Yellow Book of Lecan

The Yellow Book of Lecan (Leabhar Buidhe Leacáin), or TCD MS 1318 (olim H 2.16), is a late medieval Irish manuscript. It contains much of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, besides other material. It is held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Leabhar Buidhe Leacáin
Trinity College Library
Also known asYellow Book of Lecan
DateBetween 1391 and 1401
Place of originLecan
Language(s)Middle Irish
Scribe(s)Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh et al.
Size32 cm × 22 cm
ScriptIrish minuscule
ContentsUlster Cycle etc.


Location of Lecan (Leacán) in Ireland

The manuscript is written on vellum and contains 344 columns of text. The first 289 were written by 1391; the remainder were written by 1401. It is written in Middle Irish.[1] Lecan was the site of the Mac Fhirbhisigh school of poetry in the territory of Tír Fhíacrach Múaidhe, now Lackan in Kilglass parish, County Sligo (54°14′31″N 9°04′19″W / 54.242°N 9.072°W / 54.242; -9.072). The manuscript is currently housed at Trinity College, Dublin. It should not be confused with the Great Book of Lecan.[1]

The book contains nearly the whole of the Ulster Cycle, including a partial version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge which is a compilation of two or more earlier versions, indicated by the number of duplicated episodes and references to other versions in the text.[n 1] This incomplete Táin Bó Cúailnge overlaps with the partial version given in the Book of the Dun Cow; the complete text known today was derived from the combination of these recensions. The version of Fergus mac Róich's death tale in the Yellow Book of Lecan is the oldest one that survives. The Yellow Book of Lecan also contains parts of the Táin Bó Flidhais or the Mayo Táin, a tale set in Erris, Co. Mayo.

In addition to that material which would be placed with certainty within the Ulster Cycle, the book has a later version of The Voyage of Máel Dúin, a collection of Irish triads, and the same ogham tract as is recorded in the Book of Ballymote. Also of note is Suidiugud Tellaich Temra ("The settling of the manor of Tara"). It contains a story of the life of Saint Patrick as told by Fintan mac Bóchra that contains the account of Trefuilngid Tre-eochair, a giant at the Hill of Tara who is first to hear about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.[1][n 2]


Edward Lhuyd obtained the book from one of two sources; Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh about March 1700 at An Pháirc, An Spidéal; or from Dáithí Óg Ó Dubhda of Bunnyconnellan, County Sligo, in the same year. Ó Flaithbheartaigh and Ó Dubhda would have obtained them from Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, whose family created and preserved the book. Lhuyd bound together seventeen manuscripts as a single volume and dubbed them The Yellow Book of Lecan.

Some of the manuscripts were written by Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh between c.1398 and c.1417. Nollaig Ó Muraíle calls it

a great composite manuscripts. Ninety-nine folios of Giolla Isa's survive (which may be termed, for convenience, 'Leabhar Giolla Íosa' – LGÍ), containing some of the most important Irish literary texts from the Old and Middle Irish periods, including the only (virtually) complete copy of Rescension I of Táin Bó Cúailnge. Two colophons by Giolla Íosa indicate 1392 as the date of writing, though the work may not have been brought to completion for some years after that

Giolla Íosa was assisted by his student, Murchadh Ó Cuindlis. Ó Cuinnlis penned an excellent manuscript in east Ormond (now County Tipperary in 1398–99) which is now part of YBL.

Giolla Íosa wrote that he "wrote this book for himself and for his son after him", and elsewhere, that it was "for himself and his family after him."

Ó Muraíle further states: "That is one index of Giolla Íosa Mac Fir Bhisigh's importance; to his scribal labours we owe the preservation of the most celebrated of medieval Irish tales, Táin Bó Cúailnge." (p. 23) YBL also contains Aided Nath Í, Togail Bruidne Dá Derga, Táin Bó Fraích, Longes ma nUislenn; Dá Brón Flatha Nime and Mesca Ulad by his son, Tomás Cam Mac Firbhisigh.

In 1986 (see below) Professor Tomás Ó Concheanainn stated his belief that much of the Yellow Book of Lecan/Leabhar Giolla Íosa was derived from Leabhar Gleann Dá Locha (The Book of Glendalough) and Lebor na Nuachongbála now The Book of Leinster.

A fragment of the Yellow Book is in the hand of Solamh Ó Droma, one of the three scribes of the Book of Ballymote.

