The Book of Ballymote
Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta
RIA MS 23 P 12

Written on vellum, probably around 1391, The Book of Ballymote was produced by the scribes Manus O'Duignan, Solomon O'Droma, and Robert McSheedy, for Tonnaltagh McDonagh, whose clan kept the manuscript until the early 16th century, when it came into the hands of the O'Donnell clan. In 1620 it was given to Trinity College, Dublin, but was stolen from the library, only to be returned to the Royal Irish Academy in 1785. It is in relatively good condition, no doubt do to the treasured status it had in the McDonagh clan.

"The first page of the work contains a drawing of Noah's Ark as conceived by the scribe. The first written page is missing and the second opens with a description of the ages of the world."1 It then contains a history of the Jews; a life of Saint Patrick; a copy of The Book of Invasions, "The Instructions of King Cormac," as well as other stories of King Cormac mac Airt, stories of Fionn Mac Cumhail and Brian Borumha, genealogies of various clans and kings, and two very important tracts: The Book of Rights, and Auraicept na n-Éces--the Ogham Treatis,2 about which so much has been made. The end of the book is a collection of Greek and Latin works on the fall of Troy, with a bit of the Aeneid thrown in.

There was published a diplomatic edition of the book, which may or may not be available. The Book of Ballymote. ed. Robert Atkinson. NY: AMS Press. ISBN: 040417535X

Digital images of the manuscripts can be seen here.

1. McDonagh, James. History of Ballymote and the Parish of Emlaghfad. nd, quoted in Internet source: The Parish of Ballymote, 1998. URL

2. An abridged copy can be found in the book The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews. It is out of print, but not hard to find.

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Mary Jones © 2004