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Duke of Devonshire donates the priceless 15th Century Book of Lismore to UCC

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Crónán Ó’Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections, UCC Library with the Book of Lismore

Crónán Ó’Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections, UCC Library with the Book of Lismore

Crónán Ó’Doibhlin, Head of Research Collections, UCC Library with the Book of Lismore

An Irish university is celebrating the donation by one of the UK's wealthiest aristocrats of a priceless Gaelic work of literature dating back to the Medieval period.

The permanent donation was made by the Trustees of Chatsworth Settlement and the Duke of Devonshire, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and whose family owns the Lismore Castle estate in Waterford.

Created in Kilbrittain in Cork in the 15th century during the golden age of Irish literature, the Book of Lismore ranks as one of the great treasures of the Medieval period in Ireland.

It consists of 198 large vellum folios, and contains important texts, many drawn from Irish tradition and others that are translations of contemporary European works, reflecting an Ireland deeply engaged with Europe.

Compiled for Fínghin Mac Carthaigh, Lord of Carbery (1478–1505) it became known as Leabhar Mhic Cárthaigh Riabhaigh. It also contains the only surviving translation in Irish of the travels of Marco Polo.

The Duke of Devonshire said the permanent donation was inspired by the success of a temporary loan nine years ago

“Ever since the Book of Lismore was loaned to University College Cork for an exhibition in 2011, we have been considering ways for it to return there permanently,” the Duke said yesterday.

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Pages from the manuscript

Pages from the manuscript

Pages from the manuscript

The Dukes of Devonshire have links to UCC dating back to the 1840s and UCC plans to make it the centrepiece of its new ‘Treasures Gallery’.

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UCC President Professor John O’Halloran said it was an unique donation.

“This is a very historic moment for UCC. The Book of Lismore is a vital symbol of our cultural heritage. This extraordinary act of generosity by the Duke and the Cavendish family reaffirms the shared understanding between our respective countries and cultures, an understanding that is based on enlightenment and civility.”


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