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SC2024 The Book of Lismore and the Gaelic Manuscript

Ended 10 Mar 2021

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Full course description

Course Overview

The Book of Lismore (also known as the Book of McCarthy Reagh) was donated to University College Cork in 2020. It is a substantial medieval Gaelic vellum manuscript, written in Irish at Kilbrittain Castle, Co. Cork, at the end of the 15th century for Fínghean Mac Carthaigh and his wife Caitilín Fitzgerald.

The Book of Lismore is one of the most significant heritage items to survive from late medieval Cork and late medieval Ireland. Its unique anthology of stories and tradition, dedicated to McCarthy nobility of Carbery, offers a rare insight into the literary tastes and intellectual environment of West Cork at the end of the 15th century. In its script and makeup it creates additional connections to the history of books in Ireland before the advent of print.

As a focus for teaching and research at UCC, and as a newly-added pillar to the University’s connection with the heritage of its hinterland, there is much in the Book of Lismore that speaks to us of the time in which it was written, of the people who created it and for whom it was created, and of the tradition to which it belongs. 

Following the donation of the Book of Lismore to UCC by the Duke of Devonshire in 2020, this course assembles a team of experts unrivalled in the curation and the study of the Gaelic manuscripts of Ireland, to deliver insights on the Book, one of the most singular manuscripts of Irish tradition.

Through exploring the Book, its contents and many contexts, these lectures will lift the veil on an aspect of the hidden Ireland, and on the learned traditions of Cork and of autonomous Ireland in the late medieval period.

This course offers a unique opportunity to explore what for many may be an unfamiliar past through the gateway provided by a marvellous artefact and a priceless treasure of UCC.

This course will explore:

  • The donation of the Book and its place in Cork history.
  • The creation and the contents of the manuscript.
  • The variety of material present in the Book, and the way that material reflects intellectual activity in West      Cork and in Ireland at the time.
  • Particular emphasis will be placed on the unique Irish translation of the Travels of Marco Polo that is contained in the Book, and on the native traditions of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
  • The place of the Book of Lismore in the Irish manuscript tradition in general: the use of Gaelic script and in the way that vellum manuscripts were constructed

Course Schedule 

Classes will be delivered online on Wednesdays 7 to 9 pm for six weeks from 3 February to 10 March.

Lecture 1 (3 February 2021). The donation of the Book of Lismore to UCC, and the historical connections of the manuscript to Cork, city and county. John Fitzgerald and Crónán Ó Doibhlin

Lecture 2 (10 February 2021). A book of miracles and wonders: the contents of the Book of Lismore. Padraig Ó Macháin

Lecture 3 (17 February 2021). The Travels of Marco Polo in the Book of Lismore. Andrea Palandri. The traditions of Fionn mac Cumhaill (Agallamh na Seanórach). Síle Ní Mhurchú

Lecture 4 (24 February 2021). Putting the Book of Lismore together: how Gaelic manuscripts were made. John Gillis

Lecture 5 (3 March 2020). Writing the Book of Lismore: Gaelic script and its development over time. Timothy O’Neill

Lecture 6 (10 March 2021). The Book of Lismore in the 21st century. John Fitzgerald and Crónán Ó Doibhlin

Course Lecturers

Core staff Department of Modern Irish and Boole Library, UCC, and guest lecturers

John Fitzgerald, Director of Information Services & University Librarian, UCC

Dr John Gillis, Conservation Department, Trinity College Dublin

Dr Síle Ní Mhurchú, Lecturer, Department of Modern Irish, UCC

Crónán Ó Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections & Communications, UCC

Pádraig Ó Macháin, Professor of Modern Irish, UCC

Timothy O’Neill, Adjunct Professor, Department of Modern Irish, UCC

Dr Andrea Palandri, School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Closing Date for Application

Monday 18 January

Contact Details for Further Information

Regina Sexton, Phone: 021-4904700, Email: