In the 1560s, Queen Elizabeth I began to see the value in becoming familiar with the Irish language. The Queen was already well versed in the French, Italian, Latin and Greek languages. There can be little doubt that her interest in the Irish language was brought on by her desire to control and Anglicise rebellious Ireland. Elizabeth had already provided funds to produce an Irish typeface to facilitate the publication of an Irish language Bible, an indication that she saw this as an opportunity to spread Protestant Christianity in Ireland through the medium of Ireland's the native language.
Christopher Nugent, 9th Baron of Delvin, an Anglo-Irish nobleman, was the author of the Irish Primer seen in the facsimile images above and below. It is not an extensive volume at just 18 pages, but is of great significance as one of the earliest works, if not the earliest, to explain the language to non-Irish speakers, and to have Irish phrases translated into English and Latin.
An artist's depiction of Queen Elizabeth I's meeting with Shane "The Proud" O'Neill in 1567
The Primer was discovered in the 1860s, or thereabouts, in a cupboard in Cambridge's Madingley Hall, a private residence from the time of its construction in 1543 until 1860. The booklet would have been used by Elizabeth from the 1560s through the 1590s to prepare for her face-to-face negotiations with rebellious Irish noblemen such as the O'Neills and the O'Rourkes.
You can click on a facsimile of every page of the Primer, and read more about it on this site. Click on "Collections," then on "Farmleigh House," then on "Irish Primer." The alphabet and glossary can be found on f8 - f10. It's fascinating to see the phrases, the comparison of the alphabets, and the pronunciation guides supplied by Nugent to Elizabeth.