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The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters


The Annals of Ireland
by the Four Masters                                                              
Three Editions For Sale

See Bottom of Page for sale details.

(Below) The rarest edition of O'Donovan's annals ever published. His first edition was complete in five large volumes (1848-1851) later to be most often broken down into the 7 smaller volumes, that we know today.
We have the original 5 vol. binding, matching set, with original re-binding instructions for making a 7 vol. set.
Rare 1st Edition - Almost Unknown

The Rarest Work from our Library
This is a rare and most valuable find. It is the complete original first edition of the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters. It is so rare, in fact, that rare book dealers in Ireland did not know of its existence. We have not found anyone in the U.S. who is aware of this original edition. (The Annals were original written in the Gaelic Language in the 17th century, under the direction of Brother Michael Clery, in Donegal. see authors room in the Irish Roots Cafe for more.)

Original Binding

Unknown to Many - the First Edition
Reports of the original printing of the Annals as translated by John O'Donovan, are nearly all in error. Most say it was a seven volume set, as it is most often found in reprints. Others give the dates of later editions as if it were the first edition. Well, I have an original copy, so here are the facts:

The First of Five original books
O'Donovan originally printed 3 volumes dated 1848. These 3 books covered the years 1172 - 1616. They are numbered V. 1, V.2, V.3. (These are the same years covered by the Connellan translation of the 'Annals' in 1846, his was the first major translation of the Annals into English). Things went well with O'Donovans edition. Patriotism and nationalism were on the rise. The 'Annals' represented a history that had been lost or forbidden. Here was a chance to see Ireland reborn. How better than with a history originally written in the Gaelic, now translated into English. He continued to translate the earlier years of the 'Annals'.

The Final Two books
Nothing more would appear until 1851, when 2 additional volumes came out that completed the annals. The 1851 volumes covered "From the Earliest Times to 1171". These two later volumes are titled " v.1 first division" and "v. 2 first division" . With the addition of these 2 volumes we now had the first complete edition of the Annals. The first edition, first printing by O'Donovan, (begun in 1848 and completed in 1851).

Spine of the actual copy. Note that the 'first division' was actually printed last!

Rebinding Instructions Included

Five Books into Seven
 It seems as though these books were just too big to handle easily. Hence, at the end of volume two, printed in 1851, extra title pages were bound into the book. These title pages and instructions, told the reader how to break the set into 7 smaller volumes. The extra title pages were to be used for the new set.

Instructions to the binder
Here are the exact instructions:
And at the end of volume 2 (1851. first division): "Directions to the Binder The entire work, now consisting of 5 volumes, may be made up into seven volumes, for which new titles for vols. lll to VII are provided, as well as commencing and ending pages for the vols. that require them"

Today of course, most people only know of the 7 volume set translated by O'Donovan. Those of us at the Irish Roots Cafe have discovered the Rest of the story !

The Original Matching Set

William Reeves, president of the R.I.A.
The set that I have is original and matching. Each volume is imprinted in red at the front of the book as follows:

Who was William Reeves? None other than the president of the Royal Irish Academy. He had become a member in 1846, the same year Owen Connellan had come out with the first major translation of the 'Annals' into English. Just two years later he had his own personal copy of the Annals. (This was during the worst years of the famine in Ireland.)

A contemporary of O'Donovan and Connellan

William Reeves was born in Co. Cork on March 16, 1815. He was ordained as a minister in the church of Ireland in 1840. Reeves was also librarian at what is known today as the Robinson Library in Armagh. He became Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore in June 1886, and president of the Royal Irish Academy on March 16, 1891. He passed away from this life on Jan. 12, 1892. This set is then found removed to Waynesburg College, in Pennsylvania. This original set is now (2006) in the possession of the Irish Genealogical Foundation, located in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A., with a display of same on its web page at

#1) Original Set, unaltered, For Sale

Original Description when Found.
Here is the description of the book above made at the time I acquired it:
O'Donovan, John (ed). Annala Rioghachta Eireann. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, by the Four Masters, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1848. First edition, Three volumes, complete for the years 1172 - 1616. Plus 1851, 2 volumes complete from the earliest times to 1171. In total making up the complete 5 volume first edition set of O'Donovans 'Annals'. Text in Irish with English translation on the facing pages. (This original 5 volume set is very rare, as most were lost or broken down into 7 volume sets. The binder included extra title pages and instructions for doing so, in the 1851 volumes.)

Original brown cloth with new endpapers and spine reinforced with brown-cloth library tape. Ex-library set with minimal markings (bookplate, name and short address of the college library stamped on the endpapers and foot of several pages, six-digit number inked at the foot of two pages--no other markings and no markings on the title pages). An occasional, very neat, inked marginal note by a knowledgeable hand throughout, which may have been that of William Reeves, president of the Royal Irish Academy. Originally printed in red, matching in all 5 volumes are the words "This copy was printed for the Rev. William Reeves, D.D., MRIA original subscriber"

The Rarest of Irish Books
Minimal foxing. Clean and tight. An overall VG set of the almost unknown first edition. Offers are being accepted to find a new home for this very rare set, whose value is beyond our calculation at present. At first inquiry, not one set could be found in the libraries of Ireland and England.

Sale Terms

Bids for volume above now being accepted.
Starting at:  $5,000+ +.

For more information on the Annals, see the authors in the Irish Roots Cafe. We have John O'Donovan, The Four Masters, and Owen Connellan with us today. (Our thanks to Dr. Bernadette Cunningham, Deputy Librarian, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, Ireland, for her timely assistance in identifying the Rev. William Reeves.)

#2) The Annals.. by O'Donovan 1848 +. (Reprint).

A Set of the modern day reprlnt
This is the modern day 7 book set complete, as translated by O'Donovan. With color map, as published by DeBurca. Includes both the Gaelic and English translation.This set is new and never read. Clean and crisp, ready for your library. Over 4,000 pages.

For Sale
Price one set new, unread condition: $850 plus $50 shipping, insurance and handling.

Price one set very good, clean condition: $700 plus $50 shipping, insurance and handling. (Includes shipping within the U.S. and Canada, foreign orders please inquire about shipping.)
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to order.

#3) The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters. Connellan.1846.(reprint)

First edition to Appear in English.
The first major translation of the Annals ever made. Two volume set. The Color Frontis in both volumes of this edition is not found in O'Donovans edition. This is the Complete Connellan edition, plus new map index in volume 2, (2003) . Large family names location map, by MacDermott, folds out of second volume. This map is not found in O'Donovans edition. Includes third piece which is the new family locator, added by the Irish Genealogical Foundation. This third piece is not offered in sets sold elsewhere.

For Sale
One set only, in nearly new condition: $174.00
One set used for display only. In very good, condition. $150.00.
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to order.


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