The Annals of Clonmacnoise
are an early 17th-century Early Modern English
Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English...
translation of a lost Irish chronicle, which covered events in Ireland from pre-history to A.D. 1408. The work is sometimes known as Mageoghagan’s Book
, after its translator.
The Irish chronicle was translated into English, in the style of the Elizabethan period, in 1627 by Connall MacGeoghegan (or Connell McGeoghegan) of Lismoyny (Co. Westmeath), near Clara
Clara is a town on the River Brosna in County Offaly and is the 10th largest town in the midlands of Ireland. The town has a population of 3001 , however a number of well populated housing estates lie outside the town boundary making the actual population higher...
, Co. Offaly. He dedicated this translation to his brother Terence, whose family was among the last to uphold and practice native Irish Gaelic customs. The translation was completed on April 20, 1627 in the Castle of Lemanaghan in County Offaly. The original manuscript of McGeoghegan's translation is lost, but there are several copies of it in both the Library of Trinity College
Trinity College Library Dublin, the centrally-administered library of Trinity College, Dublin, is the largest library in Ireland. As a "copyright library", it has legal deposit rights for material published in the Republic of Ireland; it is also the only Irish library to hold such rights for the...
and in the British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...
The original work was in Irish Gaelic. The translator more than once refers "to the ould Irish book out of which he wrote, to the old Irish book which he translates, out of which many leaves were lost or stolen.." Mc Geoghegan seems to have preserved the value of the original Gaelic phraseology and rendered it every justice as far as we can determine in the absence of the original manuscript.
Provenance of the original chronicle
The original manuscript or manuscripts of the Irish annals are lost, and the names of its compilers are unknown. These annals have usually gone by the name of the Annals of Clonmacnoise, because the work was thought to be based on materials gathered at the monastery of Clonmacnoise
The monastery of Clonmacnoise is situated in County Offaly, Ireland on the River Shannon south of Athlone....
, though there is some doubt about this. In the book itself there is nothing to show why it should be called by this name. However, the Annals do give special prominence to the history of the parts of the country on both sides of the River Shannon at Clonmacnoise and to the families inhabiting the areas of Uí Maine (Hy Many) surrounding them, namely O'Kellys, O'Rourkes, O'Molloys, O'Connors and McDermotts. The principal value of these Annals arises from the historical details given of these districts and families which are not found to the same extent elsewhere.
The Annals give the history of Ireland and the areas surrounding Clonmacnoise from the creation of man to the year 1408. The translator points out that several parts of the original work are missing as from 1182 to 1199 and again from 1290 to 1299. He states that the originals were destroyed not merely by the books being burnt by marauding Vikings but also by tailors cutting the leaves of the books and slicing them off in long pieces to make their measures.
The translation of the Annals was first published in Dublin in 1896 and again reprinted by Llanerch Publishers in 1993. Scholars have repeatedly called for a new edition as Murphy’s edition has been deemed inadequate for modern scholarly purposes. Such scholars include Prof David Dumville who has bemoaned the ‘poor textual condition of the Annals of Clonmacnoise and the lack of adequate modern criticism of that text’. Dr Nollaig O Muraile has also expressed a wish that someone will undertake one of ‘those great desiderata in this particular field - namely new, up-to-date editions of the Annals of Tigernach, of Mageoghegan's Book’ (i.e. the Annals of Clonmacnoise).
- Murphy, Denis (ed.). The Annals of Clonmacnoise. Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Dublin, 1896. PDFs available from the Internet Archive here and here.