THE interest of the following astronomical, or rather cosmographical tract to students of Irish language and literature lies mainly in the fact that it belongs to a division of our literature which has been up to the present but little investigated by those whose labours are directed to the publication of our MS. literature. The investigation and publication of such documents is of special importance for the determination of the state of native education and culture in its relation, at different periods, to that of foreign civilizations.
The translations of mediaeval Latin texts into Irish, probably for use as text-books in the schools of the 14th and 15th centuries, would supply material for special study. A comparison of the text now in hand with some of the numerous medical tracts, almost all of which still remain unedited, would doubtless supply much interesting material with respect to the resources of our language in treating of purely scientific and technical subjects.
The present work has not remained altogether neglected hitherto. The late Rev. Maxwell Close caused the text to be translated for him into English, and dealt exhaustively with the subject matter of the tract from a scientific point of view, in a paper read before a meeting of the Royal Irish Academy, in June, 1901, and published in the Proceedings of that body Vol. VI., pp. 457-464. Mr. Close's MS. notes for the paper with a typewritten copy of the above-mentioned translation are now in the Academy Library.
A further article on the subject, containing a synopsis of the contents, chapter by chapter, was published under the title of An Irish Astronomical Tract, by J. E. Gore, M.R.I.A., in Knowledge; February, 1909. This again deals only with the scientific aspect of the tract; apparently gleaned from the above-mentioned translation, and contains scarcely anything not commented on by Mr. Close.
Chapters 8, 39, and a portion of chapter 9, with another small fragment of the text, were published with the same English translation in Celtia, Vol. XI., pp. 54-6; 90-92; 101-03. The text which here follows has been arranged without consulting this small published fragment, and my translation has been made quite independently of the translation from which Mr. Close worked.