Continuity and change from vellum to paper in the Gaelic manuscript: bindings and book-size

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Ó Macháin, Pádraig
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This study is concerned with a survey of Gaelic vernacular manuscripts from the vellum tradition (1100–1600) and from the first two phases of the paper tradition (1468–1600, 1600–1700), the first phase of which ran in parallel with the end of the vellum era.2 The survey is predicated on the understanding that it is not possible to discuss the use of paper as a manuscript material in Gaelic tradition without also understanding the use of calfskin vellum, the material that it replaced, which had been in use continuously since writing and book-craft were brought to Ireland with Christianity in the fifth century. The gospel books, psalters, missals and scholastic books created in monasteries and surviving in insular script from the early-Christian era down to the twelfth century are testament to the ecclesiastical and Latinate foundations that lie beneath the creation of books in the vernacular. As literature in the vernacular existed from at least the eighth century, it follows that vernacular manuscripts must have existed since that time also. Today, however, the earliest vernacular manuscripts survive only from the twelfth century, emerging at a time of Church reform and the beginnings of Anglo-Norman settlement.
Gaelic vernacular manuscripts , Vellum tradition , Paper tradition
Ó Macháin, P. (2022) 'Continuity and change from vellum to paper in the Gaelic manuscript: bindings and book-size', Paper Stories: Paper and Book History in Post-Medieval Europe, Reykjavík, Iceland, 5-6 May.
© 2022, Pádraig Ó Macháin.