 1430–71, and he himself died in 1469. In two columns; red and yellow colouring. Two other early hands, both practised, appear in marginalia at ff.1r and 3r. The occurrence of the name Tormad at f.1r suggests that the manuscript had arrived in Scotland by at least the end of the 17th century, and points to Skye as the not unlikely location of its discovery by Macpherson. A bifolium, the “inner diploma of a stave” (RIA Cat.), was obtained from Macpherson by Thomas Astle to illustrate his Origin and Progress of Writing (London, 1784). It passed through the Stowe and Ashburnham Collections to become RIA MS. D i 1 (1237), no.I (photographs, NLS MS.14901). Astle’s facsimile, in his plate 22, is of f.[2v]a20–5. See also p.123 of his book. The RIA bifolium bears two marginalia. One, at f.[1v], is in a fresh hand and, though obscure, may perhaps be an addition to the text. The other, at f.[2v], is in the ?Scottish hand of f.1r: “…..(ga)c gabar glas . caera gach bo beacc ahas . creacoir cen fhuirech gach fir . is bid drinne gach drochben”.

The manuscript is no.10 of the HSL Collection, and is thus described in John Mackenzie’s inventory of 1803: “A large Quarto Vellum Manuscript in Prose, containing seven Leaves, with two Columns in a page, – Not stitched. Signed on the first and last leaves, London, Jan.y 5th, 1803. John Mackenzie”. Mackenzie’s inscriptions are on what are now ff.1v and 2r. Four members of the HSS Ossian Committee – John Campbell, Donald Mackintosh, Donald Smith, Lewis Gordon – added their initials at f.2r. On the same page Ewen MacLachlan entitles the manuscript “War between Caesar & Pompey”. Smith’s description of it is in Ossian Report, Appendix, p.305, with transcript and translation of part of f.1, augmented from Adv.MS.72.2.27, p.317. He marked the pages, in the wrong order, A, AA, B, BB, C, CC, D1, D2, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M. MacLachlan had the manuscript 1811–12. His description is at Adv.MS.72.3.4, p.1, and his transcript at Adv.MS.72.3.5, p.149. There is also a fuller copy of the transcript, dated 25 May 1814: Ingliston MS., pp.1–11. Graves examined the manuscript in 1848, describing it in Proc. RIA 4, p.258. His suggestion that the colophon “appears capable of being revived by gallic acid” seems, unfortunately, to have been taken up, with the result that it no longer fluoresces under ultra-violet light.

The manuscript was bound in boards by Waterston’s in1913, maintaining the wrong order established by Smith. Its make-up can no longer be determined, but leaves appear to have been excised between ff.4–5, 6–7 and 7–8, and a quantity of text amounting to 8 ff. (for which see below) is missing within the manuscript in addition to losses at both ends. Ff.3 and 8 both consist of two pieces of vellum stitched with thongs; the joint in the latter is now reinforced with thread. A large part of f.4 has been cut away, leaving only a strip 7–8 cms. wide. The missing portion contained the outer columns of text (4r.b, 4v.a) and part of the inner. Mackintosh’s attribution of this act of vandalism to Astle (Gaelic Ossian 3, p.567) is without foundation; it was probably much earlier. Condition otherwise good, save for damp-staining around the edges which has affected marginalia. Foliation modern.



1r Ri bia… breatha …a Tormaid . ith blicht ceobraena, 2 qq.

1v …..can ni . …..geis fo di no fo tri, 1 q.

2v “A n-aimsir Tomais Oic Meguidir do bet ‘na rig ar Feraib Manac do sgrib Tadg O Cianan an leabarsa do……..anno d omini m.ccccl.xii(?)”. (U.V.)

3r “do bea… leam gu….”


AN CATH CATHARDHA (part). Beg. 2r.a1 7 for nertad a muindteri conebhairt = Adv.MS.72.2.27, p.297 m = ed. Stokes, Irische Texte 4.ii, 1. 2695. Stokes made little use of the present version in his edition, see pp.VII-VIII. Text proceeds in following order: f.2; RIA MS. D i 1, no.I (= Adv.MS.72.2.27, pp.303.18 – 317.1 = ed. Stokes, lines 2756–2877); ff.1, 4–7, 3, 8. Ends 8v.b z “i Tir dano a ndingeanta olcc mar sin cubaidh in chath mhor” = Adv.MS.72.2.28, p.429.4 = ed. Stokes, line 3826. There are two lacunae. One (= Adv.MS.72.2.27, p.323.9 – Adv.MS.72.2.28, p. 383.8 = ed. Stokes, lines 3447–3508) is due to loss of leaves between ff.1 and 4. The other is due to the mutilation of f.4 itself, and consists mainly of a section = Adv.MS.72.1.28, pp.385.6 – 389.3 = ed. Stokes, lines 3463–3493. For Sommerfelt’s description of the verbal system in Stokes’ text see RC 36–8, 40. See also Adv.MS.72.1.2, f.115r1.

© Ronald Black, 2011