‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’ now online

The Great Bible (1540)

The Great Bible (1540)

Following the Long Room display ‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’ in February 2017, we are delighted to launch the online version of the work, in conjunction with our partner Google Cultural Institute. The exhibition is one of a series of events taking place in Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

The exhibition features the illustrated title page of The Great Bible (1540) which shows, under the eyes of God, Henry enthroned distributing God’s word to Cranmer (on his left) and Cromwell (on his right). Below this, Cranmer and Cromwell, hand the Bible to a priest and a nobleman. Below that again is a rabble of ordinary (though well-dressed) people shouting ‘Long live the King’ and ‘God save the King’. Strikingly, the Bible seems not to have made its way into their hands – none of these lesser individuals holds ‘Verbum Dei’.

Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein … (1524)

Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein … (1524)

Visitors to the site can examine in great detail a selection of Reformation works held in the Library including the only known surviving copy of the Maler edition of ‘Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein …’ (1524).

The exhibition is presented by the Library in conjunction with The School of English and The School of Histories and Humanities with thanks to our colleagues in Digital Resources & Images Services and the Department of Conservation & Preservation.

Boxes with integrated book cradle: one object, two roles

By Erica D’Alessandro, Heritage Council Conservation intern


As conservators, our job is to conserve Library books but also to preserve them from dust, light, improper handling and fluctuations in humidity, and to protect them during movement and handling. This is why we create made-to-measure boxes for many of the books we treat. Continue reading

Animals in the Library

By Dr Jane Carroll

Once upon a time, someone nearly bought a stuffed tiger for the Early Printed Books Reading Room [when we were preparing a Long Room exhibition about India – Ed.]. Sadly, the tiger was never bought but, nevertheless, EPB is full of animals if you know where to look for them.

Last week, I brought a group of sophister students from the School of English to EPB to look at animal books, mainly from the Pollard Collection.

P1030857 Continue reading

A Swift repair


As a Heritage Council intern at Trinity College Library, I have the opportunity to work on several conservation projects supervised by conservators.  Last month, I worked with Andrew Megaw on a book entitled Letters written by the late J. Swift, D.D. Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, and several of his friends. From the year 1703 to 1740. Published from the originals; with Notes explanatory and historical, by John Hawkesworth, L.L.D. In three volumes. A new edition. Volume I. London, 1766, shelfmark OLS L-11-584.

Figure 1: Pages on display.

Figure 1: Pages on display.

In 2008, the bequest of Archibald C. Elias’s collection of Swift material arrived in Trinity College Library. It includes this book which had belonged to the renowned printer John Nichols and is annotated throughout with commentaries and notes used in his edition of the Works in 1801.1  Nichols is considered a reliable biographer.  He spent his life in the study of authors such as Jonathan Swift.2  He often bought original documents that would give him information about his contemporaries.  In fact, it is highly likely that Nichols possessed original letters from Swift in order to correct and revise this 1766 edition.

Condition and aims of the treatments


and 3: Front and spine before treatment. Boards detached and leather spine split.


Figures 2

This book, currently on display in the Jonathan Swift exhibition in the Long Room, was in a very poor condition.  The original leather binding exhibits characteristics of being an inexpensively produced plain binding (2-on sewing, no lining, only 3 cords laced-in, only 3 tie-downs for the endbands) and not solid enough to protect the textblock after 250 years.  Indeed, the textblock was split in two (fig. 2) and the supports and sewing thread were broken at several spots. The boards were detached and the leather spine was fragmented and brittle (fig. 3).

Figure 4: Tail edge before treatment. Text block split, loss of the endband, losses of the leather on the corners and tail cap.

Figure 4: Tail edge before treatment. Text block split, loss of the endband, losses of the leather on the corners and tail cap.

