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years ago the Editor of the present volume proposed to the Council of the IRISH ARCHÆOLOGICAL SOCIETY to print, with the assistance of his learned friend, Dr. Reeves, the celebrated Liber Hymnorum, now preserved in the Library of
Trinity College, Dublin. This beautiful MS., which cannot be assigned to a later date than the ninth or tenth century, may safely be pronounced one of the most venerable monuments of Christian antiquity now remaining in Europe. It preserves to us a considerable portion of the ritual of the Church of Ireland, as it existed before the English Conquest, and before the attempt to establish uniformity with the Church of England by the introduction of the Salisbury use into Ireland, in the twelfth century.
A large number of the Hymns which it contains have never been published, and are wholly unknown to the learned. The Latin Hymns are accompanied throughout by a gloss, partly Latin and partly Irish, and scholia, very interesting in a philological point of view ; whilst those of them which are written in the Irish language are, setting aside their historical importance, most valuable, from their great antiquity, to the student of Celtic literature.
But the inherent difficulties of the work, as well as its expense, have hitherto deterred the Editor and the Society from proceeding with the publication. It was ascertained also, that an ancient copy of it, which had formerly belonged to the Franciscan Monastery at Donegal, is preserved in the Library of St. Isidore's College at Rome, and as a second copy would necessarily be of essential service in supplying the defects, and correcting the obscurities or the errors, of the Dublin MS., it was thought desirable to wait until an attempt had been made to get access to the MIS. at St. Isidore's.
Time, however, is going on, and every year's delay is fraught with danger. The death of any one of the eminent Irish scholars, who have been so long engaged in the study of our ancient records, would render it impossible to bring out the work, at least the Irish portion of it, with the same fulness of illustration and
accuracy which may now be attained. It seems desirable, therefore, to delay no longer the publication of this most important monument of our ecclesiastical history. Although the possession of another copy would, no doubt, be an immense advantage, yet it is better that the work should be edited from a single manuscript than not at all; and if at any future time we should be permitted to examine the copy now at Rome, it will be easy to give the results of the collation in an Appendix.
Influenced by these considerations, the Editor took occasion, from the union of the Archæological and Celtic Societies, to propose to the Council the immediate publication of this important work; and, to meet the objection on the score of expense, he suggested the expe. dient of printing it in parts or fasciculi, to be brought out from time to time, as the funds at the disposal of the Society may permit.
The volume now presented to the Society is the first instalment, issued in pursuance of this design. It contains the text of the Hymns exactly as it stands in the Liber Hymnorum, without any attempt at emendation, even where there is a manifest error of the scribe ; and
this part of the work has been printed in a type which, although it does not pretend to be a fac-simile, will give the reader a very correct idea of the characters in which the MS. is written.
The gloss has been printed, not over the words or down the margin, as in the original (for this would be attended with considerable and needless expense), but separately, or in the Notes, in a manner which it is hoped will be sufficiently clear and accessible to the scholar;—and this is all that the Editor has aimed at.
The Notes are confined to the elucidation of the text, the verification of obscure references, the explanation of obsolete words, and the collection of such various readings as have resulted from the collation of other copies of the several Hymns, whenever such were accessible. When longer illustrations are necessary, they are given at the end of each Hymn, in the form of an Appendix, or Additional Notes ; and it has been thought desirable to place these at the end of each Hymn, instead of at the end of the volume, in order that each fasciculus
may be, as far as possible, complete in itself; and that the whole work, when finished and brought together, may be found to have proceeded on an uniform plan.
It has not been thought necessary to add to the bulk of the work by giving English translations of the Latin portions of it; but the Irish Hymns, notes, and glosses, are everywhere accompanied by an English translation. In the original MS. every word, whether Irish or Latin, is written in the only character known to the scribes of the time, namely, that which is now preserved in Ireland only, and which is known as the Irish letter. But in printing those glosses or scholia which are in Latin, it has been thought advisable, as superseding the necessity of an interpretation, to employ the ordinary Roman type, the Irish words or sentences which occur in the gloss being uniformly printed in the Irish character, and followed by an English translation.
The contents of the book will be more fitly described, and its age and character discussed, when the whole is completed. It should
be observed, however, that although it is properly described as an Antiphonary, or Book of Hymns, it contains, nevertheless, several prose documents, such as the Epistle of our Lord to Abgarus, King of Edessa, the Prayer of St. John with which he rendered harmless the poisoned cup, &c.
In the present edition each Hymn or prose document is printed separately, and is preceded by a special introduction, pointing out the authorities, printed or manuscript, which have been employed in the illustration of it, with such remarks on its age and authorship as may seem to the Editor to be necessary.
The Editor is under deep obligations to Mr. Eugene Curry, without whose assistance the present work could not have been undertaken. He has also to return thanks to Dr. O'Donovan, and to the Rev. Dr. Reeves, of Ballymena, for much valuable information and many important suggestions during the progress of the work.
Special thanks are due to the Hon. Algernon Herbert, for many acute and learned remarks, of which the Editor has availed himself in several places.
J. H. T.