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06 Jul 2022

Priceless Book of Leinster written in Laois to be restored

Priceless Book of Leinster written in Laois to be restored

Laois may not have a county museum, but a priceless Irish book written here is to be restored and put on display next to the Book of Kells in Dublin.

Pages from the Book of Leinster, which was written in the 12th century, are to be restored and digitised for viewing online.

The painstaking conservation of the ancient handmade vellum pages, written in organic ink by monks, is thanks to funding from the Bank of America. 

The pages are long in safekeeping in Trinity College Dublin but are too delicate to be put on display or used by researchers, according to a report by RTÉ News this week.

The book was written over the course of 50 years by Abott of Terryglass in Tipperary Áed Úa Crimthainn and his pupils.

It was called Lebor na Nuachongbála, that is the "Book of Noghoval", written in a monastery in Oughaval in Stradbally.

The manuscript may have been commissioned by Diarmait Mac Murchada (d. 1171), king of Leinster, who had a stronghold in Dún Másc, the Rock of Dunamase, and passed down to Strongbow in a dowry with the King's daughter Aoife.

Written in Middle Irish, it contains stories, poems, medical knowledge and folklore. It has been described by Caoimhe Ni Ghormain, manuscripts curator at TCD, as a "snapshot of the middle ages".

Its 400 pages have separated but it is hoped that following conservation they can be rebound as a book. 

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Ms Bioletti said that the book captures different texts, decoration and imagery but was damaged prior to coming to Trinity College.

Restoration is expected to take 18 months.

"It brings this earlier language back to life and is a really important part of the tradition and our valuing of the past," she said.

The Book of Leinster will then form part of the Virtual Trinity Library, globally accessible online.

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