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Metadata for text 192
No. words in text123393
Title Foirm na n-urrnuidheadh: John Carswell’s translation of the Book of Common Order
Author N/A (Translated work)
Editor Thomson, R. L.
Date Of Edition 1970
Date Of Language 16th c.
Publisher Oliver and Boyd for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place Published Edinburgh
Volume 11 (Scottish Gaelic Texts Society)
Location National, academic, and local libraries
Geographical Origins N/A
Register Religion, Prose and Verse
Alternative Author Name Nicol Nicolson
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 22cm x 14cm
Short Title Foirm na n-urrnuidheadh
Reference Details DEM Personal Copy
Number Of Pages xc, 243
Gaelic Text By John Carswell (from English and Latin)
Illustrator N/A
Social Context This text is a translation into Gaelic of The Book of Common Order. The Book of Common Order, first printed in Edinburgh in 1564, was a revision of the Geneva Book also known as John Knox’s liturgy, printed in Edinburgh in 1562. The English version of the Geneva Book was published in Geneva on 10 February 1556 and the Latin version followed on 13 February. This was the Order which Knox and his supporters had drawn up in Frankfurt. Queen Elizabeth I insisted on conformity with the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1552) and the Genevan Order did not attain official standing in England. There was only one English edition (1587). Reformed ideas made good headway in Scotland. Indications are that congregations used the English book of 1552, the most robustly protestant that the Church of England produced. This option was not available in Gaelic Scotland, where preaching would have to be done using an interpreter. Apart from his own additions, placed at the beginning and at the end, Carswell translated the book largely as it stood, omitting the metrical psalms and the catechism and making some changes in respect of church order (see p. lxvii). He claims on his title page to have made his translation from Latin and English. The latest Latin version was Ratio et Forma (1556). Several important alterations were introduced into the 1564 version, which was the officially approved text. Carswell may have begun work on the Gaelic version before this version was approved, when only the Latin text was available. He probably then revised it very carefully and brought it into line with the English of the Book of Common Order.

This translator of this volume, John Carswell, was born in the parish of Kilmartin (c1520-25) where his family were Constables or Captains of Carnassery Castle under the house of Argyll. He attended St Andrews University, graduating BA in 1542 and MA in 1544. In 1551 he is recorded as being Treasurer of the Cathedral of Lismore, and from 1553-62 he was rector of his native parish of Kilmartin. After the Reformation he was one of the five ecclesiastical superintendents appointed and his district was Argyll and the Isles. In 1565 a grant was made to him of the revenues of the bishopric of the Isles and on 24 March 1567 he was presented to the bishopric of the Isles and the abbacy of Icolmkill. He was elected one of the Lords of the Articles on 16 April 1567. He was married to Margaret Campbell, of whom little is known, and they had at least two children. He died in 1572 and is interred in the priory of Ardchattan.
Contents This volume begins with a Preface (pp. v-vi), a table of Contents (p. vii), and a list of Abbreviations (p. viii). There is a substantial Introduction (pp. ix-xc), which contains sections entitled Copies of the Text (pp. ix-xi), Language of the Text (pp. xi-lix), Origins of the Book of Common Order (pp. lix-lxvi), The Translation (pp. lxvi-lxxvii), John Carswell (pp. lxvii-lxxxix), and Plan of the Present Edition (pp. lxxxix-xc). The section on the language of the text discusses orthography, morphology, mutation, vocabulary, and syntax in considerable detail.

Carswell’s Book of Common Order appears on pp. 1-113. The work begins with an Epistle to the Earl of Argyll, Ebistil Thioghlaicthe (pp. 3-10), in which Carswell gives a lengthy and important dedication to the fifth Earl of Argyll, demonstrating the importance of the chief in promoting reformation. The dedication is written in Classical Gaelic, praising the earl, in panegyric style, for his zeal in promoting the reformed faith. In medieval Gaelic literature, poetry was usually used for this kind of praise, but Carswell elevates the status of prose by using it for a function usually reserved for verse.

This is followed by an Epistle to the Reader, Do Chum an Leghthoir (pp. 10-13), aimed at Carswell’s expected readership of members of the educated class who sustained the work of the church, the arts and the law. He expresses deep regret that the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland suffer the disadvantage that their language has not been represented in print, with consequent diminution of prestige. He refers to the need for a Gaelic Bible, and for the history of the Gael to be available in print. Later in this epistle Carswell expresses anxiety about his ability to carry out this translation. He says he has done so in the absence of a more learned translator, and claims he has no more knowledge of Gaelic than one of the common people.

