The Bryson and MacAdam manuscripts are the most comprehensive and important collection of Irish language manuscripts now in existence in Northern Ireland.
They were purchased by Belfast Public Libraries in 1989 from the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society. The forty-four volumes in the collection have now been conserved and preserved on microfilm to the highest standard.The manuscripts, which date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centurys were collected by Dr Samuel Bryson and Robert MacAdam in the mid-1800’s. Both Bryson and MacAdam were born in Belfast, in 1778 and 1808 respectively. Bryson pursued a career in medicine, while MacAdam worked in the hardware trade. In 1838 he established the Soho Foundry in Townsend Street with his brother James. Bryson and MacAdam’s shared interest in the Irish language led to their involvement in the Ulster Gaelic Society, which was formed in 1830. The manuscript collection includes poetry, folklore, folksongs, natural history and religious texts. Many of the items are unique in Ireland, like the version of "Deirdre" written by Bryson himself in 1805. Ulster poets such as James McCourt, Patrick MacAlindon and Hugh MacDonnell are well represented. For example, MacDonnell, commonly known as the Belfast poet, has amongst others a short verse on the famine in 1846 and a poem of reconciliation composed to placate a couple in Glenties, who thought MacDonnell was a spy from Dublin Castle.
Many of the items in the collection are unique in Ireland. The manuscripts date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
There are forty four volumes in the collection. They have been conserved and are now preserved on microfilm.
Fine Book Room Catalogue at Belfast Central Library; Descriptive Catalogue of the Bryson & McAdam Collection, P & B. Rown; Clár na Lámhscribhní Gaeilge, Breandan Ó'Buachalla.
Libraries NI have legal ownership of this collection. All enquiries regarding access and permissions should be directed to Libraries NI.