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In the early Middle Ages, literate individuals in and from the Celtic periphery of Europe (Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, Scotland and the Isle of Man) wrote many and varied Latin works constituting what can arguably be seen as a distinctive literature, whose unusual vocabulary, grammar and phrasing (to say nothing of subject-matter) made it into what has been called “one of the most curious and interesting phenomena of medieval philology”. In an attempt to codify this usage, the Royal Irish Academy has been working actively since the late 1970s towards producing a definitive Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (DMLCS) — part of a Europe-wide movement to publish lexicons of the medieval Latin of specific national areas.

From the outset DMLCS has been computer-based, having as a second objective the establishment of a permanent electronic database containing the whole corpus of Celtic-Latin literature from the period 400-1200 A.D. (about 1300 separate texts, varying from fragmentary inscriptions to learned treatises hundreds of pages long). This full-text database, historically held in the Queen’s University, Belfast, is richly marked up — for non-Latin words, categories of quotation, etc. — so as to be of maximum use to the lexicographer. But it was always envisaged that, as its construction proceeded, the archive would come to be of value to scholars in other disciplines as well — to the editor of texts, the syntactician, the researcher into geographical or chronological distribution of usages, the historian interested in the transmission of ideas or texts, and to many others. The question was how to make it available to them.

That question is being answered with Brepols’ publication, from the DMLCS database, of a series of three cumulative editions of a full-text Archive of Celtic-Latin Literature. Originally modelled upon Brepols’ existing Library of Latin Texts (Cetedoc Library of Christian Latin Texts), this was designed to constitute with that corpus the beginnings of a pan-European electronic library of patristic and medieval Latin material. The initiative is proceeding as follows:

  • The first, preliminary edition, was originally released on CD-ROM in 1994 and, in a revised form, on line in 2007. This extensive collection consisted of over four hundred selected texts, representative of the authors, nationalities, periods and genres in the Celtic-Latin domain. As befitted a database designed to encapsulate what was most distinctive in Celtic-Latin literature, the texts in ACLL-1 were largely chosen for their embodiment of that difference.
  • As it is increasingly becoming apparent that Celtic authors of Latin in the period from the fifth century to the thirteenth also contributed to mainstream European Latin culture in ways for which they have not hitherto been accorded sufficient credit, a principal intention of the developed and expanded second edition is to provide searchable access to Celtic-Latin material that went on to make its mark across western Europe. The additional works involved are being placed online in cumulative annual releases (during the period 2008-2010), each containing all of the material captured so far (including what was in ACLL-1) plus, on each occasion, up to a further half-million words of continuous text. The first such release has now been published on line.
  • The initiative is planned to culminate in ACLL-3, a third, definitive edition, once the database has reached the maximum feasible size — that is, when all accessible Celtic-Latin texts have been captured and processed to standard.

ACLL: view of the search screen

Key Features

  • At the moment, the ACLL contains more than 500 texts.
  • The interface is the same as for the Brepols full-text databases Library of Latin Texts and Monumenta Germaniae Historica 
  • The powerful search-software enables the users to undertake enhanced search possibilities:
    • by using wildcards and operators, the user can construct complex search-queries
    • filters are used when, instead of searching through the entire data set, one wishes to restrict the search to a particular Author or group of Authors, a articular Work, a particular Period or Century.
  • Interface in English, French, German, and Italian
  • The ACLL is part of the Brepolis Latin platform, which is augmented every year and which currently includes four corpora of texts totaling around 16,000 texts. By means of the Cross Database Searchtool, the ACLL can be searched simultaneously with the Library of Latin Texts, the Aristoteles Latinus Database, and the Monumenta Germaniae Historica
  • ‘Live links’ to reference dictionaries (Database of Latin Dictionaries): a user can select a word found in a text of ACLL and automatically find entries on the word in the constituent dictionaries of the Database of Latin Dictionaries (26 dictionaries available)

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English version (PDF)

related Clusters & Related Databases


The Archive of Celtic-Latin Literature is included in the cluster BREPOLiS Latin Complete, along with the Library of Latin Texts, Monumenta Germaniae HistoricaAristoteles Latinus Database, the Cross Database Search Tool and the Database of Latin Dictionaries (including the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources).

Linked Databases

‘Live links’ to the Database of Latin Dictionaries

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© Functional design by CTLO and Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, 2017
© Database by Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 2017
© Lucene – search technology by Apache Foundation (
© Publication rights by Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, 2017

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