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Mary Frances Cusack
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 779 pages of information about An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800.

The list of works given above are supposed by O’Curry to have existed anterior to the year 1100.  Of the books which Keating refers to in his History, written about 1630, only one is known to be extant—­the Saltair-na-Rann, written by Aengus Ceile De.

The principal Celtic MSS. which are still preserved to us, may be consulted in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, and in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy.  The latter, though founded at a much later period, is by far the more extensive, if not the more important, collection.  Perhaps, few countries have been so happy as to possess a body of men so devoted to its archaeology, so ardent in their preservation of all that can be found to illustrate it, and so capable of elucidating its history by their erudition, which, severally and collectively, they have brought to bear on every department of its ethnology.  The collection in Trinity College consists of more than 140 volumes, several of them are vellum,[12] dating from the early part of the twelfth to the middle of the last century.  The collection of the Royal Irish Academy also contains several works written on vellum, with treatises of history, science, laws, and commerce; there are also many theological and ecclesiastical compositions, which have been pronounced by competent authorities to be written in the purest style that the ancient Gaedhilic language ever attained.  There are also a considerable number of translations from Greek, Latin, and other languages.  These are of considerable importance, as they enable the critical student of our language to determine the meaning of many obscure or obsolete words or phrases, by reference to the originals; nor are they of less value as indicating the high state of literary culture which prevailed in Ireland during the early Christian and the Middle Ages.  Poetry, mythology, history, and the classic literature of Greece and Rome, may be found amongst these translations; so that, as O’Curry well remarks, “any one well read in the comparatively few existing fragments of our Gaedhilic literature, and whose education had been confined solely to this source, would find that there are but very few, indeed, of the great events in the history of the world with which he was not acquainted."[13] He then mentions, by way of illustration of classical subjects, Celtic versions of the Argonautic Expedition, the Siege of Troy, the Life of Alexander the Great; and of such subjects as cannot be classed under this head, the Destruction of Jerusalem; the Wars of Charlemagne, including the History of Roland the Brave; the History of the Lombards, and the almost contemporary translation of the Travels of Marco Polo.

There is also a large collection of MSS. in the British Museum, a few volumes in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, besides the well-known, though inaccessible, Stowe collection.[14]

The treasures of Celtic literature still preserved on the Continent, can only be briefly mentioned here.  It is probable that the active researches of philologists will exhume many more of these long-hidden volumes, and obtain for our race the place it has always deserved in the history of nations.

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