The first thing to be done was to copy the Brehon Law Manuscripts, which existed in the Libraries of Trinity College, Dublin, and of the Royal, Irish Academy, as well as those preserved in the Bodleian Library and m the British Museum.
This task was entrusted to the late Dr.
O'Donovan and Professor 0'Curry, who, it was universally believed, were the persons best qualified for the employment from their wide acquaintance with Irish literature, and their tried ability as Editors of Volumes issued by the Archaeological and Celtic Societies.
The Manuscripts wer.e
transcribed in anastatic ink, and thus a number of facsimiles procured, which not only served to facilitate the work of collation and indexing, but to provide copies for presentation to the principal Libra.
ries at home and abroad.
The transcripts occupied seventeen volumes, and employed those engaged on them for several years.
A preliminary translation of almost all the MS.
tracts which the Commissioners selected for publication was made either by Dr.
ODonovan or by Professor O'Curry; but unhappily those scholars did not live to complete and revise their translations, which were, in fact, in a great degree, provisional only, imperfections and errors being unavoidable in a fust attempt to accomplish what had been regarded by many previous experts as a hopeless task.
The fust volume was brought out in 1865, under the Editorship of William Neiison Hancock, LL.D.,
formerly Professor of Jurisprudence in Queen's College, Belfast, the Irish text being settled by Dr.
Only a few sheets, however, were read by the latter in second proof before his death.
The whole was afterwards read, and compared with the revised transcript by the Rev.
Thaddeus O'Mahony, Professor of Irish in the University of Dublin.
It was intended to submit the proofs to Professor O'Curry also, but this was prevented by his sudden death in 1862.
The second volume was prepared by Dr.
Hancock in conjunction with Professor O'Mahony, and was published in 1869.
Hancock having become incapacitated by serious illness from taking part in the continuation of the work, the Commissioners appointed Alexander George Richey, LL.D.,
Deputy Professor of Feudal and English Law in the University of Dublin, to prepare, in conjunction with Professor O'Mahony, the third volume, which appeared in 1873.
This completed the Senchus Mor and the Book of Aicill.
Richey and Professor O'Mahony were directed to proceed with the fourth volume, consisting of a number of miscellaneous tracts; but Professor O'Mahony's failing health having compelled him to retire from the work, the revision of the Irish Text, which he had not been able to complete, was carried out by Mr.
Hennessy, well known as a disÂ¬ tinguished Irish scholar.
was published in 1879.
After thelamented death of Dr.
Richey, the Commissioners entrusted to Robert Atkinson, LL.D.,
Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Grammar m the University of Dublin, the task of editing the remaining portion of the Laws, and constructing a Glossary to the entire text.
The whole work, long delayed by the singular fatalities which accompanied its progress, as well as by its inherent difficulties, is now completed by the issue of Volumes V.
so far as the MS.
sources originally contemplated are concerned.
But it is known that there are in other Libraries tracts bearing on the RrehonLaws, which have not been edited, or, indeed, properly examined.
And it is, we think, worthy of the consideration of the Government whether a competent scholar ought not to be employed to visit the Continental Libraries, and furnish a Report as to any additional matter which may be extant in them.
Whatever decision may be arrived at on this question, the volumes which have been laid before your Excellency place in the hands of Celtic philologists and philosophical jurists at home and abroad an imÂ¬ portant body of materials which must throw the most valuable light on the legal institutions and social system of Ancient Ireland.