Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 E 25

Lebor na hUidre
  • s. xi/xii
  • Irish manuscripts
23 E 25
Cat. no. 1229
Lebor na hUidre
(modern: Leabhar na hUidhre), “The Book of the Dun Cow”
The Lebor na hUidre takes pride of place as the earliest Irish manuscript in existence today which is written almost entirely in Irish. A good part of it is occupied with secular content. Tales of the Ulster Cycle are well represented with texts like Táin Bó Cuailnge, Mesca Ulad, Fled Bricrenn, Táin bó Flidais, etc.; as are tales belonging to the so-called Cycles of the Kings, e.g. Togail Bruidne Da Derga, Aided Nath Í ⁊ á adnacol insó, Genemain Áeda Sláne, the Mongán narratives, etc.; and works of pseudo-historical literature, e.g. Sex aetates mundi, Lebor Bretnach, Scél Tuain meic Cairill (and previously also the Lebor Gabála Érenn, now wanting).(1)n. 1 Kathleen Mulchrone • Thomas F. O'Rahilly • Elizabeth Fitzpatrick • A. I. Pearson, Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (1926–1970). Religious texts include Amra Choluim Chille, Dá brón flatha nime and a number of homilies.
Provenance and related aspects
s. xi/xii
11th/12th century
Hands, scribes
Anonymous [LU scribe A]Anonymous ... LU scribe ANo short description available
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Anonymous [LU scribe M]Anonymous ... LU scribe MNo short description available
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Anonymous [LU scribe H]Anonymous ... LU scribe HNo short description available
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The manuscript is written in three principal hands, which are known since R. I. Best, ‘Notes on the script of Lebor na hUidre’, Ériu 6 (1912), a detailed study of the script, by the letters A, M and H.
Hands indexed:
Scribe A The scribe believed to have first written parts of the manuscript. Anonymous [LU scribe A]Anonymous ... LU scribe ANo short description available
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Scribe M The main scribe and compiler. Has been identified with Máel Muire mac Célechair (d. c. 1106) on account of pen-trials which identify their author as Máel Muire (pp. 69-70; cf. the late medieval note on p. 37b). A dissenting view is that of Tomás Ó Concheanainn, ‘LL and the date of the reviser of LU’, Éigse 20 (1984), who suggests that the pen-trials rather belong to scribe H. Anonymous [LU scribe M, Id]Anonymous ... LU scribe M, Id
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.
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Scribe H Scribe H, so called because his additions suggest a taste for homiletic writings (e.g. Scéla na hEsérgi and Scéla laí brátha). H thoroughly revised the work, intercalating leaves to add new texts, adding glosses and sometimes erasing texts added by his predecessors to make room for his own interpolations. Anonymous [LU scribe H]Anonymous ... LU scribe HNo short description available
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The manuscript sources used by the three scribes/compilers do not survive, but some of them are explicitly accredited or can be inferred otherwise:
  1. The now lost Cín Dromma Snechtai is named as a source for a number of tales.
  2. The now lost Lebor Buide Sláni (The Yellow Book of Slane) is credited on p. 43a as the source for at least Serglige Con Culainn and possibly others.
  3. L's colophon on p. 39a tells that Aided Nath Í ⁊ a Adnacol was compiled by Flann Mainistrech and Eochaid úa Cerín, who drew on an indeterminate number of manuscripts in Armagh (belonging to Eochaid úa Flannacáin), in Monasterboice and elsewhere. Two such manuscripts are mentioned by name: the Lebor gerr (short book) in Monasterboice and the Lebor buide (yellow book) in Armagh. The colophon is also said to apply to Senchas na relec.
Codicological information
Fragmentary and disarrayed
The following is a table of contents based primarily on the description in the Catalogue of manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (fasc. 27, 1943) and the diplomatic edition by R. I. Best and Osborn Bergin (1929). The first title in italics refers to a normalised title or description, which is usually that of the corresponding entry in the present catalogue. Heading, incipit and explicit are written as given in the diplomatic edition, including expansion of abbreviations (indicated in italics).

The list below has been collated from the table of contents (if available on this page)Progress in this area is being made piecemeal. Full and partial tables of contents are available for a small number of manuscripts. and incoming annotations concerning individual texts (again, if available).Whenever catalogue entries about texts are annotated with information about particular manuscript witnesses, these manuscripts can be queried for the texts that are linked to them.



Kathleen Mulchrone • Thomas F. O'Rahilly • Elizabeth Fitzpatrick • A. I. Pearson, Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (1926–1970).

Primary sources This section typically includes references to diplomatic editions, facsimiles and photographic reproductions, notably digital image archives, of at least a major portion of the manuscript. For editions of individual texts, see their separate entries.

[dipl. ed.] Best, Richard Irvine, and Osborn Bergin (eds.), Lebor na hUidre: Book of the Dun Cow, Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1929.
CELT – edition (pp. 1-338): <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Diplomatic edition.
[facs.] O'Longan, Joseph, and Brian O'Looney, Leabhar na h-Uidhri, a collection of pieces in prose and verse in the Irish language, compiled and transcribed about A. D. 1100 by Moelmuiri mac Ceileachar, Dublin, 1870.
[dig. img.] “Royal Irish Academy”, Ó Macháin, Pádraig (director), Irish Script on Screen – Meamrám Páipéar Ríomhaire, Online: School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. URL: <>.

Secondary sources (select)

Best, R. I., “Notes on the script of Lebor na hUidre”, Ériu 6 (1912): 161–174.
Mac Eoin, Gearóid, “The interpolator H in Lebor na hUidre”, in: Mallory, James P., and Gerard Stockman (eds.), Ulidia: proceedings of the First International Conference on the Ulster Cycle of Tales, Belfast and Emain Macha, 8–12 April 1994, Belfast: December, 1994. 39–46.
Mulchrone, Kathleen, Thomas F. O'Rahilly, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and A. I. Pearson (eds.), Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, 8 vols, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1926–1970.
Vol. 6 (1943), fasc. 27: 3367–3379 (no. 1229). Reproduced on ISOS supra.
Ó Concheanainn, Tomás, “LL and the date of the reviser of LU”, Éigse 20 (1984): 212–225.
Ó Concheanainn, Tomás, “Textual and historical associations of Leabhar na hUidhre”, Éigse 29 (1996): 65–120.
Ó Concheanainn, Tomás, “Leabhar na hUidhre: further textual associations”, Éigse 30 (1997): 27–91.
Oskamp, Hans P. A., “Notes on the history of Lebor na hUidre”, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 65 C (1966–1967): 117–137.
Oskamp, Hans P. A., “On the collation of Lebor na hUidre”, Ériu 25 (1974): 147–156.
Oskamp, Hans P. A., “Mael Muire: compiler or reviser?”, Éigse 16:3 (1975–1976/1976): 177–182.
Thurneysen, Rudolf, Die irische Helden- und Königsage bis zum siebzehnten Jahrhundert, Halle: Niemeyer, 1921. 
comments: Part 1 (chapters 1-23): Allgemeines; Part 2 (chapters 1-85): Die Ulter Sage
Internet Archive: <link>
Walsh, Paul, “The Book of the Dun Cow”, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 5th series, 34 (1929): 449–464.
Walsh, Paul, “Restoration of LU, 1380”, The Catholic Bulletin 29 (November, 1939): 732–736.
Dennis Groenewegen,Patrick Brown
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