About Helen McGinley

Library Executive II in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin.

Revelling in Rackham

Arthur Rackham, the fourth of twelve children, was born in Lewisham on 19th September 1867. His father wanted him to have a career in business and he began as an insurance clerk, but attended Lambeth School of Art in the evenings, having won prizes for drawing at school. In 1892, after having illustrations published in the The Pall Mall Budget over the course of the previous year, he took a job there, moving to the new Westminster Budget the following year. After just a few years he was able to become a self-supporting book illustrator, also contributing to The Westminster Gazette and magazines such as Little Folks and Cassell’s Magazine, a career which continued until his death from cancer on 6th September 1939.

This self-portrait is the frontispiece to Derek Hudson’s biography of Rackham, published in 1960.

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Daphnis & Chloe

One of my favourite aspects of work in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections is the opportunity to hold and examine so many wonderful and diverse books. When I was returning a book to the Quin Case a few days ago, I picked one out to look at because of its beautifully decorated spine – many of the books bequeathed to the College library by the wealthy graduate Henry Quin (1760-1805) have fine bindings. The boards, endpapers, fore-edge and text turned out to be equally attractive. The book in question was Quin 43, a 1786 printing of the story of Daphnis and Chloe, bound by Christian Samuel Kalthoeber of London. A German by birth, Kalthoeber emigrated to England where he became apprentice to his compatriot Johann Ernst Baumgarten, taking over his business in 1782. Continue reading

A Fly in the Ointment

The Chinese court official Ts’ai Lun (often written Cai Lun) is credited with the invention of paper in 105 A.D., although he and his countrymen were almost certainly experimenting for some time before his announcement of their success to the emperor. The manufacturing process did not change much for hundreds of years, until the invention of suitable machinery in the nineteenth century, and is still used to some extent to produce hand-made paper today. Continue reading

Preservation book repairs – carrying out in-situ treatments in the Long Room

By Sarah Timmins, Preservation Assistant

Tool roll at the ready

Introduction

As Preservation Assistants, we help address some of the challenges and problems affecting the books of the Long Room in the Old Library. The collection of some 220,000 Early Printed Books range from the dawn of the printing press in the 1450s and incunabula, to the end of the Victorian era.  A systematic preservation project, beginning in 2004 as ‘Save the Treasures’, is ongoing today.  The focus of the project is on the cleaning of the books, and the recording of data for use by the Preservation & Conservation Department. We note key information about each book: where and when it was printed, the materials from which it is made, features of the bindings, and so on.  We also carry out a condition report, and note any stabilising treatments we carry out in situ. Continue reading

Teaching with Special Collections

As the Early Printed Books reading room opens at 10am daily, and department staff are here earlier than that, the hour between 9 and 10 can be used for class teaching, and we welcome this opportunity to share our collections with a wide range of undergraduates and postgraduates. A member of EPB staff will give an introduction to the reading room and our reference collection if required, then the group tutor is free to teach using original materials which students might not otherwise see.

If you are a lecturer and would like to use these resources, please contact the department on ext.1172 or at epbooks@tcd.ie to arrange a suitable date.

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Boxes with integrated book cradle: one object, two roles

By Erica D’Alessandro, Heritage Council Conservation intern

Introduction

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.

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A Swift repair

Introduction

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. 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.