About the Medieval Manuscripts of Dublin City

'Medieval manuscripts of Dublin City' is a Dublin City Council project, under the direction of Dublin City Librarian Margaret Hayes; Deputy City Librarian Brendan Teeling; and Dublin City Archivist Dr Mary Clark. John Grenham was responsible for preparing the digital images and texts for publication and Alastair Smeaton took the digital photographs. The preparation of texts for Guild of St George and Miscellanea was a joint project with Ecole des Chartes, Paris. The original manuscripts are all kept at Dublin City Library and Archive. We have chosen to publish the manuscripts online to reach the largest number of readers and to add more texts when these become available.


About the Dubin Chain Book


Bound parchment manuscript consisting of 69 sheepskin leaves, it is believed that it acquired its name because it was originally chained to a lectern in the Dublin Tholsel for reference by the citizens.

The Chain Book contains an ecclesiastical calendar [late 15th century, Latin]; laws and usages of the City of Dublin [French]; tables of customs dues for Provost, Murage and Pavage [English]; copies of legal proceedings and municipal acts [14th century, French and Latin]; regulations for Corpus Christi pageant [15th century, English]; lists of prisoners and irons in Newgate [16th century, English]; oaths of Mayor, alderman, freemen and officials [17th century, English].

Ornamentation in the Chain Book consists of initial letters and colophons in red and blue. The volume was re-sewn and re-bound in the 19th century, with the original brown goatskin leather panels inset on front and back boards: these panels carry perforations from the original chaining. The Chain Book was cleaned and re-backed by the Conservation Laboratory, Trinity College Dublin, in 1988.

Extracts from the Chain Book of Dublin were published in J.T. Gilbert (ed.) Historic and Municipal Documents of Ireland, 1172-1320 (London, 1870) pp 80-2, 128-30, 182-3, 227-8, 230-69. Transcript/translation published in J.T. Gilbert (ed.) Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin vol. I (Dublin, 1889), pp 206-67. The Chain Book was on public display in the Dublin City Treasures exhibition which was developed for Dublin's term as European City of Culture, 1991. From time to time, it is on display at the exhibition The Story of the Capital, in Dublin's City Hall.



There are three types of pagination in the Chain Book.

The first which appears to be 17th century, consists of regular pagination using Arabic numerals and is entered consecutively on the top left and top right corners of each parchment leaf. The pagination continues to page 125 and is then succeeded by page 174-179. There are two final pages 190-191. This is the pagination which we have followed throughout this site.

The second is an early foliation. It begins with the number 9 which is entered beside the page number 70. It then continues beside the right hand corners of the pagination until it reaches page 124/fol 36.

The third is a late 19th century foliation introduced by John T. Gilbert. This is written in pencil at the foot of each right-hand page.



The Dublin Chain Book was cleaned and conserved by the Conservation Laboratory at Trinity College Dublin in 1988. The work was carried out by Katharina Marchesani under the supervision of A.G. Cains, Technical Director of the Laboratory.

The condition of the Chain Book before conservation was reported. It consisted of a 15th-17th century sheepskin parchment manuscript of 69 folios in good condition but extensively soiled/stained. Victorian sewing: 4 single flexible cords [degraded] but sewing thread intact. Front and back covers [wooden boards] detached from spine because of degraded joints. Covered in brown goatskin leather with original leather panels inset on front and back board.

The treatment was as follows:


Drop back box of acid free millboard covered in brown linen buckram; spine label Nigerian green goatskin foil stamped with ribbon gold

The White Book of Dublin [Liber Albus Dubliniensis]

The White Book, so called because it is composed of vellum membranes, contains transcripts of documents relating to municipal affairs, which were copied into it at various periods from the 13th to the 17th centuries. These include a statement of grievances by the Commonalty of Dublin [14th century; French]; ordinances of the Staple of England, Ireland and Wales [1326; French]; records of legal proceedings on behalf of the city of Dublin; and a description of the Riding of the Franchises [1603; English].

