“It’s just beyond the beyonds of possibilities that this has been found”

A fascinating, but far too short, report on RTÉ news of the discovery by the National Museum of Ireland, through the intervention of a bulldozer, of extensive fragments of a manuscript of what appears to be an ancient Psalter, believed to have lain buried in a peat bog for as much as 1200 years – only two images are noted as having been released in the report[RealPlayer video]. While there’s little further detail on the Museum website, or anywhere else, the comments in the video report by Dr Pat Wallace of the National Museum of Ireland and the Head of Conservation, Rolly Read, are worth noting. Update National Museum of Ireland press release, and an Irish Times article, the Guardian also notes the find, and the wrong Psalm.. The BBC also reports More Images added courtesy of National Museum of IrelandFrom the RTÉ report:

It is understood the pages are those of a slim, large format book with a wraparound vellum or leather cover from which the book block has slipped.

Image courtesy of National Museum of Ireland

While in the news clip[RealPlayer], Dr Pat Wallace enthused – “The main significance of this find is that we never dreamed, in our wildest dreams, that anything like this would ever survive (A) and (B) that we’d be fortunate enough, by a miracle, to have discovered it. It’s just beyond the beyonds of possibilities that this has been found.. and has survived.. and is now going to be conserved in the museum laboratory.”

“It was found in the south midlands of Ireland, in a bog. Presumably it’s not in its original position, it’s been in its present position possibly as much as for 1200 years. It was made and belonged to an ancient Irish Christian monastery.”

While Rolly Read said – “Obviously it’s a tremendous responsibility.. that side of things is quite daunting, it’s something we are going to be able to deal with. It’s also an incredible privilege.. when I first started working in conservation I never thought this sort of material even existed. So the chance of actually being able to work on it is absolutely incredible.”

Image courtesy of National Museum of Ireland

Update From the National Museum of Ireland press release

It is impossible to say how the manuscript ended up in the bog. It may have been lost in transit or dumped after a raid, possibly more than a thousand to twelve hundred years ago.


Raghnall Ó Floinn, Head of Collections at the Museum, estimates that there are about 45 letters per line and a maximum of 40 lines per page. While part of Psalm 83 is legible, the extent to which other Psalms or additional texts are preserved will only be determined by painstaking work by a team of invited experts probably operating over a long time in the Museum laboratory.

Dr Bernard Meehan, Head of Manuscripts at TCD, has seen the discovery and has been invited to advise on the context and background of the manuscript, its production, and its time. He reckons that this is the first discovery of an Irish Early Medieval manuscript in two centuries. Initial impressions place the composition date of the manuscript at about 800 AD. How soon after this date it was lost we may never know.

More To note, for the benefit of the tin-foil hat wearing brigade, that there has been a clarification issued by the Museum on the Psalm