EDWARD LHUYD'S COLLECTION OF IRISH MANUSCRIPTS By ANNE O'SULLIVAN, M.A. A Lexicographer to the Royal Irish Academy AND WILLIAM O'SULLIVAN, M.A. Keeper of Manuscripts, Trinity College Library, Dublin EDWARD LHUYD'S most recent biographer, R. T. Gunther, seems to have been altogether unaware that Lhuyd's splendid collection of Irish manuscripts did not suffer the fate of so many of his Welsh manuscripts and antiquarian notes in the fires at Hafod and at the London bindery whither Sir Watkin Williams Wynn had sent his purchases at the Sebright sale. Lhuyd, it is thought, intended to bequeath his library between Jesus College and the Bodleian. Unfortunately when he died in debt the University seized his books and neither his college nor the Bodleian would be a purchaser. Eventually in 1716 the manuscripts were bought, probably for £ 80, by Sir Thomas Saunders Sebright, the fourth baronet.1 He was succeeded by his son aged 13, also Thomas Saunders who died in 1761, who was in turn succeeded by his brother John, the sixth baronet. Sir John lived at Beechwood in Hertfordshire and was a friend of Edmund Burke. Burke noticed the Irish manuscripts in his friend's library and persuaded him to present them to Trinity College, Dublin.2 They reached the college library on 31 October 1786 when they were roughly listed by Theophilus O'Flanagan who had completed his work by 15 December.3 O'Flanagan lists forty- six manuscripts numbered 1 to 47.4 There seems to be no number 46. Into each manuscript he loosely inserted a numbered slip with 1 R. T. Gunther, Early Science in Oxford, xiv The Life and Letters of Edward Lhuyd (Oxford, 1945), 46, 555-7 A catalogue of the MSS. relating to Wales in the British Museum, II, 408-9. 2 Edmund Burke to Charles Vallancey, 15 August 1783 in Charles Vallancey, Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis, VIII (Dublin, 1807), 188-90. The earliest reference to Burke's discovery is in a letter from the Chevalier O'Gorman to Charles O'Conor of Belanagare, 18 September 1765, reporting on a visit to Burke. This letter is now bound into O'Conor's copy of Sylvester O'Halloran's, History of Ireland (London, 1778) belonging to Mr. L. B. Somerville-Large. 8 Library minute book. Theophilus O'Flanagan entered the College in 1784 aged 24 where he was Matthew Young's (see note 6) pupil. He became a scholar in 1787 and graduated B.A. in 1789. While still a student he published a paper on an ogham inscription from Mount Callan in Clare (R.I.A. Trans., I (Antiquities Sect.), 3-16). His knowledge of Irish was probably confined to the modern language. He appears as a borrower of Irish manu- scripts on special orders from the Board dated 13 May 1786 and 31 January 1790 (MS. V. 1. 20, fly leaves). 4 MS. V. 2. 23. See appendix II.