The Tripartite Life of Patrick

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Celtic scholar and philologist Whitley Stokes (1830-1909) edited and translated many important early medieval texts from Ireland, in Latin and Irish, which remain standard reading. This two-volume edition of works about Patrick, the fifth-century apostle to Ireland, was first published in 1887. The Tripartite Life, compiled around 900 CE, is the earliest-known saint’s life in Irish. It was intended to be read over the three days of the saint’s festival. Hagiography rather than history, with many fictitious and legendary elements, it is partly in Irish and partly in Latin. The Irish portions are translated into English. Volume 1 includes an extensive introduction on the manuscript sources, the work’s probable date on linguistic grounds, and the social context in which it originated. Stokes also attempts to disentangle fable from known biographical information about Patrick, and discusses the saint’s own writings and the annalistic references given in Volume 2.

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