Torbach (Calbach) (d. 808), from Cluain Cracha, coarb (successor) of St Patrick (qv) at Armagh, died on 16 July 808, after only a year in office. His father Gormán, who had been the coarb of St Mauchteus (qv) of Louth, died on pilgrimage at Clonmacnoise in 757. The family, described as being of the Cenél Torbaig, was related to that of Conn na mBocht (qv) of Clonmacnoise, grandfather of Máel-Muire (qv) son of Célechar, one of the scribes of Lebor na hUidre, who was killed in 1106. Torbach's importance now rests on his patronage of the Book of Armagh, his death providing the first certain date in the history of Irish palaeography. The small but thick manuscript has all the appearance of a personal book, though after the scribal inscriptions were erased it was exalted to become a relic of St Patrick, enshrined by 937 by the high-king, Donnchad Donn (qv) son of Flann Sinna (qv), and treated as part of the regalia of the later bishops and abbots.
The manuscript, which is written in Latin with a little Irish, contains the only copy of the New Testament surviving from Ireland, together with a selection of texts making up a Patrician dossier, including the saint's Confession, the Life written by Muirchú (qv), and the ‘Collectanea’ compiled by Tírechán (qv), the latter two texts dating from the seventh century. It also included the Life of St Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus, and extracts from the ‘Moralia’ of Gregory. There has been much discussion about the number of scribes involved but, following Sharpe, three can be distinguished. The earliest probably wrote the Pauline epistles; this might have been Torbach himself, who is described as a scribe, though this is more likely to have meant a scripture scholar rather than a writer. Another man wrote most of the manuscript, and Ferdomnach (qv) (d. 845), the best-known and most accomplished scribe and artist, wrote and decorated the gospels, dating his work on St Matthew's day, 21 September (807). Otherwise he appears as a finisher of the work of the main scribe.