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Ireland asks Bodleian chiefs for return of historic manuscripts
Inscribed on vellum by monks at Innisfallen Abbey over a 300-year period, the Annals of Inisfallen document the history of Ireland between AD 433 and AD 1450.
The annals date back to the 12th century, and have only made one return visit to Killarney, County Kerry, near where they were written, in the 1980s.
Now Ireland’s Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan is requesting that the annals are returned so that they can be housed at historic Killarney House.
He said: “We’ll have the proper security at Killarney House to protect them, which we never had before.
“Up until now there was no place the annals could have been put on display.”
Mr Deenihan said he would be writing to the Bodleian Library to formally request that the manuscripts are repatriated.
He added: “A request will be made by the Irish Government to have them returned.
“It would be a major tourist attraction to the area and it’s fitting that they should be housed in Killarney near where they were written.”
The Annals of Inisfallen were inscribed in Irish and Latin and contain more than 2,500 entries.
The ruins of the abbey can still be seen on Innisfallen Island on Lough Leane, one of the lakes of Killarney.
Founded by St Finan in 646, the monks left the monastery in 1594.
Previous attempts to get the annals back have failed.
In 1981, Killarney Urban Council and the trustees of Muckross House in County Kerry wrote to Taoiseach Charles Haughey asking him to begin negotiations.
Then, in 2001, councillor Brian O’Leary made another bid to have the annals housed at Muckross House, but guaranteeing their security was not possible.
Other treasures at the Bodleian in Broad Street include several copies of the Magna Carta, one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.
Bodleian spokeswoman Suzanne de la Rosa said: “The Bodleian Library is not aware of any approach requesting that the annals are returned to Ireland.”
THE Annals of Inisfallen are contained in a single-bound volume, consisting of a year-by-year chronicle written in Irish and Latin, charting events in the history of Ireland from AD 433 to AD 1450.
They were originally copied from an earlier book in about 1092 but then continued down into the 15th century, with more than 40 different authors.
Thought to have been written by monks, the manuscript passed into the possession of Sir James Ware (1594-1666), an Irish historian and politician.
From him, it passed through several owners’ hands to Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755), who bequeathed the annals as part of a gift to Oxford University.
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