The text was translated into Late Old or Early Middle Irish in the later eleventh century, supposedly by the scholar Gilla-Cóemáin mac Gillai Samthainne (fl. 1072) according to the versions in Trinity College MS H 3.17 and the Book of Uí Mhaine. However, its most recent editor, Anton van Hamel considered this version a secondary development, with modernised spellings and grammar. More recently, Thomas Clancy has suggested that Gilla-Cóemáin was its intended dedicatee and that the work was produced in Scotland. It is found in four versions contained in five manuscripts, whose development is almost as complex as that of the Latin original. Two very different versions are contained in the Great Book of Lecan (Royal Irish Academy MS 23 P 2, written between 1397 and 1418); one in the Book of Ballymote (Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta, Royal Irish Academy MS 23 P 12, written in 1390/1 by Robert Mac Sithigh) is closely related to one of these two. A text in Dublin Trinity College MS H.3.17 and another in the Book of Uí Mhaine (Royal Irish Academy MS D ii 1, written in 1394) are closely related to this version. A fragment in the Book of the Dun Cow (Lebor na hUidre, Royal Irish Academy MS 23 E 25, a twelfth-century text) is perhaps more closely related to the other version in the Great Book of Lecan.
It derives from a text of the pseudo-Nennius recension, as it contains a truncated version of the shorter preface attributing it to ‘Nennius’, although van Hamel thought that this was among material added by Gilla-Cóemáin from a text of the pseudo-Nennian recension (which he called the Cantabrian recension) to an existing Old Irish translation. The Irish text begins ego nemnius eluodugi discipulus aliqua excerpta scribere curauai .i. rodeithniges gorasgribaind araile dolomarta, & me nenamnis disgibail eludaig…, giving the purported author’s name in the Nemnius/Nemniuus variant. The text contains a list of kings of the Picts (and, after the unification with the Kingdom of the Scots, of kings of the joint kingdom), ending with Máel Coluim III mac Donnchada (1058-1093).
Lebor Breatnach contains a number of peculiarities suggesting that it was the product of careful scholarly comparison between a number of variants, not simply a translation of a single manuscript of the pseudo-Nennius recension. For instance, the list of civitates found at the end of the work in members of the Computistical family is brought forward to Chapter 2, as in the Vatican recension, while it lacks the genealogy of Silvius found in the Silvian family.
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