The Book of the Burkes

The Book of the Burkes, illuminated Gaelic manuscript, late 16th century.

A lavishly illuminated 16th century volume of seventy-five folios, twenty-two of which remain blank. It was made for Sir Seaán mac Oliver Burke, the McWilliam of Mayo. Sir Seaán was the McWilliam from 1571 to 1580, the book believed to have been the product of his patronage. Its production appears to have ceased upon his death, except for a few additions in 1584.

"It is, as far as we know, the last of the great family books written in Irish, but its text has remained rather bleak, the poems that were probably intended to fill the blank pages never having been copied".

The text is of two symmetrical documents in Irish and Latin respectively, containing many fanciful genealogical links between the Burkes and Charlemange, the Kings of Jerusalem, France and England. What distinguishes the Book of the Burkes from other late medieval Irish manuscripts is its


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