The Academy library has the largest corpus of Irish language manuscripts in a single repository. The collection is important not only because of its size but also due to the fact that it spans twelve centuries - the 8th to the 20th centuries AD. The Irish language manuscripts cover a wide range of subjects, from early liturgy to genealogy, law, medicine, literature and topographical poems, and include annals, chronologies and lives of the saints. The collection includes the Stowe Missal (late 8th century), a Mass-book of the early Irish church which is in Latin but contains an Irish tract on the Mass and some spells in Irish against loss of eyesight etc.; Lebor na hUidre/The Book of the Dun Cow (early 12th century), the earliest surviving manuscript with literature in Irish, this manuscript contains the oldest version of the Táin Bó Cuailgne; Annála Ríoghachta Éireann/The Annals of the four masters (compiled 1632-36); Leabhar Mór Leacain/The Book of Lecan (early 15th century), which includes a Dindshenchas, Bansenchas, versions of Lebor Gabála, Leabhar na gCeart and other important genealogical, historical, biblical, hagiographical and literary material.

Researchers from Ireland and abroad visit the Academy library to study the manuscript collection. The fact that the Academy holds many recensions of important texts, for example the Lebor Gabála, enables scholars to compare texts and to compile editions and commentaries which are authoritative. However, it is not always feasible to visit the library and surrogate copies in the form of facsimiles or microfilm are sometimes inadequate substitutes for the original manuscripts. Therefore, the Academy has been happy to participate in the ISOS project in order to make key sources available to researchers and the general public.

We hope to continue to input major Irish texts to the ISOS website in the future and welcome your comments and suggestions as to the kind of materials which you would like to see on the site.

Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Academy Librarian, 2001


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