Lhuyd derived the title from a note by Ciothruadh Mac Fhirbhisigh:

[Leab]ar an Buide Leacain anim an leabhair so; mise Cirruaidh mac Taidg Ruaidh

The Yellow Book of Lecan is the name of this book; I am Ciothruagh son of Taidg Ruaidh


The numbering for the texts given below is both by column (as in the manuscript) and by number of pagination (as in the facsimile edition). The titles here do not necessarily refer to the titles given in the manuscript (if any), but conform to those of the main recensions.[n 3]

columns page text
1–2 436-7 Life of St. Féchín of Fore (fragment 1)[2]
3–87 255, 283 Sanas Cormaic 'Cormac's Glossary', text B
88–122 421-31 Etymological tract: O'Mulconry's Glossary
123-4 432-3 One leaf with the beginning of Togail Bruidne Da Derga
125-8 434-5 Life of St. Féchín of Fore (fragment 2)[2]
128–216 361–404 Duanaire or Book of Miscellaneous Poems, written by Seanchan, son of Maelmuire O'Maelchonaire in 1473. Includes Aibidil Luigne maic Éremóin 'The alphabet of Luigne mac Éremóin'.
217 405 Cáin Domnaig 'The Law of Sunday'
221 407 Regula Mochuta Raithin
224 ? On the Célí Dé.[3]
227 (line 8) 410 Rhapsody of the Irish prophet Bec mac Dé
228b (line 17) 410 Apgitir Chrábaid (maxim)[4]
229a (line 42) 411 Bríathra Flainn Fhína maic Ossu 'The wise sayings of Flann Fína Or Aldfrith, son of Oswiu'.
233 413 96-line poem ascribed to Flann Fína
234 (line 3) – 236 413b-414b Audacht Morainn 'The Testament of Morann', a Speculum principum or 'Mirror of princes'
236 414 Trecheng Breth Féne, known as the "Triads of Ireland".
244 418 Tech Midchuarta (plan and description).
245 419 Suidigud Tige Midchuarta (poem).
247 420 Short account of the twelve Apostles
248 420 Poem ascribed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin
249 284 History of the Jews from Abraham to David.
281–310 Cath Maige Rath 'The Battle of Mag Rath' (cols 281-2 barely legible). Cf: cols 945-9.
310 313b-318b Aided Muirchertaig meic Erca 'The Death of Muirchertach mac Ercae'
320 (line 14) 318 Poem ascribed to Columcille
321 319 Fled Dúin na nGéd 'The Banquet of the Fort of the Geese'
332 (line 45). 324 First rann by Mac Liag, bard of Brian Boru.
333 325 Fianṡruth, list A
335 326 Short account of St. Cuimín Fota, metrical dialogue between him and St Comgan (Mac Da Cherda 'The son of two arts')
336 326 Metrical prayer by St. Mael Isa O'Brallaghan
336 (line 17) 326 Scúap Chrábaid 'Besom of Devotion', litany ascribed to Colcu ua Duinechda
between 336 and 337 small scrap of vellum
338 (line 4) 327 Irish Litany to the Holy Trinity (first words in Latin: "O Deus Pater omnipotens, Deus exercituum, miserere nobis")
338b (line 4) 327 List of Archbishops of Armagh from St. Patrick to Giolla Mac Liag (Gelasius).
338b (line 69) 327 Short genealogical account of the Clann Breasail
339 328 Frithfolaid ríg Caisil fri túatha Muman 'The counter-obligations of the king of Cashel towards the peoples of Munster' (first recension).[5]
340 Poem ascribed to St. Moling, entitled Baile Moling 'St Moling's Ecstasy/Prophecy' (47 stanzas)[n 4]
341 329 Tochmarc Moméra 'The Wooing of Moméra'
343 (line 31) 331 Various extracts:

1. how Finn mac Cumaill made peace between Glangressach, chief ollam of the Meic Miled, and Sodelb, daughter of Cormac;[6] 2. Aided Fergusa maic Roig 'The Death of Fergus mac Róich' (how Fergus mac Róich went to Connaught after his murder of the sons of Usnech, and of his death); 3. the arrival of Silvius, grandson of Ascanius, in Britain.

