Part I of Rudolf Thurneysen Handbuch des Altirischen appeared in 1909 in the series Indogermanische Bibliothek published by Carl Winter's Universitätsbuchhandlung, Heidelberg. Although the book was primarily intended for philologists--its purpose being, in the author's words, 'to make Old Irish accessible to those familiar with the comparative grammar of the Indo-European languages'--it has been for more than a generation the standard work for all who have made Old Irish their special study. Since its SYSTEMation, however, considerable advance has been made in the investigation of the older language, much of it due to Thurneysen himself, and an up-to-date edition of the Handbuch has long been a desideratum of Irish scholarship.
Ten years ago, the author, at the request of the Irish Government, undertook to prepare a new edition in English, in which he would have the assistance of a former pupil, Mr. Michael Duignan (now Professor of Celtic Archaeology in University College, Galway).
Mr. Duignan spent two years in Bonn, working under Thurneysen's direction, mainly on an interleaved copy of the German edition which contained far- reaching alterations and additions, and by 1938 he had com pleted a draft English translation, the typescript of which was subsequently revised by Thurneysen. It was intended, on Mr. Duignan's return to Ireland, that this version should be set up in galley-proofs and submitted to Thurneysen for further revision. But although about a third of the work was eventually set up, the outbreak of war in 1939 made communication between Dublin and Bonn virtually impossible, and in August of the following year came the news of Thurneysen's death.