Tionscadal na Nod, translated loosely as ‘The Scribal Abbreviation Project’, was conceived as a place to gather illustrative examples of Irish writing to make it easier for people to read the manuscripts. The initiative arose from a discussion on OLD-IRISH-L, an electronic mailing list devoted to early Irish language and literature. The project contains 0 examples of Irish scribal writing that were copied from manuscripts by Dennis King and Dennis Groenewegen. Some of these were already posted on the internet, but many new examples have been furnished since.

Facsimiles of many Irish manuscripts are available to everyone on websites such as the Irish Script on Screen project at Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. It is our hope that our annotated collection of examples will make it easier for students and others to read and enjoy the work of the scribes.

The project

For reasons of clarity and copyright, the samples of the collection are redrawn and abstracted from photographic exemplars as made available in digital form by the following online repositories:

O'Brien, Anne-Marie, and Pádraig Ó Macháin (director), Irish Script on Screen (ISOS) – Meamrám Páipéar Ríomhaire, Online: School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. URL: <>.
Oxford Digital Library, Early manuscripts at Oxford University, Online: University of Oxford. URL: <>.

An additional resource, which has been used for the Rennes manuscript, is

Guide to the images and their transcription

To elucidate the form, use and meaning of every scribal notation, we have made a number of editorial decisions. We hope that these are mostly self-explanatory, but you can consult the following guide in the event that anything is unclear to you.

Explanation Example
1. In order to give one a rough idea of the minim height and the relative position of each written symbol, a subtle blue baseline and a brown yellow mean line are added to each image. Please be aware, however, that these are little more than approximations. The reality tends to be messier and more whimsical than such orderly arrangements might suggest. Et-2.png Et-Div1f2rb.png Two examples for the digraph et which occur at different positions along the vertical axis. One stands at the baseline, while the other is lowered so that the top reaches the mean line. That the original Latin value could be used in Irish to represent et as part of a word is illustrated in the second image: tet, i.e. téit.
2. In the case of dependent graphs, such as superscripts and subscripts, a dotted circle is shown at the place where one would normally expect the other component to occur. In the accompanying transcription, a square (□) indicates the position of this other component. Ur-1.png Represents: » □ur (Irish) » □ur / □tur (Latin)
3. There may be more than one possible value in the transcription, although we cannot guarantee that we have covered them all. Multiple values are separated by a slash or comma. Further, separate transcriptions are given for Irish and Latin, although these may often overlap (as shown in the next example). Ocus.png G5f4r-té(i)t.png The first image shows the Tironian symbol for Latin et and Irish ocus / agus / et / ead (both early and modern transcriptions are included). That the Latin transcription et was transferred to Irish writing to represent et as part of a word is illustrated in the second image: te(i)t (i.e. téit).
4. A written symbol, notably the suspension stroke, may be used to indicate missing letters that cannot be deduced from the symbol itself. Sometimes, part of the transcription is relatively fixed, but an extra vowel may be implicit. In both of these cases, the transcription shows two round brackets to mark the place of the undefined value. R-with-susp-stroke.png An r with a suspension stroke, which represents: » r() or ()r
5. The function of symbols that have no phonemic value, such as critical signs, is given between rounded brackets. See Show:Tionscadal na Nod/Punctuation, critical signs and numerals


The samples are primarily drawn from Irish manuscripts that were compiled and written between the 11th/12th and 16th centuries, occasionally with some later examples added to the mix. The earliest specimens of the Irish language which have been preserved as glosses in continental Latin manuscripts are not presently covered, but may be considered in the future.

Digital reproductions of (portions of) the following manuscripts were consulted for the project: