London, British Library, MS Harley 5280

  • Irish, Latin
  • s. xvi1
  • Irish manuscripts
  • vellum
Collection: Harley manuscripts
Harley 5280
manuscript miscellanies Irish narrative literature
Provenance and related aspects
Irish Secondary: Latin
s. xvi1
First half, possibly early part, of the 16th century. Flower raised the tentative possibility that the Tuathal addressed on f. 58v was the scribe’s father Tuathal Ó Cléirigh, who died in 1512, but dismissed the identification as uncertain and unsuitable for the purpose of dating the manuscript.
Origin, provenance
Origin: Ireland
No short description available

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Provenance: Ireland
No short description available

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Ulster/Cúige Uladh
No short description available

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ass. with Ó Cléirigh (Maol Mhuire mac Diarmada)
Ó Cléirigh (Maol Mhuire mac Diarmada)
(ob. 1583)
Poet to Toirdhealbhach Luineach Ó Néill; killed in 1583.

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The pen-trial on f. 11v refers to a Maolmhuire Ó Cléirigh. Flower suggests that this might be the scribe’s grandnephew of that name, son of Diarmaid mac Mathghamhna.
Later provenance: ass. with Casserly (Hugo)Casserly (Hugo)
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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See ff. 45v, 10, 77v, 78, and the seven paper leaves inserted at the beginning.
Later provenance: ass. with Spelman (Henry)
Spelman (Henry)
English antiquary and author. He was appointed commissioner to investigate and settle disputes over estates in Ireland and visited Ireland on three occasions, the first one in 1617. It may have been during one of these visits that Spelman acquired the Irish manuscript now known as BL MS Harley 5280. Spelman was member of the College of Antiquaries and his contacts included James Ussher.

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See ff. 12, 10 (endorsement addressed to him by Casserly).
Later provenance: EnglandEngland
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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ass. with Harley (Robert)
Harley (Robert)
First earl of Oxford and Mortimer.

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Harley (Edward)
Harley (Edward)
Second earl of Oxford and Mortimer in succession to his father Robert Harley.

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Hands, scribes
Hands indexed:
Main hand (Giolla Ó Cléirigh)

‘Gilla riabach mac Tuathail meic Taidc caim I Cleirich’ (f. 74r). For a study of the scribe’s orthography, see Mac Mathúna (1985).(1)n. 1 Meyer (1894), p. vi, offered a negative assessment of his competence as a scribe and scholar: “Gilla Riabach was an erratic and often careless scribe, nor did he understand much of the older language, while he seems to have had next to no knowledge of Latin. Hence his copy abounds with blunders and is on the whole very inferior in value to R [Rawl. B 512].”

Giolla Riabhach mac Tuathail Ó CléirighÓ Cléirigh (Giolla Riabhach mac Tuathail)
(fl. 15th/16th century)
Ó Cléirigh (Giolla Riabhach Mór)
Irish scribe, son of Tuathal son of Tadhg Cam Ó Cléirigh. He is the main scribe of the miscellany Harley MS 5820 and Rawlinson MS 514 containing Maghnus Ó Domhnall’s Life of Colum Cille. His own floruit cannot be pinned down with any precision but his father is kown to have died in 1512.
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Specimens (IIIF):
International Image Interoperability Framework logo.png
Hand (ff. 18v-20v) According to Flower, a hand, or more than one, appears on ff. 18-20v (Flower).
Codicological information
Distinct units
ff. 1-2
London, British Library, …  ff. 1-2

English account of the manuscript and its contents. Unsigned. See Astle (1784) for a transcription.

ff. 3-9

Paper leaves inserted at a later time.

Table of contents

Links to texts use a standardised title for the catalogue and so may or may not reflect what is in the manuscript itself, hence the square brackets. Their appearance comes in three basic varieties, which are signalled through colour coding and the use of icons, , and :

  1. - If a catalogue entry is both available and accessible, a direct link will be made. Such links are blue-ish green and marked by a bookmark icon.
  2. - When a catalogue entry does not exist yet, a desert brown link with a different icon will take you to a page on which relevant information is aggregated, such as relevant publications and other manuscript witnesses if available.
  3. - When a text has been ‘captured’, that is, a catalogue entry exists but is still awaiting publication, the same behaviour applies and a crossed eye icon is added.

The above method of differentiating between links has not been applied yet to texts or citations from texts which are included in the context of other texts, commonly verses.


While it is not a reality yet, CODECS seeks consistency in formatting references to locations of texts and other items of interest in manuscripts. Our preferences may be best explained with some examples:

  • f. 23ra.34: meaning folio 23 recto, first column, line 34
  • f. 96vb.m: meaning folio 96, verso, second column, middle of the page (s = top, m = middle, i = bottom)
    • Note that marg. = marginalia, while m = middle.
  • p. 67b.23: meaning page 67, second column, line 23
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 for 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.


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.

[dig. img.] British Library: digitised manuscripts, Online: British Library. URL: <>.

Secondary sources (select)

Catalogue of illuminated manuscripts [in the British Library], Online: British Library, ?–present. URL: <>.
Flower, Robin, Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the [British Library, formerly the] British Museum, vol. 2, London: British Museum, 1926.
– IIIF Presentation API v2: View in Mirador – IIIF Presentation API v3: View in Mirador
Gray, Elizabeth A., “Early seventeenth-century Hiberno-Latin tracts in Harleian 5280”, Journal of Celtic Studies 3 (1981–1982): 136–164.
Wright, Cyril Ernest, Fontes Harleiani: a study of the sources of the Harleian collection of manuscripts preserved in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum, London: British Museum, 1972.
97 (on Casserly), 310 (on Spelman)
Meyer, Kuno [ed. and tr.], Hibernica minora, being a fragment of an Old-Irish treatise on the Psalter, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Mediaeval and Modern Series, 8, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894.
Internet Archive: <link> TLH – Erchoitmed ingine Gulidi (ed. and tr.): <link>
British Museum, A catalogue of the Harleian manuscripts in the British Museum, vol. 3, London, 1808.
Internet Archive: <link>
258 [id. 5280.] Incl. extract from the description of the MS on paper at the beginning of the volume.
Astle, Thomas, The origin and progress of writing: as well hieroglyphic as elementary, illustrated by engravings taken from marbles, manuscripts and charters, ancient and modern, 1st ed., London, 1784.
Google Books: <link>, <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link>
130–135 + specimen 13 (after p. 128) Incl. a transcription of the account of the MS prefixed to the beginning of the volume (ff. 1-2).
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
November 2010, last updated: November 2023