Irish Roots

October 24th, 2011

John Grenham


The Irish Manuscripts Commission was set up in 1928 with a remit to preserve, promote and disseminate original source materials for the history and culture of Ireland. It was partly a response to the catastrophic burning of the PRO in 1922, and partly a classic post-colonial imitation of the British Historical Manuscripts Commission. The IMC took on its task with gusto, and its imprint quickly becomes familiar to anyone involved in any branch of Irish historical research, with 170 individual titles, mostly editions of original manuscripts and 40 issues of its journal, Analecta Hibernica.

The perennial problem with the IMC's publications has been getting hold of them. All the early publications are long out of print and those in print are priced well beyond the reach of the casual purchaser. So the news that the Commission has begun the process of digitising its backlist and making it freely available at irishmanuscripts.ie is very welcome indeed. Thirty-nine publications have been digitised so far, and the site promises more, albeit with the blood-chilling proviso: "on a phased basis as funds permit".

For genealogy, the most immediately useful material lies in the three volumes of will abstracts from the Registry of Deeds, 1408 pages of detailed family information to be found nowhere else, as well as the standard source for barristers and solicitors before 1868, King's Inns Admission Papers 1607-1867. Once again, however, having material digitally searchable can radically change its relative importance. Wild Geese in Spanish Flanders 1582-1700 begins to look positively mouth-watering.

The one quibble is the software the IMC have used, 3D Issue. This is designed specifically to publish digital magazines, and for browsing the iPad edition of Cosmo I'm sure the perfect animation of page-turning is just heavenly. But it shows distinct signs of indigestion handling the eight volumes and 3450 pages of The Correspondence of Daniel O'Connell.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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