Great Book of Irish Genealogies       
Mac Fhirbhishigh Dubhaltach, Leabhar Genealagh, The Great Book  of Irish Genealogies. Edited, with translation and indices by Nollaig O Muraílle. List of subscribers. Five volumes. Dublin, De Búrca 2004, 4to. Over 3100 pages. Full buckram gilt, in presentation box.  Price 635 (plus postage and insurance).


The great Connacht scholar Dubhaltacht Mac Fhirbhishigh (c.1600-1671) from Lacken, Co. Sligo, compiled his monumental Great Book of Genealogies in Galway at the height of the Cromwellian Wars in the mid-seventeenth century.  The work has long been recognised as the most important source for the study of Irish family history, and it is also of great importance to historians of pre-17th-Ireland since it details the ancestry of many significant figures in Irish history - including: Brian Boroimhe (d.1014); Ulick Burke, Marquis of Clanricarde (d.1657); James Butler, Duke of Ormonde (d.1688);  Somhairle Buidhe (Sorley Boy) Mac Donnell (d.1589); Randal Mac Donnell, Marquis of Antrim (d.1683); Garrett Óg Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, (d.1536); Diarmuid Mac Murchadha (d.1171); Myler Magrath, Archbishop of Cashel (d.1622);  Murrough O'Brien, Baron of Inchquin (d.1674); Feagh Mac Hugh O Byrne (d.1597); Rory O'Conor (d.1198); Red Hugh O'Donnell (d.1602);  Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone (d.1616);  Owen Roe O'Neill (d.1649); and many, many more (including the ancestry of the Mac Sweeneys of Fanad, Doe,  Desmond, Banagh, Ormonde, North Connacht, the Plain of Connacht, Desmond and Thomond). Both in terms of size and significance the Great Book of Genealogies is on par with that other great seventeenth century compilation, the Annals of the Four Masters; and O Donovan did edit a thirty-page extract from the book making it the centre piece of his second greatest work, The Genealogies, Tribes and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach (1844).  But while quite a few other (almost inevitably brief) extracts from the work have appeared in print over the past century and a half, some 90% of the Book of Genealogies has never been hitherto translated or published.

A transcript of the entire manuscript, executed in 1836 by the noted scholar, Eugene O'Curry, may have been intended to lead to an edition, but this never materialised. An attempted edition in the 1930's also proved abortive. Now, for the first time, the entire text - running to about 320,00 words, mainly in Early Modern and Middle Irish, but with some passages in Latin - have been meticulously edited from the autograph manuscript in the possession of University College, Dublin (to whom it was bequeathed in 1926). Significantly, the edition also includes Mac Fhirbhisigh's shorter, and much neglected, genealogical work, the Cuimre, or Abridgement. The original text, both prose and poetry, of both works is accompanied by a painstaking English translation. But perhaps, most important of all, the edition includes, in addition to several valuable appendices, a comprehensive series of indices which provide a key to the tens of thousands of personal names, surnames, tribal names and place-names that the work contains. In fact, the portion relating to personal names is the largest Irish language names index that has ever been compiled.

The editor, Nollaig O Muraíle, is, like Mac Fhirbhisigh, and the publisher, a Connachtman. He is Reader of Celtic Studies in Queen's University, Belfast, and previously spent more than twenty years working on Irish place-names with the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. He recently furnished a new introduction to the De Búrca  re-issue of the Annals of Ulster (1988), and before that to O Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish (1996). He recently published a major study of the author of  the `Book of Genealogies',  The Celebrated Antiquary: Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhishigh (c.1600-71). His Lineage, Life and Learning (An Sagart, Maynooth, 1996 - 450 pp.) as well as numerous articles arising out of his thirty years work on Dubhaltach's `magnum opus'.    (Extract taken from Catalogue 66, De Búrca Rare Books  - reproduced with the permission of the publisher Edmund De Búrca.)

                                                                               (May 22, 2004)