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The First Printed Book in Irish

Powell's Boke of the common praier was printed in English using Roman type. Twenty years later, Queen Elizabeth I, then monarch of England and Ireland, paid for a set of Irish type to be cut under the direction of John Kearney, the Treasurer of St Patrick's Cathedral. This type was used to print the first book printed in the Irish language, the Aibidil gaoidheilge, & caiticiosma, an Irish alphabet and catechism. Elizabeth I's purpose in supporting this venture was to promote the evangelization of the many Irish speakers among the island's population.

The Aibidil is a flimsy, unprepossessing volume of just 54 pages, small enough for the owner to slip it into their pocket. In 1995 the Library of Trinity College Dublin, with the support of the National Heritage Council and the Friends of the Library, TCD, purchased the Aibidil at the Christie's auction of books formerly owned by the Marquess of Bute, thereby securing the only copy of this work held in an Irish institution.

Shelfmark: OL Safe

Lydia Ferguson

Dr Lydia Ferguson is Principal Librarian in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections. She is particularly interested in the history of books printed before 1800 and in 18th-and 19th-century children’s books.