BOOK OF ARMAGH: Liber Ardmachanus. Edited with introduction and appendices by John Gwynn.
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Dublin: For the Royal Irish Academy, 1913. Royal quarto. Bound by Galwey of Dublin in original quarter linen on stiff printed paper wrappers, with their ticket on front pastedown. Edition limited to 400 copies (No. 210). A very good copy. Very scarce.
The original manuscript is preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. It is the only early manuscript of which we know the scribe’s name, Ferdomnach, the exact date, 807, and place where it was written, Armagh. It contains the entire New Testament in Latin and documents relating to St. Patrick, his “Confession” and the “Lives” by Muirchu and Tirechan. This book was always greatly venerated because it was wrongly believed that parts of it were written by Saint Patrick, but in fact certain passages therein were copied from an original that was actually written by the saint. An interesting entry records the visit of King Brian Boru to the city in 1004 and his presenting to Armagh its ancient ecclesiastical dues. The entry finishes as follows: “This have I written, namely, Maelsuthain, in the presence of Brian, supreme ruler of the Scots, and what I have written be decreed for all the Kings of Cashel”.
According to James F. Kenney in his ‘Sources for the Early History of Ireland’: “The most important
historical manuscript of Ireland prior to the twelfth century, and, in one of its sections, the only
collection of the ‘acta’ of a saint actually compiled and written down in his own monastic church in the
ages of faith, that has survived to our day, is the Book of Armagh”.
For centuries the custodians of this book were the Moyre (Moyler) family. John (Mac)Moyre, pawned
the ‘Book’ to pay his own expenses, gave evidence in 1681, at the trial of Oliver Plunket (the Roman
Catholic Archbishop of Armagh), in London, swearing that he had been engaged in soliciting foreign
powers to invade Ireland. It was on his testimony and that of others, that the Saint was found guilty of
high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
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