The Book of the Dun Cow

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  • Clonmacnoise

Leabhar na hUidre

Legend has it that when Ciarán went to Clonard to study with St. Finian, he brought with him a cow so that he could have a steady supply of milk. The cow was an excellent milker. It supplied milk not only to Ciarán, but also to many more students at the monastery. When the cow died, its hide was kept as a relic.

The Book of the Dun Cow, or Leabhar na hUidre in Irish, is named after this relic. It is an ancient manuscript dating from the twelfth century. It was written in Irish at Clonmacnoise.

The Book of the Dun Cow is the oldest surviving manuscript written in Irish. It contains the oldest versions of a number of famous Irish legends, such as the Táin Bó Cuailgne, or Cattle Raid of Cooley, and the Voyage of Bran.

The Book of the Dun Cow was written before printing machines were invented, so it was all done by scribes. It contains beautiful lettering and illustrations.

The leaves of the book are vellum, which is made from calf skin. The book has survived for over 900 years and is one of Ireland's national treasures. It is now kept in the library of the Royal Irish Academy.