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Current Exhibitions

Admission prices to the Book of Kells include entrance to all current exhibitions in the Old Library building.

The Book of Kells and Long Room Exhibitions

The Book of Kells "Turning Darkness into Light" Exhibition is currently on view in the Colonnades of the Old Library. It can be viewed prior to visiting the original manuscript in the Treasury. The exhibition places the 9th-century manuscript in its historical perspective and allows the visitor to acquire a greater appreciation of the work than is usually possible. Related manuscripts are also on show and may include the Book of Armagh, the Book of Durrow, the Book of Mulling and the Book of Dimma.

The Long Room is lined by 48 marble busts; look out for the bust of Jonathan Swift by Louis Francois Roubiliac. Also look out for one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and Ireland's oldest harp, dating from the 15th century. As an emblem of early bardic society, this is the harp which appears on Irish coins. The attribution to Brian Boru, a High King of Ireland (died 1014) is legendary rather than factual.

The Great War Revisited

The Great War Revisited

An online exhibition of more than 60 exhibits from the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s collection relating to the Great War has been launched. Letters, diaries, photographs, videos, posters, pamphlets and artworks from 1914 - 2014 can now be accessed by anyone wherever they are in world, right from their computer, tablet or phone.

Highlights include:

  • Trinity’s celebrated collection of Irish WWI recruiting posters (one of the largest collection in existence)
  • Previously unpublished photographs of the Allied campaign in Iraq and Turkey
  • Letters and diaries from Irish soldiers serving in France, Iraq and Palestine (previously unpublished)
  • A multitude of political pamphlets, songs and ballads and artworks

Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist, said: “The Library of Trinity College Dublin is delighted to be partnering with Google Cultural Institute on the Great War Revisited online exhibition. Showcasing the richness of First World War material held in the Library, the online exhibition forms part of the Library's commitment to opening up its historic collections for global online access."

History Books in the Anglo-Norman World exhibition

History Books in the Anglo-Norman World

The past was a popular subject in the Anglo-Norman world. Following the conquest of England in 1066, historians in the territories controlled by the kings of England sought to legitimise the new regime and make sense of the political circumstances in which they found themselves by exploring both the recent and distant past. Writers used a range of precedents in shaping their accounts, drawing on sources including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, histories of the dukes of Normandy, and genealogical histories derived from the Bible. Although some works composed in the early twelfth century were primarily designed for use within a particular monastery, others, such as the histories produced by monks John at Worcester and William at Malmesbury, were widely copied and taken up by later generations of writers including Ralph of Diss and Matthew Paris. The surviving ‘history books’ vary significantly in size, format, quality of materials used and decoration. The study of these manuscripts thus sheds light on both the creation and reception of history in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Trinity College Dublin holds an important collection of Anglo-Norman histories, most of which came from the collection of Archbishop James Ussher (d. 1656). Ussher was a keen collector of manuscripts, and his interest in history was linked to his attempt to establish the date of Creation, which he famously concluded must have taken place in 4004 BC. Ussher’s collection was given to Trinity College Library in 1661.

Other Library-Related Events

Friends of the Library Lectures

Friends of the Library lectures are regularly announced on the Library's blog.

All Friends lectures take place at 19:30 unless otherwise specified.

Admission for Friends of the Library €2.50, non-members €5. Library Alumni can avail of the concessionary rate. All are welcome to attend the lectures listed.

Previous Exhibitions - Available Online

Upon the Wild Waves: a Journey through Myth in Children’s Books

The transformation of the children of Lir
Illustration from "The Children of Lir" illustration © PJ Lynch 2014 - taken from "The Names Upon The Harp" by Marie Heaney, published by Faber and Faber

This exhibition, which will be on display in the Long Room, Trinity College Library from 23 October 2014 until April 2015, aims to serve as a celebration of the wealth of children’s literature held in the Library. Drawing upon material published over several centuries, the exhibition will explore some of the varying ways in which writers and illustrators have used myth to engage younger readers, from creation myths of Polynesia and tales of Greek Gods to Biblical myths and Celtic legends.

This exhibition is curated by Dr Pádraic Whyte, co-director of the Masters programme in children’s literature at the School of English in Trinity. The varied and delightful content is sourced from the Library which holds almost 150,000 children’s books - over 10,000 of which are from The Pollard Collection of Children’s Books, bequeathed to the Library by a former Keeper of Early Printed Books, Mary ‘Paul’ Pollard.

Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, 1014

Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, 1014

April to 19 October 2014

2014 will see the celebration of an important medieval milestone in the Long Room of Trinity College Dublin: the one thousandth anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. In the popular imagination that battle was the culmination of a long war between Viking invaders/settlers and the most powerful of all Irish kings, Brian Boru. The historical reality was not so simple, and both the history and the legend of Brian will be examined in a new exhibition: Emperor of the Irish.

