Leabhar Mac Carthaigh Riabhach
Book of McCarthy Reagh
better known as: The Book of Lismore
RIA MS 23 P 2

Believed to have been composed just before 1417, the Book of Lismore is a vellum manuscript, prepared at the School of Lismore, in what is now County Waterford. It's creation is thus:

"The Book of Lismore was compiled from the lost Book of Monasterboice and other manuscripts in the latter half of the fifteenth century, for Finghin mac Carthaigh Riabhach and his wife Catherine, daughter of Thomas, eighth earl of Desmond" (Stokes 1890:v)1

The book contains a number of saints' lives, as well as the only copy of "The Siege of Knocklong"--a rare text detailing the battle between Cormac mac Airt and the King of Munster; it also markes the apperance of the druid Mogh Roith.2 The manuscript also contains "Caithreim Cellachain Caisil"--a detail of the wars between the Norse and the Irish, including material on Cormac mac Cuilennan, the bishop-king of Munster. It also contains a copy of the travels of Marco Polo.

The twelve saints' lives include those of Patrick, Columbcille, and Brigid--the three best-known and often-written-about saints of Ireland.

The manuscript was placed in the posession of Michael Cleary, one of the writers of The Annals of the Four Masters at Timoleague Abbey on June 20, 1629. It's history is then hazy, and went missing until 1814, when it was found, with a crozier, at the Castle of Lismore, originally built by Prince John in 1185. It was translated in 1890 by the scholar Whitley Stokes.


  1. Whitley Stokes quoted at http://ceallachan.users.50megs.com/cgenealogy.html
  2. For some reason, "The Siege of Knocklong", though quite interesting, is almost never translated. It contains a lot of details into what at least one scribe would have thought druidic magic was, including wearing a feathered headdress! It has been called "The Tain of Munster"--a reference to the Tain Bo Cuailnge of the Ulster Cycle.

1. Manuscript Information: http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/texte/ms-omit/manuscri.htm
2. Manuscript History:

  • "The School of Lismore" The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09284a.htm
  • The Genealogy of the Callahans: http://ceallachan.users.50megs.com/cgenealogy.html
    3. Saints' Lives: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G201001/index.html
    4. The Norse-Irish Wars: rmc.library.cornell.edu/Fiske/ireland.html
    5. The Seige of Knocklong. trans. Fr. Seán Ó Duinn. Irish American Book Co., 1993.
    Back to Medieval Celtic manuscripts
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