Medieval Book of Lismore returns to Cork


A WARM welcome, both physically and climatically, was given to the Book of Lismore in University College Cork yesterday, as one of the most important manuscripts of medieval Ireland returned, albeit temporarily, to Co Cork.

The book started life there about 500 years earlier, having been written to mark the marriage of a local lord, Finghin Mac Cárthaigh Riabhach, to Caitilín. It was most likely kept in Kilbrittain Castle in west Cork until the mid-17th century. Later it found its way to Lismore Castle, where it remained until it was found during excavations in 1814.

The Lismore estate had passed from the Boyle family to the Cavendishes, and the book stayed out of public view. It was kept mainly in the Duke of Devonshire’s home in Chatsworth in England, from the 1920s until recent weeks, when a loan to the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in UCC was organised.

The manuscript incorporates a number of important texts, such as an early Irish translation of the Travels of Marco Polo, and tales of St Patrick in dialogue with survivors of the Fianna.

Opening the exhibition, the 12th Duke of Devonshire said the historical links between his family and the university made the location an obvious choice for the manuscript’s debut public appearance.“It is entirely appropriate its first public exhibition should be where the study of early and medieval Irish is held in such esteem both here and internationally,” he said.

Dr Michael Murphy, the university’s president, pointed out the irony that such a text was being presented for the first time in an age where digital technology was threatening to dominate the printed word. “This Book of Lismore has survived quite stubbornly as a repository of a whole range of stories and histories,” Dr Murphy said.

The exhibition will enable the public to view the manuscript at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery until October 30th.