COMMISSIONERS POK THE PUBLICATION 01 THE ANCIENT
LAWS AND INSTITUTES OF IRELAND.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY GEORGE HENRY, EAEL CADOGAN, K.G.,
LORD LIEUTENANT-GENERAL AND GENERAL GOVERNOR OF IRELAND.
May it Please Your Excellency :
June 18, 1902.
We have recently had the honour of presenting to you the fifth and sixth volumes of the Ancient Laws and Institutes of Ireland.
They bring to a completion the work with the supervision of which we were charged.
The manner in which this closing portion of the Laws has been edited is a matter on which Celtic scholars, after a sufficient study of it, will pronounce; we believe it will be found to be executed with great ability; and a mere inspection of the Glossary to the entire text of the first five volumes which Dr.
Atkinson has constructed, will show the immense amount of patient and minute labour which has been expended upon it.
The present seems an appropriate occasion for briefly recapitulating the circumstances under which the great literary enterprise with which, we have been officially connected, was undertaken, and the measures by which it has been gradually conducted to a successful issue.
In the year 1851, the Rev.
Charles Graves, afterwards Bishop of Limerick, and the Rev.
James Henthorne Todd, both Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, submitted to the Government a statement in which they represented the desirability of having the Ancient Laws of Ireland, commonly called the Br eh on Laws, transcribed, translated, and published.
They dwelt on the importance of the suggested work as likely to throw useful light not only on Celtic Philology, but on the ideas, customs, and social constitution of the Irish people in past times, and even on some of their subsisting characteristics.
They urged that similar projects had been carried into effect in foreign countries, as in the publication, by the French Government, of the Frankish, Burgundian, and Yisigothic Codes, and, by the Danish Government, of the Icelandic Laws; and they pointed to the English preÂ¬ cedents furnished by the publication, at the national expense, of the Anglo-Saxon and Welsh Laws, all of which had proved valuable sources of inforÂ¬ mation to modern historical writers.
It was foreseen at the time that the task would be a difficult and laborious one, requiring the continued exertions for many years of those engaged in it.
But it was also felt that the time was a favourable one for entering on the undertaking, as there were available a certain number of competent workers, who had been trained under Dr.
Petrie and Captain Larcom in Irish topographical and antiquarian research during the progress of the Ordnance Survey, and who were thoroughly acquainted with the vernacular and accustomed to the treatment of Irish texts.
The Lords of the Treasury sanctioned the project, and Commissioners were appointed to superÂ¬ intend the work.