In May 2002 the final volume of the early Irish statutes series, edited by Philomena Connolly, was published by Four Courts Press in association with the National Archives. It contains the French text, with English translation, of the statute rolls of the parliaments held in Ireland in 1484, 1485 and 1493, and the complete English text of the statute roll of Henry VIII’s Reformation parliament of 1536-37, the only such roll to survive the Four Courts fire in 1922. Several unpublished acts of the reign of Edward IV (1461-83) are also included.
This brings to a conclusion a project begun by the Irish Record Commission in 1811 which had as its aim the publication of all the enactments of the Irish parliament up to Poynings’ parliament of 1494–95. This cut-off date was chosen partly because the enactment of Poyning’s Law changed the whole procedure of legislative enactment in Ireland, and also because statutes passed after that date were in English and so were more easily accessible to those who wished to consult them.
The project was dogged by disaster over the years. Although the Record Commission did a lot of the preliminary work of transcribing and translating, the publication was suspended in 1824, probably for financial reasons and the Commission itself was wound up in 1830. Nothing further was done until the beginning of the 20th century, when the Public Record Office of Ireland began a series of publications based on the Record Commission’s work.
Three volumes, covering the period from the early 13th century to 1472, were published before all of the medieval statute rolls were destroyed in the Four Courts fire. Much of the work for the next two volumes had been done before 1922, and some of this material survived the fire. Volume 4, covering the years 1472–83, was prepared for publication but a further disaster occurred when printing was in progress. A fire in the printing works in 1935 destroyed the type, but fortunately it was possible to use the proofs for publication by means of photolithography. The fifth volume, although subjected to various delays over the years, happily did not encounter any such disasters, and, thanks to the collaboration between the National Archives and Four Courts Press, has now appeared, 191 years after the project was first initiated.
Philomena Connolly (ed), Statute rolls of the Irish parliament, Richard III – Henry VIII
Price: €60/£47.50/$60 hbk
Available direct from Four Courts Press or through booksellers.