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Franciscan 'A' Manuscripts

The corpus of sixty-seven Gaelic manuscripts which derive their nomenclature from their former storage in section A of the Franciscan Library Killiney were transferred in November 2000 to the curatorship of University College Dublin under the terms of the University College Dublin-Order of Friars Minor Partnership and are housed in UCD Archives.  For a description of the genesis and development of the collection see Myles Dillon, Canice Mooney OFM and Pádraig de Brún, Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Franciscan Library Killiney (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1969).

The primary motivation for the transfer of custody of the manuscripts was to ensure their preservation through the establishment of an extensive programme of conservation; and to enhance their availability through involvement in the Irish Script On Screen [ISOS] project. High-grade digital images of the manuscripts will begin to be made available on the ISOS website from early 2003.

The transfer to UCD is the latest in a series of moves to which the collection has been subject since its inception in the great hagiographical enterprise of the Irish Franciscans at Louvain in the early seventeenth century. The initial intention to collect lives of the saints developed into a major historical and genealogical project which involved locating, collecting, and transcribing materials on the secular and ecclesiastical history of Ireland. 

Brother Míchéal Ó Cléirigh, the most famous of the annalists known as the Four Masters, spent eleven years in Ireland, 1626–37, locating and copying manuscripts. MS A 13, Annála Ríoghdhachta Éireann or the Annals of the Four Masters, is the centrepiece of the collection.

The dispersal of the original and much larger collection of Irish and Latin manuscripts from Louvain began in the late eighteenth century with the French Revolution. The collection was moved for safekeeping to St Isidore's College, Rome in 1792 where it remained until 1872 when apprehension that the friary would be suppressed and its property seized by the Italian government provoked a move to Franciscan Friary at Merchants' Quay Dublin. With the establishment of the Franciscan Library at Dún Mhuire, Killiney in 1946, the collection was relocated again and all Irish manuscripts in Franciscan hands were centralised there.

The transfer of the A MSS is the second phase of a partnership process between the Order and the university which began in 1997 with the transfer of a number of significant non-Franciscan private paper collections, most notably the de Valera Papers.

Click image to select...

Ms A3 is a fragment of the Book of Leinster known as the ‘Martyrology of Tallaght’ which is a 900 year old list of saints and their feast days.

Ms A13 These images from the Annals of the Four Masters depict the genealogy composed as a present for their patron O’Gara (ff 21r & v), the signature page with the names of the annalists inscribed (fol 23r) and the entry for 432 AD, the traditional date for the arrival of St Patrick in Ireland.

ff 21r & v
fol 23r
Entry for 432AD

Ms A14 Seathrún Céitinn’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn attempted in the wake of 17th century conquest and plantation to bury old divisions through a new depiction of Ireland as a united, Catholic kingdom, destined to take its place among the nations of the earth.

Ms A30 is a letter written for Rosa O’Doherty and is also a rare example of the signature of a Gaelic Irishwoman.

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