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Metadata for text 190
No. words in text109308
Title Adtimchiol an Chreidimh, The Gaelic Version of John Calvin’s Catechismus Ecclesiae Genevensis, A Facsimile Reprint, including the Prefixed Poems and the Shorter Catechism of 1659, with Notes and Glossary, and an Introduction
Author Calvin, John
Editor Thomson, R. L.
Date Of Edition 1962
Date Of Language 17th c.
Publisher Oliver & Boyd for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 7 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins N/A
Register Religion, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name N/A
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 23cm x 15cm
Short Title Adtimchiol an Chreidimh
Reference Details DEM personal copy
Number Of Pages xlii, vi, 258
Gaelic Text By Unknown
Illustrator N/A
Social Context Calvin’s Catechism, published in 1631, was the second Gaelic book to be printed in Scotland. When the translation was made, the Classical literary language was clearly deemed the proper medium for written Gaelic to be presented in. As a consequence, little information about the spoken language can be gleaned from the text. There is a unique extant copy in the National Library of Scotland which unfortunately lacks the title page and any prefatory matter. It is therefore impossible to date the text or identify its translator with certainty. The five poems prefixed to the Catechism and the additional prayers at the end are not paginated and it is impossible to tell whether material is missing.

The date of composition is difficult to ascertain. It is possible to speculate but not draw any firm conclusions. The most reasonable assumption to make is that composition was immediately before publication.

The unique copy in the National Library of Scotland is bound along with an English edition of the same text which was printed by Wreittoun in Edinburgh in 1631. The Gaelic version was also printed by Wreittoun, evidenced by the letters IWP, Iohn Wreittoun, Printer at the end of the text. Wreittoun was printing in Edinburgh between 1624 and 1639. Given that the Gaelic and English texts came from the same printer, are bound together, and the English text is clearly dated as 1631, the Gaelic one has been assumed to be of the same date. This evidence is disputable since the binding is late eighteenth century and it appears that the books were not together before that date. There are stitch holes in the Gaelic version and none in the English. Furthermore, the marginalia in the Gaelic version shows that the margins were once larger and there is severe wear to its outer pages. There are also differences in the typography; the Gaelic version is printed in roman and italic while the English is in roman and black letter. Taken together, these factors suggest an independent existence. However, firmer evidence of dating has been provided by a NLS study of the typography. This demonstrated that the ornament which forms a band at the head of the first page of the Gaelic version hardly occurs after 1631. Wreittoun had used this ornament constantly since his earliest books and it became worn through time. The appearance of the ornament in the English version of 1631 is exactly the same as in the Gaelic version, thus supporting the view that the two books are contemporaneous.

The missing title page may have contained the translator’s name and there is no other direct evidence as to the identity of this person. It has been assumed that the translator was John Carswell on the grounds that the metrical version of the Lord’s Prayer and the prayers added at the end of the text also appear in Carswell’s work; but this in itself is not evidence of authorship. While there are similarities in the style and language, there are also differences. Both works are written in the literary Gaelic used in Scotland and Ireland at the time. However, in using pairs of synonymous expressions to translate single nouns and verbs of the original, Carswell favours the use of alliterating pairs while the translator of Calvin’s Catechism disregards this and tries to render the full sense of his original. There are also some differences in orthography. For example, Carswell regularly uses ts- for a lenited s- regardless of the reason for the lenition while the Catechism favours the modern distinction between ts- and sh-. Carswell also prefers Sbiorad to the Catechism’s Spiorad. The evidence indicates that Carswell is unlikely to be the translator of Calvin’s Catechism. We can deduce that the translator was someone with a full knowledge of literary Gaelic and apparently more familiar with Latin than with English. He was probably a professional scholar, poet or historian. Possible authors include John McMarquess in Kintyre who, along with David Simpson, produced the best version of the fifty psalms in metre; Athairne MacEoghain, author of the second and possibly the fifth of the prefixed poems, and family bard of the Earl of Argyll; and his son Neill who copied the first version of the Shorter Catechism.
Contents This volume begins with a Preface by the editor (pp. vii-viii) and a list of Contents (p. ix), The Introduction (pp. xi-xlii) includes sections on the Date of Publication, Carswell Not the Author, Language of the Text, History of the Shorter Catechism, Language of the Shorter Catechism, Authorship of the Text, and Plan of the Edition.

