Irish tract on the origins of alphabets

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
A Middle Irish tract on the invention or discovery of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets.
First words (prose)
  • Cia ar-ránic litri na nEbraide?
f. 53ra.25–rb.20

A complete text, here one of several items that follow the Sex aetates mundi.

ff. 24vb.25–vb.35
beg. ‘Cia ar-ránic litri na nEbraide’

Breaks off imperfect. The manuscript contains only two sections of the Sex aetates mundi but the context is comparable, since several items, such as that on the naming of the continents, the first physician, etc., recur in this section of the MS.

  • Middle Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
(Possible) sources: EtymologiaeEtymologiaeLearned encyclopedic work by Isidore, archbishop of Seville (d. 636), towards the end of his life.
Related: Auraicept na n-écesAuraicept na n-écesSex aetates mundiSex aetates mundi



Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] McLaughlin, Roisin, “Fénius Farsaid and the alphabets”, Ériu 59 (2009): 1–24.  
This paper examines evidence for the existence of an alternative tradition to that found in Auraicept na nÉces concerning the role played by Fénius Farsaid in the invention of the alphabet of Irish and those of the three sacred languages—Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The sources to be considered are Auraicept na nÉces, In Lebor Ollaman, a Middle Irish text in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud 610, glosses on the copy of Auraicept na nÉces in TCD MS E 3.3 (1432) and the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville.
11–12 An edition based on the text in Laud Misc. 610, incorporating variant readings from Rawl., with English translation. McLaughlin explains in a footnote that she became aware of the copy in the Rawl. MS only after the paper was submitted.

Secondary sources (select)

Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí [ed.], The Irish Sex aetates mundi, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1983.
34 note 41 Brief note.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2023, last updated: June 2023