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The Book of Lismore

Leabhar Leasa Móir

One of the Great Books of Ireland returns home

The Book of Lismore, created in the late 15th century, has been donated by the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement to University College Cork (UCC). This major medieval manuscript, created at Kilbrittain, Co. Cork, in a golden age of Irish literature, is rightly considered as one of the Great Books of Ireland.

The Book of Lismore, consists of 198 large vellum folios, and contains important texts, many drawn from Irish tradition and others that are translations of contemporary European works. The Book reflects an Ireland that was deeply engaged with the contemporary European culture of the time.

The Book was compiled for Fínghin Mac Carthaigh, Lord of Carbery (1478–1505) and became known as Leabhar Mhic Cárthaigh Riabhaigh. The book begins with religious-themed material, mainly lives of the Irish saints and apocryphal tales associated with them, before passing on to material in translation: the History of the Lombards and the Conquests of Charlemagne.

Filleann ‘Leabhar Leasa Móir’, ceann de Leabhair Mhóra na hÉireann, ar a cheantar dúchais

Tá Leabhar Leasa Móir díreach bronnta ar Choláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

Tá Iontaobhaithe Chatsworth (teach Diúic Devonshire, Derbyshire, Sasana) tar éis ceann de Leabhair Mhóra na hÉireann a bhronnadh ar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh. Sin é Leabhar Leasa Móir, nó Leabhar Mhic Cárthaigh Riabhaigh, a scríodh i dtreo dheireadh na cúigiú haoise déag. Ceann de na lamhscríbhinní Gaeilge is mo cáil is ea é.

I gCill Bhriotáin, in iarthar Chorcaí, a scríodh an lámhscríbhinn mhór mheánaoiseach seo d'Fhínghin Mac Cárthaigh, Tiarna Chairbre (1478–1505). Leabhar luachmhar, lán de litríocht shaibhir na Gaeilge, is ea é.

Lámhscríbhinn thábhachtach Ghaeilge is ea an Leabhar, ar mhórán cúiseanna.Tá roinnt mhaith mórthéacsaí ann, cuid acu a bhaineann le dúchas na nGael, cuid eile ar aistriúcháin iad ar litríocht chomhaimseartha na hEorpa, agus ar léiriú iad ar an nasc idir iarthar Chorcaí agus traidisiúin na hEorpa an tráth sin.

Access to the Book of Lismore

Digital Access

The entire The Book of Lismore can be accessed digitally on Irish Script on Screen (ISOS). Prof. Pádraig Ó Macháin has provided a summary content of the description of the manuscript (century produced, material, dimensions, foliations, scribes, publications about the manuscript) and identifies the content on the folios by first line. Copies of pages from The Book of Lismore can be requested via ISOS.

Print Facsimile

The print facsimile is available in Special Collections’ Reference Reading Room: The book of Mac Carthaigh Riabhach; otherwise, The Book of Lismore / With descriptive introd. and indexes by R.A.S. Macalister. It contains additional information in the summary that is useful from a historical bibliographic perspective, and there are also observable differences between it and the ISOS version online that are of interest A brief one line description with link.


Access to The Book of Lismore is provided via the above surrogates in the first instance. Access to the physical manuscript is only feasible in limited circumstances for research purposes under specific conditions. Each request is considered on a case-by-case basis and is determined by various factors.

For further information about access to the manuscript please contact Crónán Ó Doibhlin, Head of Collections, UCC Library.

UCC welcomes The Book of Lismore home

Cuireann Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh fáilte roimh Leabhar Leasa Móir

The Book also contains the only surviving translation in Irish of the travels of Marco Polo, which adds to the exotic, outward-looking ambience of the manuscript. Marco Polo is followed by a collection of native, secular texts dealing with the theme of Kingship. The Book concludes with the exploits of the popular mythological hero Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna, as told in the lengthy tale known as Agallamh na Seanórach.

Its contents are comprehensive in their representation of both religious and secular learning in the Irish language as preserved and promoted by the elite learned classes of late medieval Ireland. In its design and execution, and in its combination of native and European tradition, The Book of Lismore is a library of literature that makes a self-assured statement about aristocratic literary taste in autonomous Gaelic Ireland in the late 15th century.

Tá leagan amach tomhaiste ar Leabhar Leasa Móir. Tá téacsaí cráifeacha – beathaí na naomh agus an seanchas a bhaineann leo – sa chuid tosaigh de, agus leanann Stair na Lombardach (caibidil as beathaí naomh na hEorpa) agus Gabháltais Sheárlais Mhór iad sin. Scéal nach bhfuil fáil air áit ar bith eile is ea imeachtaí Mharco Polo, agus leanann scéalta dúchasacha a bhaineann le Teamhair agus le ríocht na hÉireann é sin. An-chuid de na scéalta, is scéalta lán d’eachtraí agus d’iontaisí iad – ar nós Eachtra Thaidhg mhic Céin – ábhar a thaithneodh le léitheoirí nó le héisteoirí i gcaisleán an tiarna Chárthaigh. Tá an scéal is faide sa Leabhar, Agallamh na Seanórach, i ndeireadh an Leabhair. Eachtraí Fhinn mhic Cumhaill agus na bhFiann, i bprós agus i bhfilíocht, atá sa scéal sin.
Tugann Leabhar Leasa Móir léiriú cuimsitheach ar ghnéithe de léann na hÉireann sa 15ú haois. Ina leagan amach, agus sa díolaim atá ann de thraidisiún na hEorpa agus de thraidisiún na nGael, is féidir breithniú ar an lámhscríbhinn seo mar leabharlann a thugann léargas dúinn ar an litríocht a raibh éileamh uirthi ag na huaisle Gaelacha sa mheánaois dhéanach.