In his dedicatory poem, Adhmad Beag (p. 13), Carswell sends his book on its way, instructing it to travel throughout the Gaelic world in Scotland and Ireland. He uses unpretentious vocabulary and the versification is not highly embellished.

Carswell’s Catechism appears on pp. 95-110. Although based on Calvin’s Little Catechism, this is almost entirely Carswell’s own work. The language is simpler and Scottish syntax and vocabulary are in evidence throughout. Towards the end of the Book we find a number of prayers, including a Blessing for a boat (pp. 110-111), which is unusual in the Protestant tradition, and a metrical version of the Lord’s Prayer (pp. 111-112). In his concluding Apologia (pp. 112-113), Carswell again alludes to the lack of polish and precision in his language. He also states that any printer’s error is understandable, since the printer did not have a word of Gaelic. He is fully aware that he will receive strong criticism from his religious opponents, but states that this will be an incentive and will only make him more determined to continue with his work.

Points of linguistic and doctrinal interest are dealt with in the Notes (pp. 115-72). Appendix I (pp. 173-82) is a translation of the epistles to the Earl of Argyll and the reader, the verses addressed to the book itself and the final Apologia. Appendix II (pp. 183-86) is a discussion of Carswell’s education and background. A referenced Glossary (pp. 187-243) explains the vocabulary of the text and includes a section on Proper Names (p. 242-43).
Sources Carswell’s Gaelic translation of the Book of Common Order was printed in Edinburgh in 1567. Three copies survive; one in Edinburgh University Library, one in the British Museum in London, and one in the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York. All copies are defective, but in different respects, in such a way that the original text survives entire.
Language Carswell’s text is written in Classical Gaelic, the formal register shared by the literati of Ireland and Scotland. The orthography is in accordance with the normal Classical usage, in which a certain degree of free variation was permitted. Spellings are generally historically correct with only a few unetymological or phonetic spellings. Carswell uses the acute, grave and circumflex accents, nasal suspension ~ over a vowel and once over , and the suprascript dot for lenition. Some vocabulary is peculiarly Scottish in form or meaning (see Language of the Text, pp. xi-lix). Carswell is much given to amplification, translating a single term by a pair of approximate synonyms. This is a feature of the English of his time, the Latin of the Ratio et Forma and also of Gaelic. Carswell frequently carries this a stage further by introducing alliteration. In cases where the synonyms do not alliterate, he adds a prefix to produce the desired effect. Again, this is a common trait in Early Modern Gaelic prose texts. His style appears to be very much under control and he has a strong sense of what is stylistically appropriate.
Orthography The following changes have been indicated typographically:

– Lenition and nasalisation and single letters supplied editorially are italicised.

– Nasal suspension is expanded with italic n. Instances are listed to distinguish them from other instances of n.

– Larger groups of letters or words supplied are inserted in square brackets.

– Corrected spellings in the text have the original readings in footnotes.

– Accents lost by capitalisation of original lower case letters and by the regular removal of accents from ao, ia, ua, -e have the original reading at the foot of the page.

Quoted Latin words and phrases are printed in italic.
Edition The text is not an exact reproduction of the original, inasmuch as the following changes have been made:

– The pagination and lineation of the original have been abandoned.

– Signatures appear in the margin and an oblique stroke in the text indicates the original page division.

– Running titles are those of the original; adjustments were necessary because of the smaller number of pages in this edition.

– Capitalisation and punctuation have been modernised.

– Word division and in some cases sentence division and paragraphing have been adjusted in the light of the sense and of the practice of the Book of Common Order and modern usage.

– The employment of accents in the original is by modern standards incomplete, and they are sometimes misplaced. The edition inserts a macron on historically long vowels not accentuated in the original. Where an accent in the original is misplaced to an adjoining vowel it is restored to its proper position. Neither accent nor macron is supplied on a capital letter.

– Lines of the text are numbered throughout, including the title page but ignoring the running titles.
Other Sources
Further Reading Matheson, Angus, ‘Bishop Carswell’, TGSI, 42 (1965), 182-205.
Meek, D.E., ‘The Reformation and Gaelic Culture: Perspectives on Patronage, Language and Literature in John Carswell’s Translation of “The Book of Common Order”’ in The Church in the Highlands, ed. by James Kirk (Edinburgh, 1998: Scottish Church History Society), 37-62.
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