The main body of the text contains the five poems that were prefixed to the 1631 edition of the Catechism (pp xliii-xlviii): Faoisid Eóin Stiúbhairt, Is mairg do-ní uaille as óige, An Phaidear, Na Deich n-Aitheanta, and Mairg dar compánach an cholann. This is followed by Adtimchiol an Chreidimh (pp. 1-112).

The Notes (pp. 113-49) discuss points of interest relating to language, orthography and translation, and possible instances of Scottish usage. Comparative material from contemporary Manx, cut off from the Irish tradition, is cited to measure how far Scottish Gaelic had progressed towards its modern form. The Glossary (151-213) gives the original Latin along with English explanations.

There are two appendices. Appendix I contains notes on and variant readings for the prefixed poems (pp. 215-27). Appendix II contains the text of the 1659 Shorter Catechism. This version does not reproduce the lineation, pagination or typography of the original. There is a supplementary Glossary of words in the poems and Shorter Catechism but not in Calvin’s Catechism (pp. 251-56). At the end of the volume is a list of members of the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society.
Sources Calvin’s Catechism was originally published in French in 1545, and then in Latin later that year. It was translated into English from the French by William Huycke and published in 1556. Carswell used the English version as his authoritative edition while the translator of Calvin’s Catechism used the Latin as his primary source.
Language Adtimchiol an Chreidimh
The language of Calvin’s Catechism is Classical Gaelic as used in Ireland and Scotland with a few lapses into distinctively Scottish usage. It is possible that some constructions not common in Irish occur because they were common in Scotland, for example, periphrastic verb forms with included pronoun object, which are found both in Carswell and in Calvin’s Catechism.

The Shorter Catechism (see also Text 188)

Dating and Authorship
This text is that of the second edition of 1659. Details of the editions of the Shorter Catechism are well-documented in the Records of the Synod of Argyll. At its May meeting in 1649, seven ministers were appointed to translate the Shorter Catechism, as approved by the General Assembly in 1648, into Gaelic. Each was to bring his own version to the next Synod where a single version would be agreed. This and other arrangements failed to produce anything and, in April 1651, the Synod ordained that Mr Ewan Cameron, Mr Dugald Darroch and Mr Archibald Reid should remain at Inveraray until they had completed a translation. By October 1651 the Synod had its translation credited to Mr Dugald Campbell and Mr Ewan Cameron. This was unanimously approved for general use and seventeen manuscript copies were made by Neill mc Ewen, one for each minister. It is not known whether Mac Ewen was encouraged to make any corrections to the orthography or language. In 1652, members of the Skye presbytery, who were often absent from Synod meetings, produced a translation by Mr Angus mc Quein and another appeared from Neill mc Quein. The Synod ordered these to be compared with their authorised version and any disagreements resolved. It was decided to print the translation and in May 1653 copies were distributed with every minister receiving a sufficient number for the use of his flock. By 1655 copies were scarce and a second edition with a print run of 2000 copies was planned. Funds were not available and it was not until 1659 that the second edition was published with a print run of 1200 copies. This edition included fifty psalms in metre. Some corrections were made to the text of the Catechism by Dugald Campbell and John Cameron. Unfortunately, we do not know what these corrections were.

The second edition of the Shorter Catechism was published only thirty years after Calvin’s Catechism yet there are striking differences in the language. This is the first printed text which is unmistakably Scottish Gaelic. It is written in a form of Classical Scottish Gaelic which retains Classical forms while using more of the vernacular forms of everyday Gaelic. Although it perhaps reflected the decline of Classical Gaelic learning in Scotland, it more significantly, fulfilled the need to modify the style and register of religious texts to bring them close to the spoken language of the people.

See Text 188, Sailm Dhaibhidh, for more information on the Gaelic translations of the Shorter Catechism.
Orthography The edition attempts to reproduce the original text of Calvin’s Catechism as exactly as possible, line for line and page for page, within the limitations of typography. Long s and some ligatures are not reproduced and the accent halfway between acute and circumflex is printed as acute. Ornaments are included but are not reproductions of the original.
Edition First edition of this volume. See above for information on the Gaelic editions of Calvin’s Catechism and the Shorter Catechism.
Other Sources
Further Reading Matheson, Angus, ‘Bishop Carswell’, TGSI 42, 1965, pp. 182-205.
Thomson, R.L., ‘The Language of the Shorter Catechism’, SGS 12, 1971, pp. 34-51.
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