The Book of Lismore will eventually be displayed in a Treasures Gallery that UCC plans to develop in its Boole Library. This publicly accessible gallery will display items from the University collections, serving as an attractive destination for visitors to the region. The Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement and the Cavendish Family are supportive of this Treasures Gallery project and are keen to enable the University to achieve its aim to make important material such as The Book of Lismore accessible to the general public in an educational context.

A unique and generous donation

The owners of this major medieval Irish manuscript, the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement, have made the very generous decision to donate The Book of Lismore to UCC in recognition of academic and curatorial expertise at the university, and in appreciation of a very long and fruitful partnership between the Cavendish Family and UCC.

The Duke of Devonshire stated “Ever since the Book of Lismore was loaned to University College Cork for an exhibition in 2011, we have been considering ways for it to return there permanently. My family and I are delighted this has been possible, and hope that it will benefit many generations of students, scholars and visitors to the university.”

Successive UCC Presidents have maintained and enjoyed good relations with the Dukes of Devonshire, extending as far back as the establishment of the University in the 1840’s when the site for the new Queen’s College was chosen alongside lands then owned by the 6th Duke, and who’s successor, the 8th Duke later became a sponsor of the University Observatory and a significant donor to the University’s Model Farm School (Munster Institute).

Professor of Modern Irish, Pádraig Ó Macháin, stated “Looking to the future, and anticipating the generations of students who will be introduced to The Book as a vital and visible part of their studies – be they linguistic, calligraphic, literary, historical, socio-political or other – the presence of The Book of Lismore in Cork, and its crucial part in the Gaelic heritage of Ireland, will be seen as a core contribution to the cultural and educational identity of UCC.”

Arsa an tOllamh Pádraig Ó Macháin, Ollamh le Nua-Ghaeilge i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh: ‘Bronnadh lách flaithiúil é seo. Níl insint bhéil ar a thábhachtaí is atá an lámhscríbhinn seo do stair na hÉireann agus do stair na Gaeilge. Leabhar mór Gaelach Corcaíoch is ea é, agus seoid mhór náisiúnta is ea é chomh maith. Beidh éileamh agus teacht ag an saol mór ar an leabhar seo feasta, agus is cúis mhórtais agus áthais é sin gan aon agó. Ina theannta sin, bainfidh mic léinn agus foireann teagaisc agus taighde na hOllscoile seo leas leanúnach as an bhfoinse luachmhar seo, a raghaidh chun tairbhe na nglúnta atá fós le teacht.’

The President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran stated “This is a very historic moment for University College Cork. The Book of Lismore is a vital symbol of our cultural heritage. The donation of the Book of Lismore to UCC Library emphasises the central connection between Cork and Gaelic learning through the ages. This extraordinary act of generosity by the Duke of Devonshire reaffirms the shared understanding between our respective countries and cultures, an understanding that is based on enlightenment, civility and common purpose.”

The Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement would like to recognise the generous support of the Friends of the National Libraries (UK) in making the donation to UCC possible. The Book of Lismore will now form the foundation for the coordinated study of the Gaelic manuscript – text, script and structural components – in UCC at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

A history that begins in the late 15th century

The history of The Book begins in the late 15th century, when it was compiled for its noble patrons, Fínghin Mac Carthaigh (McCarthy) Riabhach, and his wife, Caitilín. The writing took place probably at Kilbrittain Castle, home of Mac Carthaigh. It also has connections to the Franciscan house at nearby Timoleague, which was associated with the family of Mac Carthaigh Riabhach since its foundation.

The Book of Lismore has been in the possession of the Cavendish Family and their ancestors since the 1640s and kept at Lismore Castle, County Waterford, and in more recent times at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

The manuscript’s owners have previously lent it for scholarly use since the 19th century, not only to Cork’s scribal circle, but to institutions such as the Royal Irish Academy, the British Museum, and to UCC where it was placed on public exhibition for the first time in 2011.

