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Lebor Bretnach

Lebor Bretnach, formerly spelled Leabhar Breathnach and sometimes known as the Irish Nennius, is an 11th-century historical work in Gaelic, largely consisting of a translation of the Historia Brittonum. It is traditionally attributed to the Irish poet Gilla Cóemáin, though some scholars now believe that it instead originated in Scotland.


  • Manuscripts 1
  • Sources 2
  • Authorship and date 3
  • Editions 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Lebor Bretnach exists in five manuscripts:

U. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 E 25 (1229). A 12th-century fragment in the Lebor na hUidre.

B. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 12 (536). A 14th-century manuscript known as the Book of Ballymote.

H. Dublin, Trinity College, MS H. 3. 17. Probably written in the 14th or early 15th century.

M. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS Stowe D ii 1. Known as the Book of Uí Maine, written before 1423.

L. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 2 (535) and Dublin, Trinity College, MS H. 2. 17, Vol. 2 (1319). Known as the Book of Lecan, written in 1427.[1][2]


Lebor Bretnach is a translation of a 9th-century historical collection purportedly written by Nennius, the Historia Brittonum, but not an entirely literal one. It only summarises the Historia Brittonum where that work deals with specifically Irish matters already familiar to Gaelic scholars, and in some other passages it includes additional material taken from, for example, the Sex Aetates Mundi, Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, and a Pictish king-list.[3][4]

Authorship and date

In two manuscripts of Lebor Bretnach, H and M, the translation is ascribed to the poet Gilla Cóemáin (fl. 1071/2).[5][4] This ascription is no longer universally accepted,[5] and the historian Thomas Owen Clancy has suggested that Lebor Bretnach was instead only intended to be dedicated to Gilla Cóemáin.[4] Though the translation has traditionally been considered an Irish work it is now argued by some that it was written in Scotland, probably at Abernethy, though intended for an Irish readership which had perhaps become interested in Scottish Gaelic literature and history as a result of the military success and prestige of the Gaelic kingdom.[6][7] There is more agreement about the date of the Lebor Bretnach, which is generally held to be about the middle or late 11th century.[8][5]


  • Includes English translation.  


  1. ^ Dooley 2004, p. 10.
  2. ^ "The Irish Version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius". CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts. University College, Cork. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Dooley 2004, p. 13.
  4. ^ a b c Fitzpatrick-Matthews 2007–2015.
  5. ^ a b c Dooley 2004, p. 11.
  6. ^ Evans 2005, p. 700.
  7. ^ Clancy, Thomas Owen (2000). "Scotland, the "Nennian" recension of the Historia Brittonum, and the Lebor Bretnach". In Taylor, Simon. Kings, Clerics and Chronicles in Scotland 500–1297: Essays in Honour of Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson on the Occasion of her Ninetieth Birthday. Dublin: Four Courts Press. pp. 87–107.  
  8. ^ Evans 2005, p. 11.


  • Evans, Nicholas (2005). "Scottish influence". In Duffy, Sean. Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge. pp. 699–700.  
  • Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith J. (2007–2015). "Lebor Bretnach". Historia Brittonum. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 

External links

  • Lebor BretnachTodd's 1848 edition and translation of at CELT
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