Obama ancestor's book turns pages of history


If Barack Obama is among the millions of people wondering today what to buy with that unwanted Christmas gift book token, then a Dublin saleroom might just have the perfect solution. A book which belonged to one of the American president’s Irish ancestors has unexpectedly come to light and will be sold, at auction, next month.

The rare copy of a 17th-century treatise on art history – written in Latin – was owned by Michael Kearney who was Mr Obama’s six times great-granduncle.

His bookplate is pasted into the leather-bound volume of De Pictura Veterum which was written by German-born scholarFranciscus Junius.

Mr Obama – despite being a Harvard law graduate – might struggle with the book. Its formidable full title is: De Pictura Veterum libri tres, Tot in locis emendati, Tam multis accessionibus aucti, ut plane novi possint videri: accedit Catalogus, Adhhuc ineditus, Architectorum, Mechanicorum, sed praecipue Pictorum, Statuarium, caelatorum, Tornatorum, aliorumque Artificium, Operum quae fecerunt, secundum seriem litterarum digestus.

While an English translation under the title The Painting of the Ancients was eventually published, collectors of antiquarian books, as opposed to readers, still seek out the Latin original.

The discovery of Kearney’s book is the latest “evidence” to emerge of Mr Obama’s tenuous genealogical links to Ireland.

Last year, during his visit to Ireland, Mr Obama went to Moneygall in Co Offaly, from where his maternal great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker’s son, emigrated to New York in 1850.

The book has a pre-sale estimate of €500-€700.