Stair an Leabhair

Tá tús scéal Leabhar Leasa Móir le rianadh go deireadh na cúigiú haoise déag, nuair a scríodh é don bhfear uasal Fínghin Mac Carthaigh Riabhach agus dá bhean Caitilín Nic Gearailt. I gCaisleán Chill Bhriotáin a tharla sin, agus meastar chomh maith go mb’fhéidir gur tháinig cuid den ábhar cráifeach atá sa Leabhar ó bhráithre Mhainistir Thigh Mo Leaga, achar gairid ó chaisleán Chill Bhriotáin.
Bhí an Leabhar ar coimeád i gCill Bhriotáin nó gur gabhadh é sa mbliain 1642.Ón mbliain sin amach, is i seilbh Iarlaí Chorcaí agus ina dhiaidh sin i seilbh mhuintir Cavendish (a raibh ceangal pósta eatarthu) a bhí an Leabhar. Bí sé ar coimeád i bhfolach i gCaisleán an Leasa Móir sna Déise go dtí gur aimsíodh athuair é sa mbliain 1814 agus athógáil ar siúl sa chaisleán sin.Tugadh ar iasacht ansin é do Dhonnchadh Ó Floinn, scoláire Gaeilge i Sráid an tSeandúin i gCorcaigh, agus deineadh móran d’ábhar an Leabhair a chóipeáil i lámhscríbhinní nua a dhein muintir Longáin go háirithe. Aistríodh an Leabhar ón Lios Mór go Teach Chatsworth sa mbliain 1914, agus is ann a bhí sé nó gur bronnadh ar UCC le déanaí é.
I gcaitheamh na mblianta, tá caite go fiail ag úinéirí an Leabhair le scoláirí éagsúla ar theastaigh uathu staidéar a dhéanamh ar a chuid téacsaí. Tugadh an Leabhar ar iasacht go minic d'institiuidí ar nós Acadamh Ríoga na hEireann agus Leabharlann na Breataine chun go mbainfí leas as, agus le déanaí féin, sa mbliain 2011, cuireadh ar taispeáint é i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh. Léiriú breise ar an dtacaíocht a thug muintir Cavendish i gcónaí do léann scoláiriúil Leabhar Leasa Móir is ea an bronnadh seo mar sin.

Ireland’s leading centre for the study of Gaelic Ireland

With over 200 Gaelic manuscripts in its collection, UCC is Ireland’s leading centre for the study of the materiality of the literary artefacts of Gaelic Ireland. The Book will now be the centerpiece of this large collection at UCC’s Library, and the donation of the manuscript to UCC marks a further stage in the commitment of the Cavendish Family to the scholarship of The Book of Lismore.
These Gaelic manuscripts already form the basis for extensive teaching and research, and The Book of Lismore, written on vellum and being at least 150 years older than any other manuscript volume in the collection, offers a rare field of study.
The spectroscopic study in UCC of vellums and inks in Irish manuscripts has recently received national recognition through a substantial Advanced Laureate award to Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin from the Irish Research Council. This is frontier research into which The Book of Lismore, with its vellum and Gaelic script, will fit perfectly as a research target, further enhancing the research infrastructure and output of Modern Irish studies in the University. At the levels of the undergraduate and postgraduate student, therefore, and at the level of the senior researcher, the donation of The Book of Lismore to UCC by Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement is already revolutionising humanities research and teaching in the University.

Lárionad do Léann na Gaeilge agus na nGael

Ar aon dul le lámhscríbhinní móra eile, tugann Leabhar Leasa Móir léiriú dúinn ar dhoimhneas agus ar shaibhreas an tseanchais dár de sinn. Cuireann seasamh an Leabhair i dtraidisiún na lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge go mór lena thábhacht. Léiríonn an lámhscríbhinn neamhchoitianta seo conas is féidir le déantúsán dá leithéid bheith ina fhinné agus ina scéalaí ar imeachtaí sóisialta, cultúrtha agus polaitiúla a aimsire féin.
Tá an Leabhar anois ina cheartlár suaithinseach sa chnuasach mór de lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge atá i Leabharlann na hOllscoile. Bhí na lámhscríbhinní sin cheana féin ina mbonn le teagsac agus taighde mhic léinn agus fhoireann Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, agus cuirfear go mór leis an obair sin anois ráite gur sine de 150 bliain an lámhscríbhinn mhór mheamraim seo ná an leabhar ba shine a d’áirítí ann go dtí seo.
Lárionad ceannródaíoch sa staidéar ar dhéantús agus ar ábhar na lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge is ea Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh. Tá trácht ar leagan amach agus ar mhaisiú Leabhar Leasa Móir, agus ar an gcuma inar chuaigh sin i bhfeidhm ar scríobhaithe níos déanaí, in aistí léannta a foilsíodh san Ollscoil le blianta beaga. Ina theannta sin, tá duais mhór bainte le déanaí i Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge ón gComhairle um Thaighde in Éirinn chun dúch agus meamram na sean-lámhscríbhinní a inniúchadh. Taighde úrnua é seo nár tugadh faoina leithéid riamh in Éirinn, agus beifear in ann fianaise Leabhar Leasa Móir a fhí leis an obair sin anois agus cur a thuilleadh le clú na hOllscoile i gcursaí taighde sa Ghaeilge dá réir sin.
Ag machnamh dúinn ar na glúnta de mhic léinn a raghaidh i dtír ar Leabhar Leasa Móir amach anseo mar chuid dá staidéar ar an nGaeilge – i gcúrsaí peannaireachta, teangan, litríochta, staire agus uile – níl amhras ná go bhféachfar ar theacht an Leabhair go Corcaigh mar spreagadh suaithinseach cultúrtha agus oideachasúil do Choláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh.