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Black Book of Limerick

This very valuable manuscript consists of seventy-six leaves written on vellum and parchment. The table of contents and collection of documents occupying seventy leaves, are beautifully and plainly written in the same hand in the style of the end of the reign of Edward II and in Latin. The earliest document transcribed is the grant of Donald O’Brien, and though undated, is believed to refer to the year 1194. An additional portion, containing the procuration tables and rental of the diocese, in a different and later style of hand, was added by Cornelius O’Dea in 1418. There are some inquisitions relating to Church property also inserted by later bishops.

At the time of the Reformation the book passed into the hands of the Protestant bishops. There are some documents inserted in the end of it by Bishop Adams (1604-1625). It is said to have been in the possession of Bishop Webb, who died a prisoner about 1642.
The Procuration (see left column) Rolls given at page 136 of the Black Book contain the fullest and most valuable list of churches of the diocese before the Reformation.

Black Book of Limerick
A facsimile page
from the Black
Book of Limerick

"Procuratio" anglicised as proxy, was a pecuniary sum or composition paid to a bishop in lieu of the provision or entertainment which in ancient times was allowed to him, and when bishops, instead of holding itinerary visitations of their dioceses, summoned their clergy to meet them at the court of visitation at the cathedrals, an equivalent for the cost of entertainment was assessed on their parishes in the form of fees. Out of this charge the present record grew, and the sum total accruing to the bishop annually from this tax of 1418 was £32 10s., a very large sum at that period.

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