344 (line 31) 330 Account of celebrated trees of Ireland prostrated by a storm in the year 665.
344 (line 54) 330 Account of St. Bec mac Dé.
345 (ff. 6) 331 Táin Bó Flidhais (fragment).
365-6 A short account of the mother and five sisters of St. Patrick.
367-8 Illegible
after 368 Inserted letter written by Thaddæus Roddy of Crossfield in 1700
370 i Fragment of 8 ff. Immram curaig Maíle Dúin 'The voyage of Máel Dúin's coracle'. On ff. 380-1, a footnote reads "The Yellow [Book] of Lecan is the name of this book. I [am] Cirroe, the son of Teige Roe."
391 (line 16) 11 Immram Snédgusa ocus Maic Riagla 'The Voyage of Snedgus and Mac Riagla'
395 (line 37) 13 Immram Brain maic Febail 'The Voyage of Bran mac Febaill'
397 (line 8 from foot) Irish homily
400 (line 26) or 399 (?) 16 Echtra Condla 'The adventure of Connla'. Cf: cols 914-5.
401 438–455 Fragment of nine ff. Dindsenchas of Tara and Aicill, all down to Slíab Mairge. The dindsenchas on Tara includes Turim Tigi Temrach "The enumeration of the House of Tara" (cols. 403).
437a-450 341-66 Medical treatise (fragment, 10 ff). See further col. 463, 465–6
477–86 454–7 Medical treatise on four elements (fragment), de semine animalium; de virihus animalium.
487-99 456-62 Commentary on seventh book of the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (2–59), ascribed to Gillapatrick Albanach in 1413 on the penultimate page. These ff. (cols. 477–499) "were formerly inverted by mistake of the binder, and the numbering of the cols, was perverted accordingly."
500 217 Leabhar Ollamhan, including the Auraicept na n-Éces 'Poets' Primer', a treatise on Ogam, etc. (ff. 18 1/2), written in 1408. Irish notes written by scribe at the bottom of several pages.
549 241b-251b Immacallam in dá Thuarad 'The Colloquy of the Two Sages'.[7]
570-2 (252) Catechism, beginning with the maxims of St. Fursa; cf: col. 228.
573–958 Probably part of the Yellow Book of Lecan
573–619 17 Táin Bó Cúailnge
620 41 Account of Ailill's and Medb's heroes
644 53 Táin Bó Dartada 'The Raid of the Cattle of Dartaid'
646 Táin Bó Regamon
648 Táin bó Regamna
649 Táin bó Fráich
658 60 Táin bó Aingen = Echtrae Nerai
662 62 Account of the Patriarchs (Old Testament)
680 71 Amra Coluimcille 'Songs of Columcille', written by Dallan Forgaill
690 74 a 31 Longes Labrada 'The Exile of Labraid ('Lorc' Loingsech)'
700 81 Homily In Teanga Bithnua 'The New Tongue'
705 81 Continuation of In Teanga Bithnua (four columns)
707 86 Immram Snedhghusa acus mec Riaghla "The Voyage of Snedgusa and Mac Ríagla", also Eachtrae clerech Choluimcille 'The adventures of Columcille's clerics'.[8] Cf: the different version at col. 391.
716 91 Togail Bruidne Da Derga 'The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel'
between 731–2 In O'Donovan's time, four paper leaves now transferred to the end of the book. One leaf tells of Brian Boru.
740 105 Suidiugud Tellaich Temra 'The Settling of the Manor of Tara'
749 (line 20) 109 Longes mac n-Uislenn 'The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu
754 112 Orgain Denna Ríg 'The Destruction of Dind Ríg'
756 (line 47) 113 Esnada Tige Buchet 'The Songs of Buchet's House
759 (line 5) 105 Fled Bricrenn ocus Loinges mac nDuíl Dermait 'Bricriu's Feast, and the Exile of the sons of Dóel Dermait'
765 s.f. 117 Tochmarc Becfhola 'The Wooing of Becfhola'
768 (line 36) 119 Fianṡruth, List B
770b (line 24) 120 How Enoch and Elijah were taken up into Heaven
772 (line 40) 121 Stories about King David of Israel
776 (line 47) 123 Aided Con Roí 'The Violent Death of Cú Roí'. On the deaths of Cú Roí mac Dáire and Blathnát.
780 (line 27) 125 Poem (78 ranns) by Flanacan son of Cellach, king of Bregia
781 (line 43) 125 Clesa Conculaind 'The Feats of Cú Chulainn'
782 (line 126) 126 Assembly of Druim Cet
783 (line 44) 126b Aided Néill Nóigíallaig maic Echdach Muigmedoin 'The Death of Niall of the Nine Hostages'
785 (line 21) 127 Elegy on the death of Niall of the Nine Hostages (15 ranns)
786 128 Gein Branduib maic Echach ocus Aedáin maic Gabráin 'The Birth of Brandub son of Eochu and of Aedán son of Gabrán'
786 (line 46) 128a-132b Scéla Cano meic Gartnáin 'The Story of Cano son of Gartnán'
795 132 Part of Cath Cairn Chonaill 'The Battle of Carnn Conaill'
795 (line 21) 133 Story about St. Colman mac Duach and King Guaire
797 (line 12) 133 Story about King Guaire, Mac Dá Cherda and Cuimín Fota.
798 s.f. 134 Story about Mac Dá Cherda son of Mael Ochtrach
800 (line 34) 135 'Why Mongán was Deprived of Noble Issue', story about Mongán, Eochaid the chief poet of Ireland, and Fiachnae mac Báetáin, king of Ulster.