The White Book was out of the custody of the civic authorities for 142 years. On 16 February 1688, the Dublin City Assembly directed the former Recorder, Sir Richard Ryves, to deliver the White Book to his successor, Sir John Barnewall (Anc. Rec. Dublin vol. V p. 464). ). Ryves had been deposed as Recorder and replaced by Barnewall under James II’s charter of 1687 (Dublin City Charter, no. 100). It reappeared at an auction of the Library of James Bradish, deceased, formerly of Laurel Hill, Queen’s County (Laois) which was held on 13 July 1829 at the rooms of Samuel Jones, Trinity Street, Dublin. The White Book was described in the auction catalogue as ‘Transcript of the Charter and Liberties of Dublin, and notices of various very interesting antiquities’. The volume was purchased by the Ulster King-at-Arms, Sir William Betham, for the sum of £64-1s-0d under the impression that it was the long-lost ‘Domesday Book of Dublin City’. In 1830, the City Treasurer, Sir John Kingston James, Bart purchased the volume from Betham on behalf of Dublin Corporation for the sum of £150. A bookplate on the fly-leaf of the volume records the transaction.

Forty years, John T. Gilbert correctly identified the volume as the missing White Book of Dublin, and not the Domesday Book. Gilbert also established that some 35 leaves went missing from the White Book while it was out of the custody of Dublin Corporation, between 1688 and 1830. Fortunately, a complete transcript of the contents of the White Book was prepared in 1671 at the direction of the then Recorder, Sir William Davis, and this transcript has survived (‘The Book of Charters’ C1/1/3. Copy extracts from the missing portion of the White Book are also in the British Library, Sloane Collection, 4793; Codex Clarendon, Vol. XLVI; Plut. CLIX.D).

The White Book is a bound vellum manuscript, containing 111 leaves out of an original total of 145. Note that the number 99 is not used in the foliation, with number 98 succeeded by number 100. Ornamentation in the manuscript consists of initial letters and colophons in red and blue. When Dublin Corporation purchased the book from Sir William Betham, it was in an early 19th binding, in brown calf. After Gilbert had established that the volume was the White Book, it was re-bound in white calfskin, with gold tooling. The volume was cleaned and re-backed by Antiquarian Bookcrafts in 1988.

Extracts from the White Book were published in Historic and Municipal Documents of Ireland, 1172-1320, ed. John T. Gilbert (London, 1870) pp 80-2, 105-6, 125-6, 130-4, 179-80, 182-3, 196-7, 206-3, 280-4, 359-65, 412, 420-2, 426-35, 465, 466, 473-80, 482-501. Transcripts and translations in Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin, vol. I ed. John T. Gilbert (Dublin, 1889) pp 81-203.

The religious guild of St George Martyr

The guild of St George Martyr was the religious fraternity of the Dublin City Assembly. It was founded under letters patent issued by Henry VI in 1426 and was based in St. George’s Chapel, in the eponymous George’s Street. Its main function was to pray for the Mayor and Commonalty but it also staged a yearly pageant on St George’s Day, 23 April, commemorating the life of its patron. By the mid-16th century, St George’s Chapel was in poor condition and its stones were removed to build a bread oven, while its bells were built into a clock at the Bridge Gate. The guild of St George Martyr followed, as it was abolished by the Dublin City Assembly in March 1603.


This series contains a range of deeds and other documents from the early 14th century to the late 18th century. The earliest item is a lease of a tower and ditch dated 1304 from the city of Dublin to Roger de Asshebourne. The material is very diverse and includes appointment by Edward III of surveyors and searchers in the ports of Dublin, Howth, Malahide and Drogheda, 1357 and a grant by the Viceroy, Sir Anthony St. Leger, of the church and rectory of Bray to the Earl of Howth, 1549. The first twenty-three documents in the series, from the medieval and early modern period, are published here.

All Hallows

The Priory of All Saints, popularly known as All Hallows, was a house of Augustinian Canons founded by Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, in 1166. The priory was located east of Dublin, just outside the walled city. It was endowed by its founder with the lands of Baldoyle, and in the course of the next four centuries, the Priory acquired further extensive properties.

On 16 November 1538, the Priory and lands of All Hallows were surrendered by Prior Walter Handcocke to Henry VIII, as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. On 4 February 1539, the priory and lands were granted to the Mayor, Bailiffs, Commons and Citizens of Dublin, in recognition of their defence of the city against the attacks of ‘Silken’ Thomas Fitzgerald. The lands included property in counties Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Louth, Tipperary, Kilkenny and elsewhere. The donation made the City Assembly into a wealthy organization.

This series of deeds includes documents issued by the Priory before its dissolution, also leases and grants issued by the City Assembly between 1539-92. The collection also includes the grant of the site of the Priory to Adam Loftus, Chancellor and Provost of the new Trinity College Dublin, dated 21 July 1592. This became the location of the new university.

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