BOOK OF DUNIRY Leabhar Breac – The Speckled Book, otherwise styled Leabhar Mór Dúna Doighre, The Great Book of Dún Doighre; a collection of pieces in Irish and Latin (IN FINE CELTIC REVIVAL OAK BINDING THE GREAT BOOK OF THE MacEGANS OF DUNIRY)


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Compiled from Ancient Sources about the close of the Fourteenth Century. Now for the first time published from the original manuscript in the library of the Royal Irish Academy. Two volumes in one. With two coloured plates. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy House, 1872/76. Imperial folio. pp. [ii], 144, [iv], 280, [3 (Corrigenda)]. Bound in the Celtic revival style, quarter morocco on bevelled oak boards, a Celtic Cross and Celtic interlacing painted on upper cover in blue and gold; Celtic letters ‘LMDD’ [Leabhar Mór Dúna Doighre, ‘The Great Book of Duniry]; beautiful gold patterened endpapers with ‘THS’ and Papal Emblem repeated; thick blue cloth double endbands. Fraying to border of one leaf. Edition limited to 200 copies only. Top edge gilt. A very good set. Very scarce.

Leabhar Breac or ‘The Speckled Book’ is a large folio vellum volume, a medieval Irish vellum manuscript containing Middle Irish and Hiberno-Latin writings. The manuscript is held in the library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it is catalogued as RIA MS 23 P 16 or 1230. ‘The Leabhar Breac’ is a misnomer that was incorrectly applied to the manuscript in the 18th century. The anonymous scribe of the manuscript was a great mystery for centuries until Professor Tomás Ó Con Cheanainn was able, in 1974, on the basis of the handwriting, to identify him as Murchadh Riabhach Ó Cuinnlis from Ballaghdacker in the parish of Athleague, on the Galway-Roscommon border. (Murchadh Riabhach was one of Giolla Íosa Mac Fhir Bhisigh’s assistants in the compilation of the Great Book of Lecan.). Duniry - Dún Daighre, Dún Doighre - in eastern Clanricarde (now east County Galway) is situated south-east of the town of Loughrea, and in the medieval era was home to a branch of the bardic Clann Mac Aodhagáin (the MacEgans), eminent Irish scholars and professors of Irish law, who were hereditary Brehons to the O’Conors and Clanricarde Burkes of Connaught. It was transcribed towards the close of the fourteenth century from old writings. It is written in a most beautiful style of penmanship with fine decorations.
Among the original Irish tracts in the Leabar Mór Dúna Doighré, are found Pedigrees of the Irish Saints, compiled it is believed by Oengus Céle Dé, at the close of the eighth century, as well as his celebrated Litany of the Irish Saints; ancient abstracts of the lives of Saints Patrick, Columcille, and Brigid of Kildare; a curious historical legend of Cathal Mac Finghuine, King of Munster in the eighth century, of Mac Conglinne, the poet, and of the Abbot of St. Finnbarr’s Monastery at Cork; the martyrology of Oengus Céle Dé, written chiefly at Tamlacht (Tallaght), in the County of Dublin, before the year 798; ancient copies and expositions of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments; ancient rules of discipline of the religious order of the Céle Dé, vulgarly called Culdees. The Leabhar Breac also contains a life of Alexander the Great, remarkable as being copies from the ancient Book of the celebrated St. Berchán of Cluain Sosta (Clonsost), who flourished so early as the seventh century. In the 16th century, the manuscript was in the possession of the Mac Egans of Duniry, hence the older title Leabhar Mór Dúna Doighre. In 1629, when the manuscript was held in the convent of Kinalehin, County Galway.
It was consulted by Brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, Chief of the Four Masters, who copied pp. 272–7. The book passed into the possession of Eamon Ó Ceallaigh (Co. Roscommon) in 1732, then of Dr. John O’Brien by 1768 and finally of Cornelius O’Daly (Mitchelstown, Co. Cork). The Royal Irish Academy acquired the first volume in 1789, when General Charles Vallancey purchased it for the academy for 3 guineas from Cornelius O’Daly. O’Daly also owned the second volume, which comprises nine leaves, but was unaware that it belonged to the larger volume. In 1789, this volume was acquired by Chevalier O’Gorman, by George Smith of College Green in the next century and by the Academy sometime after 1844. The manuscript is now held in the Academy’s library in Dublin to this day.


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