The Annals of the Four Masters are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan friary in Donegal Town. The entries for the twelfth century and befo re are sourced from medieval annals of the community. The later entries come from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster) and the seventeenth-century entries are based on personal recollection and observation. The annals are written in Irish.
The chief compiler of the annals was Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, who was assisted by, among others, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, Fearfeasa Ó Maol Chonaire and Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain. Although only one of the authors, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, was a Franciscan friar, they became known as 'The Four Friars' or in the original Irish, Na Ceithre Máistrí. The Anglicized version of this was "The Four Masters", the name that became associated with the annals themselves. The patron of the project was Fearghal Ó Gadhra, a lord in County Sligo.
Several manuscript copies are held at Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy, University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland. The annals have also been digitised and are available free from the website of University College Cork. http://www.ucc.ie/celt/publishd.html
Image: Signature page from the Annals of the Four Masters