Celtic Connections: Roderick O’Flaherty’s Letters Published

Richard (third left) presents a copy of the edition to the Irish President (second left) at at a reception at Aras an Uachtarain earlier this week.

We are excited to announce the publication by the Royal Irish Academy of Roderick O’Flaherty’s Letters to William Molyneux, Edward Lhwyd, and Samuel Molyneux: 1696-1709, edited by Professor of Diplomatic at Oxford (and CofK Steering Committee member) Richard Sharpe. A copy of the edition was presented to Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, earlier this week.

Visit publisher websiteO’Flaherty – in Irish Ruaidhri Ó Flaithbheartaigh – was an Irish aristocrat, historian, and voracious reader of documents who was one of the early modern world’s foremost experts on the antiquities of Ireland (elaborated most famously in his sprawling 1685 magnum opus Ogygia: seu rerum hibernicarum chronologia). Richard’s edition reproduces O’Flaherty’s extensive correspondence with three scholars: the Dublin-based natural philosophers William and Samuel Molyneux, and the Welsh naturalist and keeper of the Ashmolean Museum (and Cultures of Knowledge stalwart) Edward Lhwyd. The letters, almost unknown until now, connected O’Flaherty’s windowless, smoke-filled study in Cois Fhairrge west of Galway with the vibrant and expanding intellectual communities of Dublin and Oxford. In particular, O’Flaherty’s extensive epistolary commentaries on Lhwyd’s Irish-English Dictionary offer fresh insights into the creation of that linguistic masterwork (original sheets bearing O’Flaherty’s marginalia, sent as enclosures to letters, have survived among Lhwyd’s papers; an example can be seen below).

A page from the twelve surviving sheets of Lhwyd’s Irish dictionary, extensively annotated by O’Flaherty and originally transmitted by letter (TCD MS 1392, no. 8). Reproduced by permission of the Board of Trinity College Dublin.

The edition is meticulously and beautifully produced; the missives are equipped with extensive annotations, and are supplemented by bibliographical and biographical essays, representative manuscript images, and pullout family trees. Overall, the letters shed fascinating light on scholarly exchange and interaction across countries and cultures, on the native Irish scholarship of the seventeenth century, and on a hitherto neglected Celtic corner of the early modern European Republic of Letters.

Thanks to a generous subsidy from O’Flaherty Holdings, copies are available at the bargain price of 40 euros from the publisher’s website (with a further 15% discount when ordered online with the promotion code ‘Roderick’), a veritable snip for an edition of this kind. Here’s some pictures of the launch. Congratulations Richard!

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