Pride of place in this unique exhibition will be given to the only item known to have been in Brian’s presence: the famous 9th-century decorated manuscript known as the Book of Armagh. The exhibition will include some of the Library’s greatest medieval Irish treasures such as the Book of Leinster and the Brian Boru harp. The display will incorporate large-scale graphics designed by Cartoon Saloon (producers of the Academy Award nominated animated film The Secret of Kells), which have been inspired by the exhibition’s themes.

Other events related to the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf can be seen at the external official events website.

In Tune: A Millennium of Music in Trinity College Library

In Tune: a Millennium of Music in Trinity College Library

The Library boasts an astonishing wealth of evidence of the history of music. To showcase this, and to mark the 250th anniversary of the Chair of Music in Trinity, the Library invites you to get ‘in tune' and visit the forthcoming exhibition in the Long Room.

The Library's music collections have been built up over the course of four centuries, and in their range and diversity reflect a thousand years of Irish and European musical history. In Tune - our Winter exhibition in the Long Room - aims to reveal the richness of our music holdings by highlighting a selection of the most significant items, many of which are unique or extremely rare.We also take this opportunity to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the University of Dublin's Chair of Music, first held by Garrett Wesley, the first Earl of Mornington, a talented amateur musician and father of the Duke of Wellington.

The exhibition has five main themes:

Early Music Treasures - including medieval liturgical manuscripts, music of the Reformation, and domestic music from the Elizabethan era. These sources also illustrate the development of musical notation and music printing in its early experimental stages.

Music in Eighteenth-Century Dublin - Dublin's busy musical calendar encompassed royal birthday odes at Dublin Castle; benefit concerts in aid of Mercer's Hospital and other charitable institutions; cathedral and College chapel music; and the first performance of Handel's Messiah in 1742.

Irish Folk Music and Song - folk music collectors such as Edward Bunting, George Petrie and James Goodman made a vital contribution towards saving Ireland's native musical heritage by transcribing traditional tunes directly from folk musicians.

Collection Expansion - from the beginning of the 20th century music collections have increased rapidly, boosted by the purchase of Ebenezer Prout's music library in 1910 and the acceptance of printed music under legal deposit. Music of all genres is collected and preserved - from plainchant to rock'n'roll.

Modern Irish Masters - the Library continues to add to its rich archives of Irish composers of the twentieth century. Four of these are represented in the exhibition: Ina Boyle, Frederick May, Brian Boydell and Gerald Barry.

The exhibition is enlivened by music playing in the background in the Long Room and by an accompanying series of lectures and concerts.

The exhibition, sponsored by KBC Bank, runs until 1 April 2014.

An explanatory leaflet and worksheet (PDF 858KB) is available.

Preservation & Conservation: What's that? May - September 2013.

Preservation and Conservation: What's That?

25 April to 20 October 2013

Providing a link between the sciences and the humanities, this exhibition looks at the fascinating and varied activities of the Library's Preservation and Conservation Department.

Among the highlights are display cases exploring: the pigments used in manuscript illumination; the conservation of manuscripts, photographs and early printed books; the development of book structures; the analysis of the environment and its effect on collections; the study of Old Library dust; and the impact of the Save the Treasures campaign on the preservation of the collection in the Long Room.

The exhibition promises a rare glimpse of items not usually seen while offering an introduction into the world and work of the conservators.

Drawn to the Page: Irish Artists and Illustration 1830- 1930

Drawn to the Page: Irish Artists and Illustration 1830 - 1930

24 October 2012 to 21 April 2013 - part of our Tercentenary celebrations.

This exhibition serves as an introduction to and a celebration of, Irish artists' involvement with illustration from the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century, a significant period in the history of European book and periodical illustration.

Sourced from the Library of Trinity College Dublin, the display includes some of the finest illustrated texts from this period, many of which are illustrated using original hand-cut plates or blocks. Artists such as George Petrie, Daniel Maclise, Margaret Stokes, Jack Butler Yeats and Robert Gibbings will be included. Given the location in the Long Room, and its association with one of the most important illuminated manuscripts in the world, the exhibition illustrates the continuing heritage of the artist and the book in Ireland.

