Seoda Scripte Exhibition

Today on 30th November, 2018, the exhibition Seoda Scripte: a Glimpse into Ireland’s Manuscript Heritage will be launched in the UCD Special Collections Reading Room, James Joyce Library UCD.

This exhibition showcases for the first time a selection of Irish-language manuscripts held in Special Collections in UCD. These manuscripts bear witness in their own way to the significance and longevity of a script tradition in the Irish language.

They include the Book of Genealogies, most of which was written between 1648/9 and 1650 in the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, Galway by An Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhsigh. This manuscript is a remarkable repository of information on Irish families and the largest body of genealogical lore to have survived in the Irish language. Mac Firbhisigh is regarded as one of Ireland’s last traditional historians and scholars who practised the branch of learning known as seanchas, the Irish term for traditional lore or history.

The exhibition also contains three copies of Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn. This text was completed by Geoffrey Keating in the 1630s. Rather than presenting his narrative in annalistic form, Keating chose to weave his source material into a readable prose history of the Irish people. It includes a lengthy preface in which he took issue with foreign writers who, according to him, had made false claims about against Ireland and its inhabitants. The copies on display as part of this exhibition are not in Keatings hand but were written by other scribes in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The most impressive of these is O’Curry Manuscript 15 which contains copious illustrations.

Irish manuscripts written during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries offer the modern-day reader a good indication of the variety of poetry that was popularly enjoyed at that time. Ferriter MS 20, which is displayed in this exhibition, includes a collection of 120 poems by Northern poets which was penned between 1850 and 1851 by one of Ireland’s most prolific nineteenth-century scribes, Peadar Ó Gealacáin of Co. Meath. Also exhibited is UCD Additional MS 11, a nineteenth-century copy of one of the most famous poems composed in the Irish language in the modern era, Brian Merriman’s Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court).

Over six hundred manuscripts survive today which were written entirely or in part by members of the Ó Longáin family. Seven manuscripts preserved in Special Collections contain material by Peadar and Seosamh Ó Longáin. One of the manuscripts on display, Morris Manuscript 27, is a copy of the earliest surviving example of a family poem-book (duanaire) in Irish, the fourteenth century Leabhar Méig Shamhradháin (Book of Magauran) which Seosamh Ó Longáin made in the library of the Royal Irish Academy in 1870.

UCD Special Collections holds thirty-nine manuscripts once owned by Pádraig Feiritéar, or Patrick Ferriter, of Corca Dhuibhne, Co Kerry. These manuscripts were donated by Ferriter as a personal token of gratitude for the National University’s decision to make Irish a required matriculation subject. Ferriter emigrated to America in 1895. He brought to the New World what manuscripts he had already and continued collecting and transcribing scribal material in his new home. Twenty-one manuscripts are Ferriter’s own work which he completed in Ireland and America between 1889 and 1923. The remaining eighteen were either brought across the Atlantic by Irish exiles or were written by Irish emigrants in the States. The collection bears a multi layered material witness to an interest in the Irish language among emigrants from Ireland that survived their passage to the New World.

This exhibition was curated by Associate Professor Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail from the School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore.

For more information on the exhibition please see

  • This post was researched and written by Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections, UCD Special Collections.

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