Book of the Dean of Lismore

The Book of the Dean of Lismore (Scottish Gaelic: Leabhar Deathan Lios Mòir) is a famous Scottish manuscript, compiled in eastern Perthshire in the first half of the 16th century. The chief compiler, after whom it is named, was James MacGregor (Seumas MacGriogair), vicar of Fortingall and titular Dean of Lismore Cathedral, although there are other probable scribes, including his brother Donnchadh[1] and William Drummond (Uileam Druimeanach), curate of Fortingall. It should not be confused with the similarly named Book of Lismore, an Irish manuscript from the early 15th century.

It is primarily written in the "secretary hand" of Scotland,[1] rather than the corr-litir style of hand-writing employed by Gaelic speakers in Ireland. The orthography is the same kind used to write the Lowland Scots variety of the Anglic languages, and was a common way of writing Scottish Gaelic in the Late Middle Ages.

Although the principal part of the manuscript's contents are in Gaelic, the manuscript as a whole is multilingual, and there are a significant number of texts written in Scots and Latin, including extracts from the Scots poets William Dunbar and Robert Henryson, and there is a great deal of Gaelic-English diglossia throughout the manuscript. Many of the Gaelic texts are of Irish provenance, and in the case of bardic poetry, Irish poems outnumber Scottish poems 44 to 21.

The patrons of the manuscript appear to have been the Campbells of Glen Orchy, and the manuscript itself includes some of the poetry of Duncan Campbell (Donnchadh Caimbeul) of Glen Orchy. The manuscript currently lies in the National Library of Scotland, as Adv. 72.1.37.

See also


  1. The Edinburgh Companion to the Gaelic Language, Edinburgh University Press, 2010, p. 14


  • Meek, Donald E., "The Scots-Gaelic Scribes of Late Medieval Perthshire: An Overview of the Orthography and Contents of the Book of the Dean of Lismore", in Janet Hadley Williams (ed.), Stewart Style, 1513-1542: Essays on the Court of James V, (East Linton, 1996), pp. 254-72

Further reading

  • Quiggin, E. C. (ed.), Poems from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, (Cambridge, 1937)
  • Ross, Neil (ed.), Heroic Poetry from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, (Edinburgh, 1939)
  • Watson, William J. (ed.), Scottish Verse from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, (Edinburgh, 1937)
  • Watson, William J., "Vernacular Gaelic in the Book of the Dean of Lismore", Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. 31 (1927)
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