A Great Many Choice Books

A great many choice books: 300 years of the Old Library

Summer 2012

Trinity College Library's history reflects that of the nation: periods of stability, prosperity and growth interrupted by political turbulence and stagnation. The wealth of the Library's collections owes much to the foresight of the College's founders and the generosity of its benefactors dating from shortly after its foundation in 1592. This long history is celebrated with a display of fine books and manuscripts alongside records relating to the construction and fabric of the Old Library building. Among the exhibition highlights are: the 12th-century Winchcombe Psalter; the 14th-century Dublin Apocalypse; a first edition of Martin Luther's Old Testament; a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible; fine bindings from the collection of the 18th-century connoisseur Henry George Quin; and books from the superb Fagel Library.

Troubled Magnificence: France under Louis XIV

Troubled Magnificence: France under Louis XIV (requires Flash)

12 October 2011 to 1 April 2012

Under Louis XIV France became the most powerful land power in Western Europe. Considerable territorial expansion was achieved through a series of wars which were hugely expensive in lives and money. By the end of the reign in 1715 the state was almost bankrupt.

Despite the warfare, there were immense cultural achievements: in drama the works of Corneille, Molière and Racine; in architecture the building of the palace of Versailles; in music, the operas of Lully. In common with many other countries, there was repressive legislation against religious non-conformists who in France were the Huguenots. This culminated in 1685 in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes of 1598 which had granted limited toleration.

This exhibition looks at various aspects of French life in the seventeenth century including taxation, warfare, trade and religion. The exhibition is entirely drawn from the very rich visual and textual resources of Trinity College Library which has the finest collection of seventeenth-century French books in Ireland.

An explanatory leaflet (PDF 1.42MB) is available.

‘The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman’ (Jonathan Swift). The School of Medicine 1711 – 2011. 7 April - 2 October 2011, the Long Room, the Library of Trinity College Dublin

‘The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman' (Jonathan Swift). The School of Medicine 1711 - 2011 (requires Flash)

7 April 2011 to 2 October 2011

For centuries, Trinity medics have contributed to medical education and practice around the world. This exhibition will explore the Library of Trinity College Dublin's collections relating to 300 years of the School of Medicine and the history of medicine in Ireland.

An exhibition leaflet (PDF 465KB) is available.

Ireland in Turmoil: the 1641 Depositions

Ireland in Turmoil: the 1641 Depositions (requires Flash)

07 October 2010 to 03 April 2011

The 1641 Depositions (TCD MSS 809-841) are witness testimonies, mainly by Protestants, concerning their experiences during the rebellion of the Catholic Irish in 1641. This unique body of material contains vivid, and often harrowing, accounts of murder, assault, imprisonment, loss of goods and military activity across the country. The exhibition draws on a rich collection of manuscript material, original depositions, maps, contemporary pamphlets and printed works. The material documents the sectarian tensions in colonial Ireland that erupted in 1641, the course of the rebellion, and the fallout that shaped the course of Irish political and social history over the following centuries. The 1641 Rebellion is discussed in the wider context of the sectarian massacres of the period across Europe and the Americas, and its enduring place in the myth and memory of Irish Protestants.

The 1641 Deposition Project to conserve, digitise, transcribe and make the Depositions available online reached a conclusion in September 2010.

Exhibition concept and text: Eamon Darcy, Bernard Meehan, Jane Ohlmeyer, Felicity O' Mahony, Micheál Ó Siochrú.

Nabobs, Soldiers and Imperial Service: the Irish in India. 28 May - 3 October 2010. The Long Room, the Library of Trinity College Dublin
Nabobs, Soldiers and Imperial Service: the Irish in India
(requires Flash)

27 May to 03 October 2010

Nabobs, Soldiers and Imperial Service: The Irish in India explored the experiences of Irish men and women living in India within the wider colonial context. Themes covered included the East India Company; trade and territorial expansion; the Indian Mutiny; Christian missionaries, including the Dublin University mission; the Indian Civil Service; big game hunting; and the road to Independence.

The links with South Asia and Trinity College Dublin are very old, reaching back at least to the establishment of the Chair of Oriental Languages in 1762. The exhibition detailed the links between Trinity, Ireland, Britain and Europe with India, concentrating on the wealth of printed books and other related material from the 19th and early 20th century that is held in the Library.

Napoleon: Emperor of the French

Napoleon: Emperor of the French (requires Flash)

18 June to 1 November 2009

Even today Napoleon casts a long shadow over Europe. His law reforms and political ideals remain important influences on the shape of the continent and its sense of identity. The exhibition examined his career and political philosophy through the use of contemporary image and print from the Library's rich collection of 19th-century French materials, showing his meteoric rise and fall and the consequences of his reign for France.

