About the Project

Foundations of Irish Culture – Irish Manuscripts on the Continent AD 600 – AD 850 has been developed as a postdoctoral research project by Dr Meadhbh Nic an Airchinnigh, under the supervision of Prof Dáibhí Ó Cróinín at the Department of History, School of Humanities, National University of Ireland, Galway. The project was developed from December 2012 to August 2013 funded by The Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI), cycle four. The website itself has been created in collaboration with Niall O’Leary of the Digital Humanities Observatory, a project of the Royal Irish Academy and David Kelly, Research Technologist of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Other contributions were made by Dr. Eric Graff, Dr Mark Stansbury and Dr Pádraic Moran.

Project Launch Media Coverage

Documentary Clip: Irish Inscribed Stones

Dr Thierry Daubos and Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín of the National University of Ireland, Galway, carry out 3D scanning at the National Museum of Ireland. The high cross is a cast taken from the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnois.

Part of this video was originally broadcast in RTÉ's "Secret of Stones" series. The soundtrack is Maria McCool singing "Ar Éirinn Ní Neosfainn Cé Hí".

Watch on YouTube or see this longer extract.

The Catalogue

The Catalogue hosts early medieval manuscripts between AD 600 – AD 850, that are held in research libraries in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It is a selective descriptive catalogue. Its purpose is not to offer an exhaustive list of all the manuscripts related to Ireland in these libraries, but to provide a selection of insular manuscripts representative of the holdings of each of the libraries, supplying as much bibliographical information as possible about these manuscripts. We hope that such data may be useful to further scholarly research.

The manuscripts have been selected on the basis of a number of guiding principles. One of the key aims of the project is to show the range and diversity of manuscripts written by the Irish. As a consequence, these manuscripts contain a wide variety of texts relating to biblical studies, grammatical studies, the Science of Computistics (Time-Reckoning – the mathematics required to calculate the date of Easter, and related topics (incl. astronomical observations and calculations), and other miscellaneous material. They preserve the essential data on the basis of which modern scholars have been able to reconstruct Irish scientific knowledge in the early Middle Ages.

In selecting the geographical boundaries of the project, similar principles have been adopted. By ‘Continent’ it is intended the whole of the European continent, excluding the islands of Ireland and England. Insular manuscripts are found in places outside of mainland Europe e.g. North America but for the purposes of this project they were not included in this catalogue. The goal of this project was to emphasise the transitory nature of Irish scholarship across the Irish Sea to mainland Europe.

In the Early Middle Ages, high-level scholarly and intellectual exchange between Ireland and Europe was as important as the types of exchange that are taking place today. Indeed, there are many who would say that Ireland’s contribution to the formation of the ‘First Europe’ marked a high point both of Irish and of European achievement. The Irish between the period of AD 600 and AD 850 enjoyed a reputation second to none in terms of their scholarship in Greek and Latin, in Astronomy and Mathematics. Regarding the language used in these manuscripts, the majority are in Latin, many have Old Irish glosses, but we see also Greek and even Hebrew which shows the full range of Irish scholarship during those centuries.

Searching the Catalogue

The format of the catalogue allows for its entire contents to be scrolled through easily for an overview. Opening a record displays the following information:

  • Origin – what is the origin of the manuscript according to E.A. Lowe.
  • Script – e.g. Irish majuscule or minuscule.
  • Contents – a description of the contents of the manuscript.
  • Foliation – the physical description of the number of folios or pages.
  • Comments – any observations made about the manuscript.
  • City – the city in where it is currently housed.
  • Library – the research library where it is available.
  • Saec – refers to the century in which it is estimated by E. A. Lowe that it was written.
  • Shelfmark – is the reference number of each individual library.
  • CLA – refers to Codices Latini Antiquiores (the catalogue of all manuscripts in Latin (whether codices or scrolls) before the 9th century by Elias Avery Lowe (1929) in twelve volumes.

The Project Developer

Dr Meadhbh Nic an Airchinnigh developed Foundations of Irish Culture AD 600 – AD 850 in 2012 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of History, School of Humanities, National University of Ireland, Galway under the supervision of Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín. She completed her PhD thesis in the Department of Irish at the National University of Ireland, Galway, under the supervision of Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire. Her dissertation is entitled: Caointeoireacht na Gaeilge: Béalaireacht agus Litearthacht. Meadhbh has taught Irish Language and Literature in the Irish Department at National University of Ireland, Galway and at University College Cork. She also taught Irish language on a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas in between 2006 and 2008. Her teaching and research interests include Modern, Old and Middle Irish, Irish Lament Poetry, Latin Palaeography, Traditional Irish singing and Folklore. She is currently a lecturer of Irish at University College Cork and is undertaking research in the Department of Folklore, University College Cork.

Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín is a senior Lecturer in the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Galway. Some of his publications include Whitley Stokes (1830-1909): the lost Celtic notebooks rediscovered (2010), Computus and its Cultural Context in the Latin West, AD 300 - 1200, Immo Warntjes & Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (eds), (2010), The Royal Irish Academy New History of Ireland, Vol. 1, Prehistoric & Early Medieval Ireland (2005), Early Irish History and Chronology (2003), The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Irish Traditional Singer (2000) and Eachtra Phinocchio (2003). He is Director of The Foundations of Irish Culture project and Irish Inscribed Stones project at The Moore Institute, NUI, Galway. His interests include Ireland, Britain and Europe during the Early Middle Ages; Computistics; Medieval Latin Palaeography; Irish traditional music and song.

Acknowledgements: a message from the project developer

The Foundations of Irish Culture has been created and developed as part of my postdoctoral research project, and I have conducted all primary research on the catalogue, planned the website, and designed its contents. This website is based entirely on the Codices Latini Antiquiores series by Elias Avery Lowe which is a catalogue of all manuscripts in Latin before the 9th century.

I am very grateful to the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI Cycle Four) for financing the project, and to Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín for entrusting me with its development. It has been a pleasure to work in the Moore Institute and be part of the Department of History. The Department of History at National University of Ireland, Galway really is a fantastic place to work and I highly commend the research being undertaken there. I must commend the high number of staff in History who can complete their work through the medium of Irish. It is a unique department. Do mo chairde ar fad i Roinn na Staire, go mba fhada buan sibh.

Regarding the technical side of the project, Niall O’Leary of the Digital Humanities Observatory created the json file on which the entire website is based. David Kelly also proved an excellent addition to the project. I owe my gratitude to him for designing the site. This project would not be completed today without Niall and David. I thank them both for their patience and invaluable input.

None of this would have been possible without the collaboration of the libraries all over Europe and of the people working there. Firstly the following people in the National University of Ireland, Galway, Marie Boran, Loretto O’Donohoe and Margaret Hughes (Special Collections) and Fergus Fahey and Brendan Duffy (Digital Preservation). I would like to thank especially Lorenz Heiligensetzer of the Universitätsbibliothek, Basel, Marie-Noëlle Dernoncour of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Rémy Casin, of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Colmar, Dr. Rémy Cordonnier of the Bibliothèque d’Agglomération de Saint-Omer, Prisca Brülisauer of the Stiftsbibliothek, St. Gallen, Oliver Thiele of the Stadtbibliothek Schaffhausen, Karin Huser of the Staatsarchiv des Kantons, Zürich, Janina Späth of the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe, Eike Zimmer of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, Maryse Casier of Ghent University Library, Dr John Cramer of Leiden University Library, Dr. Maria Neglia, of the Archivio di Stato di Palermo and finally to Dr. Rahel Bacher of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

Fortunately, three quarters of the libraries included in this collection granted permission to display digital images. For various difference reasons some images could not appear e.g. some manuscripts in Turin were destroyed by a fire in 1904, other manuscripts were too frail to be digitally photographed and some institutions simply did not grant permission to use digital images.

I would like to thank Dr. Jennifer Lertola and Dr. Francesca Magnoni of the Department of Italian, National University of Ireland, Galway for their efforts in contacting the Italian libraries. I am indebted to Dr. Sheila Walsh of the Department of French, National University of Ireland, Galway, who assisted with French correspondence. I am very grateful to Dr. Marina Ansaldo, School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin whose advice proved invaluable to every aspect of this project. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my fellow researchers and administrators in the Moore Institute – mo bhuíochas ó chroí libh ar fad.

I am also particularly grateful to Dr Pádraic Moran, Dr. Mark Stansbury, Prof. Richard Sharpe and Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín for collaborating to the project by providing great essays.

For those interested in Time-Reckoning please check for updates on the International Conference on the Science of Computus. (http://www.nuigalway.ie/history/computusconference.html)

Technical Overview

The site was developed primarily using open source, front-end technologies. The most important once being HTML5 Boilerplate, Twitter Bootstrap, jQuery, along with MIT's Exhibit which runs the catalogue system. The catalogue does not use a relational database, instead, it uses a single JSON file as a data-store.

The individual records are processed and displayed using PHP, rather than the in-build Exhibit option. Doing so allowed a greater flexibility in the design, and ensured a more search-engine friendly catalogue. Ensuring the catalogue could be easily crawled by search engines was an important consideration, and was further facilitated by providing both web and XML sitemaps.

To ensure an optimal user experience, the site features a Responsive Design. This means that it adapts to the size of a user's screen, making viewing on a smartphone, tablet or laptop possible without horizontal scrolling.