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Just 300 Out Of Thousands Of Medieval Irish-Language Manuscripts Still Exist

ramonmercado

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Missing medieval manuscripts.

Just 300 out of thousands of medieval Irish-language manuscripts still exist​

Just 300 out of thousands of medieval Irish-language manuscripts still exist

Lavishly illustrated German manuscript containing the Arthurian romance of Wigalois. Picture: Leiden, University Library

THU, 17 FEB, 2022 - 19:00
MICHELLE MCGLYNN

Thousands of medieval Irish-language manuscripts have been lost to the sands of time.

At a time when pop culture is laden with stories of Vikings, monarchs past and other tales set in the Middle Ages, it has emerged that we are missing thousands of stories that could have provided us with rich source material and insights into our past. New research has revealed that over 3,000 ornate scripts telling tales of heroism and chivalry have been lost over the centuries. Just over 300 of these Irish-language manuscripts exist today according to a new international study.

Researchers from Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, England, the Netherlands and Taiwan found that more than 90% of European manuscripts from the Middle Ages no longer exist.

The study showed that 80% of prose tales in Irish, Icelandic and German survive while for Dutch, English and French literature fewer than 50% of works are still known.
The Irish member of the research team, Professor of Modern Irish at University College Cork Pádraig Ó Macháin said the findings indicate the remarkable affinity between the island cultures of Ireland and Iceland.

Opening of medieval Irish tale Cath Leithreach Ruibhe. Picture: Royal Irish Academy


Opening of medieval Irish tale Cath Leithreach Ruibhe. Picture: Royal Irish Academy

The study is the first attempt to quantify the loss of medieval manuscripts over time and compare them to trends in other countries..

It examined how those losses affected the loss of individual texts, in this case, prose tales, Prof Ó Macháin explained.

"Such was the distribution of these tales across many manuscripts that stories could still survive in single copies despite the loss of multiple other copies."

In order to carry out the research, the international scholars employed models developed in ecological studies where researchers estimate how many rare species are missing based on the surviving numbers. For this study, the team calculated the survival rates for six medieval language areas separately and observed that there are huge differences in these survival rates within Europe.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40810830.html
 
300 of "thousands" survive, yet:

The study showed that 80% of prose tales in Irish, Icelandic and German survive while for Dutch, English and French literature fewer than 50% of works are still known.

Are these prose tales being referred to as a separate entity to manuscripts overall?
 
In Ireland's case the burning of dozens, if not hundreds, of private collections in country houses (and the national archives in Dublin) buring the 1922 Civil War may account for a lot of the very poor survival rate.
 
In Ireland's case the burning of dozens, if not hundreds, of private collections in country houses (and the national archives in Dublin) buring the 1922 Civil War may account for a lot of the very poor survival rate.

Most of those documents would have been in Norman French or English, the languages of the occupiers. Still a great loss though. It's worth noting that the "country houses" were the mansions of the Ascendancy, they were burned in retaliation for the burning of real country houses, farmers homes, by Crown forces.
 
War is stupid. :(
 
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