Dublin: the College and the City 1250-1950. View of Front Arch

Dublin: the College and the City 1250-1950 (requires Flash)

05 November 2009 to 13 May 2010

One of the oldest cities in Europe, Dublin's settlement spans over 1000 years. The collections of Trinity College Library offer fascinating glimpses of that vibrant history. They reflect the everyday economic, social and intellectual concerns of Dubliners throughout the centuries, whether they were scholars, patriots, rebels, churchmen, politicians, landowners, servants or students. Since its foundation in 1592, Trinity's identity has become inextricably linked with that of Dublin, and the College's archives illustrate this relationship. This exhibition provides a rich view of life in Dublin, based on the words and experiences of generations of citizens of, and visitors to, the city. It begins with manuscripts generated by the Anglo- Norman administration, when Dublin emerged as the capital of Ireland, progressing through 700 years of change and renewal.

An explanatory leaflet (PDF 2.7MB) is available.

Other Past Exhibitions


Selections from the Clarke Stained Glass Studios Collection

Harry Clarke, one of Ireland’s most gifted artists, was born in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day in 1889.

The Clarke Stained Glass Studios Collection, held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library at Trinity College, contains stained glass designs, colour schemes, opus sectile designs, architects' blueprints and plans, photographs, documentation about sales and orders, correspondence, financial records, staffing records, and research documentation related to stained glass work executed by the Clarke Studios, Dublin from 1894 to 1972. The bulk of the material covers the period after Harry Clarke's death in 1931. This selection of digital images from the Collection is a sample of the materials that will be digitised and made available online.

Illuminated Latijn Psalters

Illuminated Latin Psalters in Trinity College Dublin Library

The Psalms were central to the practice of Christianity in Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Sung in Church and meditated on privately, the Psalms provided words with which to praise and cry out to God. Psalters in the Library of Trinity College Dublin showcase the wide range of treatments given to this text in manuscripts from the eleventh to the fifteenth century, and a selection of these are presented here.


BLAST at 100: a Centenary Symposium in Trinity College Dublin

A small exhibition curated in conjunction with a symposium to mark the centenary of the art journal Blast. It will be on show in the Long Room from 26 June to 10 July 2014 and is available online.

Published on the eve of the First World War in July 1914, the first issue of Blast marked the emergence of Vorticism, a new, modernist, British art movement. Led by Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), Vorticism was responding to other avant-garde and nationally-defined art movements such as Futurism in Italy, Expressionism in Germany, and the Celtic Revival in Ireland. With its bright cover and bold type, Blast distinguished itself from other art vernaculars then popular in Britain and Ireland, such as academic painting or colourful post-Impressionist styles. The volume included a manifesto for Vorticism signed by Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Ezra Pound, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, Lawrence Atkinson, Richard Aldington, Cuthbert Hamilton, Malcolm Arbuthnot, Jessica Dismoor, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. The content in the magazine was not limited to these signatories, however: a whole issue of Blast presents a fascinating overview of avant-garde artists and authors working in Britain at this time.

The different fields of painting, design, sculpture, poetry, prose and drama are encompassed in the two issues. The journal was also an experiment in typography, testing new ways of designing and presenting visual and written material. It can be seen as a predecessor to later ventures in modernist print and visual culture.

The second, and final, issue of Blast was published in 1915. Entitled the ‘War Number’, this issue again featured the work of artists, authors, poets and playwrights. Among them was Helen Saunders, one of three female artists who contributed to the publication. The issue also included work by Christopher R.W. Nevinson, then working as an official war artist, and a tribute to sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, who died fighting in France in 1915. Following the war, Wyndham Lewis continued to paint, write art-criticism and fiction, and to produce occasional modernist magazines such as The Tyro.

TCD MS 7534/5. Graduation photograph of paediatrician Dr Dorothy Price née Stopford (1890-1954)

What Price the Children: the Work of Dorothy Price among the Dublin Poor

August 2013, to mark the centenary of the 1913 Lockout.

As the city of Dublin commemorates the events of August 1913, the industrial dispute which led to the Lockout, the Library takes the opportunity to focus on one of the principal underlying causes of the unrest, the degrading levels of poverty experienced by the poorest citizens of Dublin. It was children who bore the brunt of this poverty, and who continued to live, and die, in the most abject circumstances long after the dust settled in 1913. Well into the 1930s the Dublin slums were notorious, disease-ridden sumps in which a high percentage of the population lived in one-roomed accommodation; the infant mortality rate, and the rate of TB infection, were much higher there than in anywhere else in Western Europe.

Dorothy Stopford Price was graduate of Trinity College's medical school. Her master's thesis was on childhood tuberculosis and she devoted her entire professional life to the well-being of the poorest children of Dublin, working mostly in St Ultan's hospital.

