As it’s St Patrick’s Day today, I thought I’d write about an interesting Irish book I’ve been working on recently:
This is the first edition of an important Irish book, written by Andrew Donlevy (1680–1746), a Catholic priest who most likely trained in Ireland before leaving for France in about 1710, where he entered the Irish College. He ‘lamented the decline of the Irish language and worked to preserve its monuments. He recognized the language’s importance in religious education and was anxious to modernize the increasingly scarce Franciscan catechisms in Irish of the early seventeenth century. He was helped by Philippe Joseph Perrotin, who funded a school of Irish in the college to print catechisms and works of piety for the mission. As part of this scheme Donlevy published, in 1742, the bilingual An teagasg Críosduidhe, to which was appended a verse abridgement of Christian doctrine, compiled by Bonaventure O’Heoghusa, and Donlevy’s treatise, “The elements of the Irish language” [pp. 499–516]. Donlevy’s catechism, conceived as a resource book for more advanced religious education, was written in Irish; the English version was a literal translation. It is the most complete formal text in Irish for this period and draws on the author’s spoken Irish’ (Oxford DNB).
This is only the second book to be printed using this particular Irish type, cast by the Loyson type-foundry (for O’Begley’s English Irish Dictionary) in 1732. ‘Donlevy makes an interesting comment: “to such as have no better, nor much time to spare: They will likewise see, that the print is large, and much waste occasioned, through the necessity of placing the questions and answers, of both languages, directly opposite to each other; and that some paper is taken up by the quotations from Scripture”’ (Dermot McGuinne, Irish Type Design, 1992, p. 68). No more books were printed using it.