The Russell Library, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, houses the collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, including over 300 Gaelic manuscripts, the earliest of which dates from the 15thcentury. Within this body, there are three major collections, those of John Murphy, Bishop of Cork (1815-47), Eugene O’Curry (1794-1862) and Laurence Renehan, President of Maynooth (1845-57). The predominant character of the writings is devotional and catechetical, with a rich vein of poetry and tales.
There is a published catalogue of the manuscripts. The first fascicle, by Fr Paul Walsh, appeared in 1943. The seven subsequent fascicles, were the work of Monsignor Pádraig Ó Fiannachta. Fascicles 7 and 8 comprise indexes. Details of the catalogues with addenda and further information on the collection may be found at http://library.nuim.ie/russell/collections/gaelic.shtml
The written corpus of the Irish language is comparatively small and therefore precious, and its conservation must be the chief concern of all. The Library at Maynooth has an on-going project for the conservation of its Gaelic manuscripts. Digitisation helps to protect them further while giving the advantage to readers of light, enlargement and accessibility.