Our aim is to preserve as much of the original object as possible, including the original decorated spine, and to allow the book to be handled and used after treatment.  There are two main aspects of treatment.  On the one hand, we want to stabilise the text block structure and, on the other, repair the spine area in such a way that further damage to the spine area would be minimised.

Conservation Treatment

To rebind a book while keeping as much of the original material as possible, the lifting stages are important and delicate.  The brittle spine, the leather from the boards, and the thin pastedowns were lifted mechanically.  The quires were disassembled, cleaned and repaired before rebinding.  We followed the original pattern of the sewing by using the original holes.

The spine of the textblock was consolidated with two layers of Japanese paper (NAO PAPER 19 g/m2) applied between the cords.  Then, because the original sewing and the board attachment were weak, we added two aerolinen linings on the extremities of the spine (fig. 5).  The boards were re-attached by lacing the cords through the existing holes in the boards.  We consolidated this attachment by pasting down the aerolinen linings on the outer and inner boards.  In addition, the aerolinen linings will support the backfolds pierced by the tie-downs and consolidate the attachment of the new endbands.

Figure 5: Spine of the text block after sewing, consolidation of the backfold of the quires, application of the endcaps with aerolinen linings and creation of new endbands.

Figure 5: Spine of the text block after sewing, consolidation of the backfold of the quires, application of the endcaps with aerolinen linings and creation of new endbands.

Figure 6: application of the moulded spine in Japanese paper with Japanese paper hinges.

Figure 6: application of the moulded spine in Japanese paper with Japanese paper hinges.

We created a moulded spine in order to reduce tension on the damaged original leather spine, and we attached it with strips of Japanese paper as shown in fig. 6.

We toned and pared a vegetable tanned leather re-tanned with aluminium3 and applied it on the moulded spine and under the lifted leather of the boards.  After that, we applied the original leather on top of it and let it dry in shape under a bandage (fig. 8).

Finally, the removed elements such as the original bands or pieces of the sewing thread were conserved in Mylar® enclosures (fig. 10) in the made-to-measure phase box.

Erica D’Alessando, from Brussels, Belgium, began a Heritage Council 9-month internship at Trinity College Library in October 2016. She has a Bachelor in Art History from the University of Brussels and a Bachelor and a Master in Art Conservation (book specialisation) from the National School of Visual Art of La Cambre, Brussels.

Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500

A rare volume from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s confiscated library is now on show in the Library of Trinity College Dublin as part of a new exhibition, ‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’.


Hus, J. ‘Epistolae quaedam piissimae …’ Press B.5.24

‘Epistolae quaedam piissimae …’ (1537) by the Czech reformer Jan Hus was once housed in the Library of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. The work was last referenced in John Strype’s ‘Memorials of Cranmer’ (1694) as “… in the possession of a Reverend Friend of mine near Canterbury”.  Cranmer was burned as a heretic in 1556 and his books were confiscated by the authorities. The main collection was later absorbed into the library of Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel.

Continue reading

Celebrating 350 years since the birth of Jonathan Swift

A new display, ‘Swift350’, has opened in the Long Room of the Old Library to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of one of Trinity College Dublin’s most famous graduates, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

Engraved portrait of Jonathan Swift

Frontispiece portrait of Swift from ‘The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D. in four volumes’, Dublin, 1735. OLS L-11-396

Among the most widely read of all Irish writers, Swift is best known as the author of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726), now universally known as Gulliver’s Travels. His other works include A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books and as a political pamphleteer, Swift is particularly known for A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture, The Drapier’s Letters and A Modest Proposal. Continue reading

John Milton and his hand in our holdings

Among the collections in our Library sits a bound volume of tracts (Press B.4.16) by John Milton (1608-1674) with an interesting history. The title-page of the first tract in the volume, ‘Of reformation touching church-discipline in England …’ is complete with a dedication in Milton’s hand to Patrick Young (1584-1652).