Price made her professional reputation through her research in Germany, Austria, and Sweden into tuberculosis and BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, which prevented TB). She believed the disease was a ‘closed book' in Ireland due to ‘the fact that doctors in Ireland did not read or visit German-speaking centres' (Dictionary of Irish Biography). Price studied under Dr Wassen, who introduced BCG with great success in Sweden and it was Price who brought the BCG to Ireland. Included in this exhibition is the envelope in which it first arrived.

Price's work was recognised by Dr Noel Browne, minister for health, when the National BCG Centre was located at St Ultan's in 1949, with Price as its first chairman.

The Library has a very full collection of Price's professional papers, including her correspondence with Dr Wassen and the notes she took during her visits to medical institutions in Europe.

TCD MS 502 folio 10r. Twelfth-century English chronicle showing the genealogy of the English kings, beginning with Adam

Transmitting the Anglo-Saxon Past

29 July-2 August 2013, to welcome the delegates to the conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists.

This conference, the initiative of Professor Mary Clayton of UCD, is being supported by the School of English in TCD who are also sponsoring the conference reception in the Long Room.

The conference theme is ‘Insular Cultures', and the focus will be on relations between Anglo-Saxon England and Ireland in the early Middle Ages.

To mark the occasion an exhibition is being curated by medievalists Dr Alice Jorgenson of the School of English and Dr Laura Cleaver of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, facilitated by the Library.

Drawing on the rich sources for insular history in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library the curators will display, among other items, the Anglo-Saxon history by John of Worcester with its copy of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, and a 16th-century transcript of the 9th-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, along with medieval ‘Lives of saints' and genealogies.

TCD MS 1550. Nineteenth-century copy, by Mouhamed Ibrahim Shirazi, of Hakim Abu'l-Qasim Firdawsi’s Shah Nâmeh, or Book of Kings, detail from title page

The Book of Kings: Middle-Eastern Manuscripts in the Library

June 2013, to coincide with the meeting of the Middle East Libraries Committee in Dublin.

This year's MELCOM (Middle East Libraries Committee) UK meeting is being held in Dublin on 25 June. To celebrate this, an exhibition has been installed featuring some of the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library's Middle-Eastern materials.

Chief among the exhibits is a 19th-century copy of the 'Shahnameh' (alt. 'Shahnama') or the Book of Kings. Written by the 11th-century poet Firdausi, the Shahnameh, completed in eastern Iran in March 1010, is a work of mythology, history, literature and propaganda; a living poem that pervades and expresses many aspects of Persian culture. The Shahnameh contains approximately 50,000 verses and is generally divided into mythical, legendary and historical sections.

Another even older copy of the work forms part of the Preservation & Conservation Department's exhibition also on display in the Long Room, along with some clay tablets from modern-day Iraq. The cuneiform script on these artefacts is the earliest-known form of script.

Included in the Book of Kings exhibition is an Iman's wooden staff, of uncertain age, which is inscribed with verses from the Koran; an exquisitely-decorated Koranic scroll taken from the battlefield at the Liberation of Venice in 1683; and some of the Library's important collection of Syriac manuscripts.

Take a look at M&ARL's Asian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopic manuscripts website for more information about the Middle-Eastern collection.

Nurse from the Adelaide Hospital

Adelaide Hospital (requires Flash)

The archives of the Adelaide Hospital, including those of the School of Nursing, were donated to the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, the Library of Trinity College Dublin in 2007 by the Adelaide Hospital Society. A major project was initiated in September 2009, with the support of the Society, to catalogue the collection and make it available to the public.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Adelaide School of Nursing, and to celebrate the start of the Adelaide Hospital Project, the Library of Trinity College Dublin mounted a display of items from the archive that relate to the School of Nursing, in the West End of the Long Room. This exhibition was on view until 23rd December 2009.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Marking the 260th Anniversary of the graduation of Edmund Burke in 2008.

Born at 12 Arran Quay, Dublin on 12 January 1729, Edmund Burke graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1748. As a student he founded what would later become the College Historical Society, the oldest student society in the world. It was here that he honed his legendary debating skills.

Burke entered Parliament in 1765 and quickly became a champion for political emancipation, concerning himself especially with affairs in his native Ireland. However after 1789, he directed his attention to the French Revolution and its immediate ramifications for political stability in England.

A Window on the Middle Ages

A Window on the Middle Ages (requires Flash)

Trinity College Library holds an exceptional collection of medieval manuscripts, largely built up from the library of archbishop James Ussher (died 1656) and others in the 17th century, with sporadic acquisitions in later centuries.

In recent years the holdings have been augmented significantly, the present exhibition featuring highlights from this phase of collecting. Material on display ranges in date from the 9th to the 17th centuries.


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