Reference Number190
TitleAdtimchiol an Chreidimh. The Gaelic Version of John Calvin’s Catechismus Ecclesiae Genevensis
AuthorN/A (Translated work)
EditorThomson, R. L.
Date Of Edition1962
Date Of Languageearly 17c
Date Of Language Ed17th c.
DateMacro17th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherOliver & Boyd for the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
Place PublishedEdinburgh
LocationNational, academic, and local libraries
Geographical OriginsArgyllshire (?)
Geographical Origins EdN/A
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterLiterature, Prose (Religious)
Register EdReligion, Prose and Verse
MediumProse & Verse
Edition of the Gaelic translation of Calvin’s Catechism.
Significant text, second Gaelic book to be printed in Scotland.
Text written in Classical Gaelic with few indications of Scottish origin.
Also contains five poems on religious or moralistic themes.
Also contains an edition of the Gaelic translation of the Shorter Catechism (1659), i.e. Text 188.
This volume includes a full introduction and notes on all texts edited in it.
Alternative Author NameN/A
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition23cm x 15cm
Short TitleAdtimchiol an Chreidimh
Reference DetailsDEM personal copy
Number Of Pagesxlviii, 258
Gaelic Text ByJohn McMarquess? Athairne MacEwen? Neil MacEwen? (from Latin of John Calvin)
Social ContextThis translation of Calvin’s Catechism, published in 1631, was the second Gaelic book to be printed in Scotland. The Gaelic of the translation conforms closely to the Classical Gaelic language taught in the bardic schools, with the result that 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, so it is impossible to tell whether further textual material is missing.

In the absence of a title-page, Thomson shows (pp. xi-xiv) that there are some strong indications that the Gaelic version was published in 1631, i.e. at the same time as the English translation of the Catechism. As to the creation of the Gaelic text, proof is lacking, but it is suggested that this took place shortly before its publication. Admittedly, some earlier scholars had assumed that the translator of the Catechism was John Carswell, the translator of Knox’s Liturgy (Text 192). Thomson, however, assembles stylistic, linguistic and orthographic reasons for believing that this was not the case (pp. xiv-xviii). He deduces that the translator was someone with a full knowledge of literary Gaelic and apparently more familiar with Latin than with English, perhaps a professional Gaelic scholar, i.e. a poet or historian. Possible names include those of John McMarquess (associated with the Gaelic translation of the first fifty psalms), and Athairne or his son Neil MacEwen, of the family of professional poets attached to the Earls of Argyll.
ContentsThis volume contains an editor’s Preface (pp. vii-viii), a Table of Contents (p. ix) and an extensive Introduction (pp. xi-xlii) organised under the following headings: ‘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 1631 Gaelic Catechism is preceded by five poems which are reproduced here (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. The Catechism itself, entitled Adtimchiol an Chreidimh follows on pp. 1-112.

The volume contains Notes (pp. 113-49) on linguistic and textual issues and a Glossary (pp. 151-213) which frequently gives the Latin forms on which the Gaelic translation is based, as well as English definitions of Gaelic words.

There are two appendices. Appendix I (pp. 215-27) consists of Notes on the five poems prefixed to the 1631 edition. These include variant readings for those poems which appear elsewhere. Appendix II (pp. 229-50) contains the text of the 1659 Shorter Catechism. This is followed (pp. 251-56) by a Supplementary Glossary of difficult words which appear in the five poems and Shorter Catechism but do not figure in Adtimchiol an Chreidimh. The volume is concluded (pp. 259-64) by a section relating to the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society.
SourcesCalvin’s Catechism was first published in French in 1545. A Latin translation appeared later in the same year. An English version, translated from the French by William Huycke, was published in 1556. The Gaelic translator clearly used the Latin text as his primary source.
LanguageThe language of Calvin’s Catechism is Classical Gaelic with very few indications of its Scottish provenance. Amongst these, it is possible that some favoured constructions in Adtimchiol an Chreidimh which are uncommon in Irish occur because they were common in Scotland, and may hence be counted as scotticisms. These might include some periphrastic verb forms with an included pronoun object, which are also found in Carswell’s Foirm na nUrrnuidheadh. There is a full analysis of the language of Adtimchiol an Chreidimh in the Introduction to the present volume (pp. xviii-xxxii).

See Text 188 for the language of the 1659 Shorter Catechism.
OrthographyThe edition attempts to reproduce the 1631 edition of Adtimchiol an Chreidimh as exactly as possible, line for line and page for page, within the limitations of typography. Departures include the following: long ‘s’ and some ligatures are not reproduced, and ‘the awkward accent halfway between acute and circumflex’ is printed as acute. The orthography of Adtimchiol an Chreidimh is comparable to that of contemporary Irish prose texts such as the Irish Desiderius, on which see O’Rahilly (1955), pp. xvii-xxiii. Note, however, that ‘i’ and ‘u’ are frequently written ‘j’ and ‘v’, as in contemporary English writings.
EditionFirst edition since 1631 of this translation of Calvin’s Catechism.
Other Sources
Further ReadingMatheson, Angus, ‘Bishop Carswell’, TGSI, 42 (1965), 182-205.
O’Rahilly, Thomas F., Desiderius, otherwise called Sgáthán an Chrábhaidh (Dublin, 1955: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies).
Thomson, R.L., ‘The Language of the Shorter Catechism’, SGS, 12 (1971), 34-51.
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