Milton’s title-page dedication to Patrick Young and the inscription ‘Stamford 1693’

The inscription can be reconstructed as –

‘Ad doctissim[um] virum Patri[cium] Junium Joann[es] Miltonius hæc / sua, unum in f[asci]culum conjecta / mittit, paucis h[u]/jusmodi lectori[bus]/ contentus.’/

‘To the most learned man Patrick Young John Milton sends these his things, gathered together in one little volume, satisfying himself with but few readers of this kind.’*

Continue reading

Suggestive Sculptures

By Jack Quin

The Irish sculptor Oliver Sheppard’s Sleeping Nymph (1918) has been on display in the Long Room since September, as part of the exhibition Writing Art in Ireland, 1890–1930. Drawn from Trinity College Dublin’s own art collections, Sheppard’s small marble relief is something of a sculpture within a sculpture. The main subject is a female nude lying sleeping. But carved in the right-hand corner is a barely discernible cherub or infant. Like the sculptor’s Roisin Dubh memorial to the poet James Clarence Mangan in Stephen’s Green, a smaller figure incorporated into the piece can be read as some form of ambiguous symbol or allegory relating to the primary subject.

sleeping-nymphSuch suggestive works not only sometimes drew on literary sources but also provoked several notable literary responses. Sheppard’s early statuette Oisin and Niamh (1895) was inspired by W.B. Yeats’s The Wanderings of Oisin (1889), a fact that greatly pleased the poet. His later bronze statue The Death of Cuchulain – itself drawn from Lady Gregory’s portrayal of the hero in Cuchulainn of Muirthelmne (1902) – in turn became the subject of several poems by Yeats, following its erection in the General Post Office in 1935 to commemorate the Easter Rising. Less reverentially, Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy (1938) describes how a character was moved to seize ‘the dying hero by the thighs’ and ‘dash his head against his buttocks, such as they are’.

Presented alongside Sleeping Nymph in the exhibition is a quixotic response to Sheppard’s work by Patrick Pearse, printed in the Gaelic League newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light) in 1906. The revolutionary, sacrificial message of Pearse’s appraisal seems clear. Of one statuette of a mother and child, he asserts: ‘his heart will not falter, he will fight the fight – win it, maybe, or failing gloriously, go serenely to his death. And the Woman of Destiny will wait and watch on.’  As such visual artworks enter into language, their meanings become interpreted and contested. Indeed during the lead up to last year’s centenary commemorations a 1916 Relatives Association urged Dublin City Council to rename the The Spire monument on O’Connell Street An Claidheamh Soluis. Like the symbolist sculpture of Oliver Sheppard, even the austerely abstract Spire sitting opposite the G.P.O. will have its significance written and rewritten.


Jack Quin is a Research Assistant in the School of English, working on the Irish Research Council-funded project ‘W.B. Yeats and the Writing of Art’.

Holly-days are here!

The Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections will close at 5pm today (Thursday 22nd December 2016) and reopen at 10am on Tuesday 3rd January 2017. We wish all our readers a very pleasant break and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

This image is from v.3 of Elizabeth Blackwell’s Herbal, shelfmark Fag.GG.3.7 – see more about this 5-volume set in a previous post.

‘a pin in the very quickest part of my body’

By Jack Quin and Tom Walker

Poster for Thomas Bodkin's book Hugh Lane and his pictures (1932)

Shelfmark: TCD MS 6911/16

This poster for Thomas Bodkin’s book Hugh Lane and his pictures (1932) is included in the exhibition ‘Writing Art in Ireland, 1890–1930’, currently on display in the Long Room. The advert reproduces William Orpen’s Homage to Manet (1909), a group portrait of the novelist George Moore reading from his pamphlet Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906) to an audience in London made up of the collector Hugh Lane, the painters Philip Wilson Steer, Walter Sickert and Henry Tonks, and D.S. MacColl, the Keeper of the Tate Gallery. Above them hangs Édouard Manet’s painting of another impressionist painter Eva Gonzales. Continue reading