The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland. By the Four Masters, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616. Dublin: Hodges Smith, 1856. Second Edition. Rebound in half vellum, blue buckram boards. Titles lettered in gilt on blue morocco labels, recent endpapers. Title page of volume (1) with residue of cello tape marks, light foxing to title pages of the other volumes, contents pages clean & bright throughout. A very good set, handsomely bound.
This second (and best edition) of O'Donovan's magnum opus with numerous footnotes added and with the addition of a separate index volume.
The work was compiled between 1632 and 1636 by a small team of historians headed by Br. Michael O' Clery, a Franciscan lay brother, who was chief of the Four Masters. The title Four Masters was first used by Father John Colgan in the introduction to his Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae which was published in Louvain in 1625. The great work remained, for the most part, unpublished and un-translated until John O'Donovan prepared his edition between 1847 and 1856. The crowning achievement of O'Donovan's edition is the copious historical, topographical and genealogical material in the footnotes which have been universally acclaimed by scholars. Douglas Hyde wrote that the O'Donovan edition represented: 'The greatest work that any modern Irish scholar ever accomplished.'