802 136 Stories about Mac Dé (and Diarmait mac Cerbaill)
803 (line 22) 136 The Conversion of Constantine and the Finding of the Cross
805 (line 13) 137 On the first satire composed in Ireland by Cairbre for Bres mac Eladan
806 (line 7) 138 On King Salemon of Greece
807 (line 8) 138 On the beheading of the John the Baptist and poem on the four Herods by the poet Bran
808 (line 9) 139 Tréide Cétna Labratar iarna Genemain? On the three persons in Ireland who spoke directly after birth.
810 (line 40) 140 Description of the Banqueting Hall at Tara, cf: col. 244.
811 (line 23) 140 Poem on the sons of King Cormac mac Airt; short notes on St Patrick
812–823 141 Passion of the Lord
823 Gospel of Nicodemus
839 (line 19) 154 Homily of the Blessed Virgin
852-7 161-3 'Dialogue of the Soul and Body'
857 fin. 163 Word from the scribe, Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh in 1380.
858 164 Short story about St. Columcille and Aidan son of Gabrán
858 (line 23) 164 'Precepts of Gregory of Rome'
860 165 Life of Gregory
863 (line 38) 166 Tegasc Rig Solmain meic David 'Instructions of King Solomon son of David'
869 (line 9) 169 Homily on Michael the Archangel
869b 169 Poem (15 ranns) and description of the 17 wonders on the night of Christ's birth; memorandum by a later Mac Firbis.
869c-d, 870–875 171 Aided Díarmata meic Cerbaill 'The Death of Diarmait mac Cerbaill' in prose and verse[n 5]
875 (line 28) 174 On the migration of the Ciarraighe into Connaught
876 (line 6) 175 Tochmarc Étaíne 'The Wooing of Étain'
877 (line 28) 175 Fotha Catha Cnucha 'The Cause of the Battle of Cnucha'
878 (line 47) 176 Abbot Hugh on a legend about the Dagda and others of the Tuatha Dé Danann
880 177 Tochmarc Lúaine 7 Aided Athairne 'The Wooing of Lúan and the Death of Athairne'
885 (line 26) 179b-180a Compert Conchobair 'The Conception/Birth of Conchobor'
886 (line 48) 180 Geneamuin Chormaic Ua Chuind 'The Birth of Cormac mac Airt'
889 (line 26) 181 Echtra Cormaic i Tír Tairngire 'Cormac mac Airt's Journey to the Land of Promise'
898 (line 10) – 906 186 Aided Chrimthainn meic Fhidaig 7 Trí Mac Echach Muigmedóin 'The Death of Crimthann son of Fidach and of Eochaid Muigmedóin's three sons'
902 (line 41) 188 Echtra mac n-Echach Muigmedóin 'The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon'
906 (line 9) 190 Imtechta Moga Ruith 'The Adventures of Mog Ruith'
907 190 The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann. On the Tuatha Dé Danann and their magical education, with a poem on the same.[9]
907 Scribe Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh
908 191 Baile Findachta, Ríg Connacht. Poem on the baile (prophecy, revelation) of Fínnachta, king of Connaught.
909 (line 12) 191b-192b Suidigud Tellaig na Cruachna 'The Settling of the Manor of Cruachan', also known as Aided Nath Í 'The Violent Death of Nath Í'.[10]
910 (line 4) 192 Poem ascribed to Torna Éces, on pre-Christian kings of Ireland buried on Croghan; on burial places in Teltown
911 s.f. 192 Compert Mongáin 'The Birth of Mongán'
912 'A story from which it is inferred that Mongán was Finn mac Cumaill' and Aided Fhothaid Airgdig 'The Violent Death of Fothad Airgdech'. Cf: col. 953-4.
913 (line 42) 193 Scél Mongáin 'Stories of Mongán'
914 (line 24) 194 Tucait Baile Mongáin 'The occasion of Mongán's frenzy'
914 (line 49) Echtrae Chonnlai 'The adventure of Connla'. Cf: cols. 399–400.
916 195 Story about Mac Liag, chief poet of Brian Boru
917 s.f. 195 Story about the poet Flann mac Lonáin
919 (line 31) 196 Poem
920 197 On the seven orders of 'bards'
938 (line 11) 205 Aided [Lugdach] Meic Con 'The Death of [Lugaid] Mac Con'
939 (line 8) 206 Cath Almaine 'The Battle of Allen'
942 (line 8) 207 Cath (Belaig) Duine Bolc 'The Battle of Dunbolg'[11]
945 s.f. 209 Cath Maige Rath 'The Battle of Mag Rath' (cf: the longer version at col. 321–332)
949 (line 40) 211 Ces Noínden Ulad 'The Debility of the Ulstermen'
951 (line 8) 212 Bruiden Átha Í (early story of the Finn Cycle)
951 (line 34) 212 'How Fiachna mac Baedáin Obtained the Kingdom of Scotland'
952 Tucait Fagbála in Fesa do Finn 7 Marbad Cuil Duib 'How Finn obtained knowledge, and the slaying of Cul Dub'
953 (line 38) 213 'A story from which it is inferred that Mongán was Finn mac Cumaill' and Aided Fhothaid Airgdig 'The Violent Death of Fothad Airgdech'. Cf: col. 912.
955 214 Aided Óenfir Aífe 'The Death of Aífe's only son (=Connla)'
957 (line 12) 214 Cáin Domnaig 'The Law of Sunday', cf: col. 217.


