Is it really this complicated? I am looking at this Irish text on the CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts) website, and it looks like this (with page lines scattered around):

{MS folio 1a 1}IN PRINCIPIO fecit Deus celum & terram .i. Doringne {MS folio 1a 5}Dia nem & talmain ar tús & ni fil tossach na forcend fairseom féin. Doringne chétus in maiss nemchruthaig & soillsi angel isin cetna domnuch. Doringne firmimint isin luan. 5] {MS folio 1a 10} Doringni talmain & muire sin máirt. Doringne grein & ésca & renna nime sin cétain. Doringne enlaithe ind aeóir & tonnaitecha in mara {MS folio 1a 15}sin dardain. Doringne anmanna in talman archena & Adam do follomnacht foraib isind aine. Ro chumsain iarum Dia issin tsathurn do forbthiugud dula nua & ní o follomnacht sain.
10] Dobert iar sain airchinnchecht nime do Lucifiur co noi ngradaib {MS folio 1a 20}angel nime. Dobert dano airchinnchecht talman do Adam & do Eua cona claind. Imromadair iarum Lucifer (c)ombad tóesech trín slúaig angel. Ro timmart in Rí é co tríun sluaig {MS folio 1a 25}angel leis i nItern & asbert Dia iarum fri muintir nime. Diumsach 15] inti Lucifer. Uenite ut confundamus consilium eius.

First, it starts in latin, I'm not sure how to tell if this is part of the text or not. Second, the .i., I don't know what that is. Third, {MS folio 1a 10}, what is MS folio? I assume the 10 in {MS folio 1a 10} is some sort of line number. No wait, that's what 10] is?

Further down there are things like this:

Scithia i cind .xl^. bliadan.

What is the .xl^. for? And why is adan italicized?

Then there are some big tables further along:

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But I guess that's it. Not toooo much. Do you know what these things mean?

It would help in transliterating the Irish text and getting it into a better format for linguistic analysis.

I simply want to know how to parse this one Irish text.

  • 2
    What are you hoping to transliterate it into? The Book of Leinster was written in the Roman alphabet.
    – Draconis
    May 5 '20 at 19:33
  • I want to make it into the Ogham script. May 5 '20 at 21:39
  • 2
    Why Ogham? Ogham had died out centuries before this book was written; Middle Irish was (as far as I know) never written in anything except the Roman alphabet.
    – Draconis
    May 5 '20 at 21:52
  • 2
    Celtic isn't my specialty, but I don't think any books of any sort were ever written in Ogham. What's your end goal here?
    – Draconis
    May 5 '20 at 22:28
  • 2
    @Draconis is right: writing the Lebor Gabála in Ogham would perhaps be possible, but it would by no means be a simple endeavour – and it would be long. Ogham takes up something like 20 times as much space as Latin text, and the text is already about 250 pages, so I imagine you’d probably end up with at least 10,000 pages of text. Ogham was never used as a manuscript-story alphabet; it was only ever used for short inscriptions, notes, poetry, etc. May 5 '20 at 23:24

Most of these aren’t CELT-specific, but commonly used in manuscript editions everywhere.

MS is a common English abbreviation for manuscript.

The Latin is part of the manuscript. A very large percentage of mediaeval European manuscripts – and more or less all the Irish ones – are written either entirely in Latin or in some mixture of Latin and a local language. The Irish manuscripts often mix Latin and Irish completely willy-nilly, changing randomly back and forth mid-sentence.

The curly brackets notation can mean different things in different contexts, but here I would guess indicate lines in the manuscript quoted. The introduction says that’s TCD MS 1339, though I have to admit I can’t quite make the text fit with the scans from that MS, at least not here on my phone (word to the wise: phone screens are not conducive to serious manuscript research!).

The numbers with right square brackets do appear to be some sort of line counter, but they seem to be counting continuous line numbers in the digital edition, not the manuscript.

Folio refers to pages in manuscripts. They are often named with r (recto, front or right-hand side) or v (verso, back or left-hand side), but not in this manuscript; perhaps there’s only text on one side of the pages. This is a two-column manuscript, though, so the left column is a and the right column is b: 1a is the left column on the first page.

So “MS folio 1a 25” means ‘line 25 in the left column on the first page in the manuscript’.

Italic text is text that is written in various scribal abbreviations in the manuscript, which have been undone in the transcription.

The few things that are specific to Irish manuscripts:

The abbreviation .i. is exceedingly common in Old Irish manuscripts – it is short for id ón (more commonly ed ón, now eadhon), meaning ‘that is’ and translating Latin id est; in other words, read it as “i.e.”. (See eDIL, about halfway down the page, look for ed ón.)

Roman numerals are usually surrounded by dots in Irish manuscripts as well, so .xl. bliadhan means ‘forty years’. I’m not sure offhand what the caret (^) means here.

Note: If you’re hoping to do linguistic analysis on the text, you may find you need to do more than just transliterate – Old Irish spelling is notoriously good at being inconsistent, not to mention that phonemically and morphemically important distinctions (like lenition and nasalisation) are frequently not indicated at all, making it impossible to tell from the text alone whether, say, a complex verb has an object or not.

Edit: Just noticed this is Lebar na Núachongbála, the Book of Leinster, so therefore Middle Irish, not Old Irish. That means probably slightly less phonemically challenging, but still plenty of vagueness to be getting on with.

  • Wow I'm learning so much about manuscripts, I never even thought that was a thing haha. May 5 '20 at 21:20
  • You touched on almost everything. What about the table and the italics? May 5 '20 at 21:26
  • @LancePollard I can assure you that it’s a thing – very much so. I’m by no means an expert or even halfway decent at this, but philologists, codicologists and some historical linguists have created an extraordinarily complex field which conventionalises all manner of utterly abstruse and indecipherable squiggles, both those common to codicology in general and those specific to individual languages. May 5 '20 at 21:30
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    @LancePollard The italics are mentioned in the middle of the answer; they’re used when the scribes use abbreviations (like <q̃> for quam in Latin – there are thousands of them in Mediaeval manuscripts). The table is an actual table in the manuscript. If you click on the ‘TCD MS 1339’ link in the answer and click on page 2, you can see the table at the bottom of the left-side column and top of the right-side column. (I say table… there aren’t any borders or headers or anything, but it’s names written up in columns, clearly meant to be read as a table.) May 5 '20 at 21:37

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