In the first part of this post, I shared something of the contents of TCD MS 667, and its value as a witness to the cultural hybridity of the activity of friars in medieval Ireland, but I never explained what might lead one to locate it in the Dominican priory in Limerick. In fact, for about a century, it was thought of as a Franciscan, not Dominican, manuscript, and located usually in Co. Clare, rather than the town of Limerick. What changed all this?
Among the many religious communities in the medieval town of Limerick was St Saviour’s Priory, home to the Friars Preachers or Dominicans. Right at the northern edge of Englishtown, it was founded in 1227 under the joint patronage of Gaelic aristocrat, Donncha Cairbreach Ó Briain, and the English crown.
Like any community of friars, St Saviour’s was not a stand-alone entity, but a node in an international network of friars, through which texts, ideas, stories, and friars themselves travelled with ease across national and ethnic boundaries. Like communities of friars everywhere, the founding aim of St Saviour’s was to preach the Gospel at a popular level, in an engaging and entertaining fashion, not only to those who worshipped in their church, but throughout the hinterland.
As already discussed in this blog series, Dun Emer Press (1902-1908) and Cuala Press (1908-1946) books were renowned for both their content, contemporary literature, and their arts and crafts aesthetic. The Press differentiated itself from other private letterpress publishers by printing new material by important writers of the Irish literary revival. Most British private presses, to minimise costs and avoid paying fees to living writers, invariably issued out of copyright classic texts. From the start, Cuala’s production values were praised for their elementary design and execution, ‘a fine clearness is the prime trait in the hand-printed volumes of Miss Elizabeth Yeats’, they used an eighteenth century (c. 1725) Caslon ‘fashioned … Old-Face type, and it is with this that Miss Yeats works exclusively.’ In setting up her Press, Elizabeth Yeats was advised by printer, private press publisher, and powerhouse of the English Arts and Crafts Private Press Movement, Emery Walker. Due to Walker’s co-directorship of the Doves Press and his role as an advisor to William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, the Dun Emer and Cuala Press may be viewed as a key development within this revival of bespoke publishing.
30th November – 1st December 2023 at Trinity College Dublin
Manuscripts for Medieval Studies Project supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York
We are delighted to announce a Call for Papers for a symposium on ‘The Many Lives of Medieval Manuscripts’ as part of the ‘Manuscripts for Medieval Studies’ project, supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The symposium will take place on Thursday 30th November and Friday 1st December 2023 at Trinity College Dublin.
During my first year on the Carnegie Project, I had the opportunity to work on a group of five 15th-century manuscripts, mostly antiphonaries (choir books), ranging in size from 40×30 cm (TCD MS 101) to 54x38cm (TCD MS 77).
Three of the manuscripts (TCD MSS 77, 78 and 79) presented themselves, as is the case of a large number of other manuscripts from this period, in a typical 18th-century binding that had been “Executed for the College in 1741-1744 by the shop of John Exshaw of Dublin in speckled calf”; whether the original contemporary binding had been discarded during this process, or if the manuscripts had already been rebound before 1741, it’s difficult to say.
What is certain is that the contemporary medieval binding was replaced with a typical 18th-century full leather structure with hemp sewing supports laced-into laminated boards. At a later stage all three of the manuscripts were rebacked in the early 1900s with the use of poor-quality leather.