  1. ^ Reference is made to the fragmented nature of the story in a related tale, Do Fhallsigud Tána Bó Cuailnge ("The rediscovery of the Táin Bó Cuailnge"), in the Book of Leinster, which begins: "The poets of Ireland one day were gathered around Senchán Torpéist, to see if they could recall the Táin Bó Cuailnge in its entirety. But they all said they knew only parts of it." Thomas Kinsella (trans., 1969), The Táin, Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Trefuilngid's contradicts the well-known story death tale of Conchobar mac Nessa (also contained in the Yellow Book of Lecan) that states the king knew of Christ's death when it happened and dropped dead because of the fact.
  3. ^ The list of contents here follows Abbott, T.K.; Gwynn, E.J., eds. (1921), Catalogue of the Irish manuscripts in the Library of Trinity college, pp. 94–110
  4. ^ The poem is also cited in § 6 of Vita Sancti Moling '. Eugene O'Curry dates the poem's composition to the period of Diarmait Mac Murchada, but before his banishment - ie 1137-1367 Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, 1860, pp. 420–1
  5. ^ For further information, see Wiley, Dan M., The Cycles of the Kings


  1. ^ a b c Jones, Mary (2003), "The Yellow Book of Lecan", Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b Stokes, Whitley, ed. (1891), "Life of St Féchín of Fore", Revue Celtique, 12: 318–353
  3. ^ Reeves, William, ed. (1873), "On the Céli Dé, commonly called Culdees", Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 24
  4. ^ Meyer, Kuno; Stern, L. Chr., eds. (1901), "Das Apgitir des Colmán maccu Béognae", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (in German and Irish), 3: 447
  5. ^ O'Keeffe, J.G. (1931), "Dál Caladbuig and reciprocal services between the kings of Cashel and various Munster states", Irish Texts, I: 19–21
  6. ^ Hull, Vernam (1930), "How Finn made peace between Sodelb and Glangressach", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 18: 422–4, doi:10.1515/zcph.1930.18.1.422, S2CID 162590101
  7. ^ Stokes, Whitley, ed. (1905), "The Colloquy of the Two Sages", Revue Celtique, 26: 4–64
  8. ^ Stokes, Whitley, ed. (1905), "The Adventure of St. Columba's Clerics", Revue Celtique, 26: 130–70
  9. ^ Hull, Vernam (1930), "The four jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann", Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 18 (1): 73–89, doi:10.1515/zcph.1930.18.1.73, S2CID 162561947
  10. ^ Ferguson, Samuel (1879–1888), "On the legend of Dathi", Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 2nd, 2: 167–184
  11. ^ Maniet, Albert (1953), "Cath Belaig Dúin Bolc", Éigse, 7: 95–111