COUNTER-REFORMATION IN GAELIC

Parrthas an anma. Ina bhfhuil foirceadal beathadh an chriosduidhe … leigheann a shlánaighthe…

Louvain, [s.n.], 1645.

£3,950

FIRST EDITION. 12mo. pp. [xxvii], 503, [v]. Gaelic letter. Title with small woodcut ‘IHS’ device, small woodcut initials, large woodcut tailpieces, typographical ornaments, numerous woodcut text illustrations. Light age yellowing, title page dusty, mounted, a couple of words supplied in facsimile at head and tail, four leaves of prelims defective at inner upper corner and upper margin with text loss to first couple of lines on each, lacking most of final leaf e6, mounted on verso of e5, blank upper outer corner of last four leaves restored, just touching one page number, some soiling, heavier on first and last few leaves, small dark, mostly marginal, stains (wine?) in places, thumb marks. A good copy, in modern vellum over boards, green morocco label gilt, a.e.r.

Exceptionally rare early Gaelic printing, charmingly illustrated, the first edition of this work of personal devotion printed for the Irish market in Louvain. This is one of a small group of books from the first press to print and promote Irish writing in the vernacular. The press was an outgrowth of a concentration of scholars skilled in Irish and other languages at St. Anthony’s, the Franciscan college at Louvain, which acquired a press in 1611. Though their primary purpose was to train priests for the Irish and Scottish missions, they also published literary works for a wider Irish audience, later using commercial publishers (after the demise of this press). “The catechetical literature produced on the continent for distribution in Ireland consisted of three parts. First, a fundamental catechism by Bonaventure O’ hEoghasa was made available for the instruction of the laity; second, more elaborate manuals, treating of novel liturgical forms or of doctrines in contention between Protestant and Catholic, …; and third works such as Florence Conry’s edition of ‘Desiderius’ or Antonin Gearnon’s ‘Parrthas an Anma’ [Paradise of the Soul] were provided to assist the personal devotion of those, whether lay or cleric, who were previously familiar with essential Catholic doctrines. All of these were modelled on works that had already proved successful on the continent, but none was a direct translation since each had been adapted to suit the peculiar needs of the Counter-Reformation mission in Ireland” Charles H. E. Philpin ‘Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland’

“Domestic conditions made establishment of a Gaelic press in Ireland impossible. It fell, therefore, to the fledgeling Irish colonies in Europe to organise a print response to the Protestant offensive. The Franciscans were already familiar with the products of the Protestant press and even deigned to use them…. In 1611 the Irish Franciscans cut the Gaelic front and set up a printing press in Antwerp, which is soon moved to Louvain. It was in order to help the youth and others in Ireland against the false doctrine of other religions that the Franciscan press produced a small number of catechetical and devotional texts. Their circulation appears to have been limited to the Gaelic-speaking community then resident in Flanders though there is evidence that they also circulated in manuscript form in Ireland. Only a small number of publications came off the Irish press.. and between 1619 and 1641 the press does not appear to have been used at all. .. The meagre production was due, in part, to financial constraints, which exacerbated existing problems of composition, printing, and distribution. Low literacy rates in Irish were a factor and it seems Irish speakers who learned to read tended to become literate in English only.” Raymond Gillespie. ‘The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume III.’

“The Franciscans, for example, were at the forefront of the drive to print devotional works in Irish for the Gaelic speaking part of the Irish catholic church. .. And not only the language involved but also the format of these particular works indicate their intended audiences .. such smaller works were more easily hidden on the person… In Ireland, where possession of such recusant works could prove dangerous, it made sense to produce clandestine works in these smaller formats”. Crawford Gribben. ‘Enforcing Reformation in Ireland and Scotland, 1550–1700.’Exceptionally rare and early Gaelic printing. 

ESTC R223792. Wing, G439A. Only Newberry copy recorded in the US.

L3095

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