The original manuscript was compiled around 1400 for the Mac Donnchadha family of Tír Ailealla in south County Sligo. Three scribes worded on the project: Maghnas Ó Duibhgeannáin, Solamh Ó Droma and Robertus Mac Síthigh, under the direction of Domhnall Mac Aodhagáin whom they referred to as their teacher.

The manuscript was written in the house of Tomaltach Óg Mac Donnchadha and remained in the possession of the Clan until 1522. After the Mac Donnchadha chief was killed in a battle with the Ó Domhnaill Clan, Aodh Óg Ó Domhnaill bought the manuscript for 140 milk cows. In 1620 it is known that the manuscript was in Dublin and in 1686 it turned up in Trinity College Dublin.

In 1702 it was reported missing having been lent without security and it was some time in the possession of a man called Tadhg Ó Neachtain. In 1785 the manuscript was presented to the Royal Irish Academy by the Chevalier O’Gorman who allegedly purchased it from a millwright’s daughter in Drogheda.

 

In 1887 a photographic facsimile version was produced with an introduction by R. Atkinson and it is a copy of this that is on display here

 

The open page 295 (left column, line 5) includes the well known 9th century poem about the blackbird singing:

Old Irish

Modern Irish

English

Int én bec

An t-éan beag

The little bird

Ro léic feit

A lig fead

Which has whistled

Do rinn guip

De rinn a ghoib

From the end of a

Glanbuidi:

Ghlan-bhuí

Bright-yellow bill:

Fo-ceird faíd

Chaith sé fead

It utters a note

Ós Loch Laíg,

Ós cionn Loch Laíg

Above Belfast Loch

Lon do chraíb

Lon(dubh) de chraobh

A blackbird

Charnbuidi

Charn-bhuí

From a yellow-heaped branch.