The Fascination of Fore-edges

parts of bookIn the original College library, books were placed on the shelves with the fore-edges facing outwards. This was normal practice in libraries for much of the sixteenth century for two reasons. One is that writing or printing the title and author’s name on the spine was not common until the 17th century and therefore the ‘back’ of the book was purely functional, holding the pages together. The other is that books, like the manuscripts which preceded them, were often held securely by a chain fastened to a metal staple on the fore-edge of the wooden board. (There are a few examples in this blog post of libraries which have retained their books on chains and, of course, there were the magical books in the library at Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.) The chain was long enough to reach both the shelf where the book was stored and a sloping lectern* where it could be read. Continue reading

Overwintering in Fagel

The True and perfect Description of three Voyages soo strange and woonderfull, that the like had never been heard of before”    –   Journal of Gerrit de Veer, 1598

Ten months of Arctic winter, ice-bound on the island of Novaya Zemlya  (Nova Zemla) “…with the cruell beares, and other monsters of the sea, and the unsupportable and extreme cold that is to be found in those places”. This was the ordeal undergone by the crew of a Dutch expedition which set out on the 10 May, 1596 from the port of Amsterdam to find a passage to Asia by a northern route. Two ships sailed out, one under Jan Cornelisz Rijp, the other under Jacob van Heemskerck with navigator and cartographer Willem Barentsz as expedition leader. Van Heemskerck’s ship became trapped in the ice off the island of Novaya Zemlya, when Rijp had already turned back, and the crew of seventeen were forced to overwinter on the island. Thanks to the journal of crew member Gerrit de Veer we have a detailed description of the experience, along with a series of contemporary engravings by an anonymous artist. De Veer was an officer on Van Heemskerck’s ship, and he published a rich description of three adventurous voyages (1594, 1595, 1596), to find the Northeast Passage. Continue reading

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

By Sarah Timmins, Preservation Assistant

Tool roll at the ready


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

‘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.

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

We got visitors!

The Department was delighted to host the Masters Students from the Literature and Publishing Group (NUIG) on their recent trip to Dublin. Led by Dr. Rebecca Barr the group also visited the Royal Irish Academy and Marsh’s Library. It was interesting to learn from Dr. Barr that the taught course includes a module on book history and early modern print and manuscript cultures. As well as the working though the modules the students are also responsible for the publication of the annual edition of ROPES: review of postgraduate studies. Busy people! The trip to the library included a tour of the Old Library by Anne- Marie Diffley (Visitors Services) and a presentation by Shane Mawe on the role of the Library with a display drawn from the collections.


A Day Spent In Dublin

Now in its ninth year, Culture Night will see 38 regions, towns and cities on the island of Ireland showcase exciting historical and cultural events. This year sees events planned in the Old Library and Long Room Hub. Devoting time to exploring Dublin is nothing new, as outlined in this humorous poem from 1747.

A day spent in Dublin, 1746-7 Shelfmark: Press A.7.20 no. 7

A day spent in Dublin, 1746-7, Shelfmark: Press A.7.20 no. 7


The annotations reveal the main protagonist as Lady Margaret Barrymore and the poem cheerfully describes her day, beginning with a hearty breakfast before a journey to town – taking in some culture along the way. We will return to Lady Margaret and her husband Thomas Crosbie, M.P. for Dingle and former High Sheriff of Kerry, in a future blog post.

The annotations also help to identify other individuals omitted by the anonymous composer. Reference is made to 18th century socialite Eleanor Palmer (Ambrose) and Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th earl of Chesterfield, the latter of whom Samuel Johnson describes as ‘a wit among lords and a lord among wits.’ In 1746 Chesterfield returned to England leaving Ambrose in search of a husband. In 1751 she married Mayo politician Roger Palmer and lived out her years in Henry Street until her death in 1818.

Other characters are not as easy to identify. ‘Or a new Manuscript of Maurice’ may well refer to a letter from Barrymore’s relation Sir Maurice Crosbie, whose correspondence is among the The Crosbie Papers in the National Library of Ireland and here in Trinity.

Does the line ‘My chair to Church, and next to Bindon’ refer to a work by Francis Bindon or actually to the portrait artist and architect himself?

Easier however is the reference to David Garrick, ‘Garrick sure’s the Prince of Players’. Garrick spent the early part of 1746 in Dublin managing and acting in Smock Alley with Thomas Sheridan and it was here, famously, that he first played the role of Hamlet.

Please get in touch if you can identify any of the other characters referred to in this work. Who for instance are Hogan and Grogan? Who or where was Rice’s?

The Bookplate Society Tour of Dublin 2014

Originating in Germany and usually placed inside the front cover, a bookplate is a printed label used to indicate ownership of a title. Specimens can range from simple printed names to elaborate heraldic engravings and as such can attract enthusiasts for their workmanship, rarity or perhaps just the connection with a famous former owner.

The Department was pleased to host thirteen members of The Bookplate Society on their recent visit to Dublin. Initially greeted by Anne-Marie Diffley who guided them through the Long Room, members then viewed a selection of bookplates from our holdings in the Henry Jones Room.

A highlight of the display was a scrapbook of Trinity prize bookplates compiled by Thomas Sadleir (1882-1957), former assistant librarian at the King’s Inns library. Trinity introduced these bookplates on volumes given as prizes in 1732. Other examples on show to our visitors included the bookplates of Dermot Robert Wyndham Bourke (1851–1927), John Kells Ingram (1823-1927), Oliver St John Gogarty (1878–1957) and Count Daniel Charles O’Connell (1745–1833), uncle of political leader Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847).

Gilbert Nicholson of Balrath Bookplate

Gilbert Nicholson of Balrath Bookplate

Bookplates can amass their own individual history such as that of Gilbert Nicholson of Balrath, Co. Meath (1620-1709) which was inserted in Horace’s Works published after his death in 1737. The design of the plate may be attributed to William Jackson (fl. 1698-1714), and the bookplate is dated 1669 to commemorate the year in which Nicholson acquired the Balrath property. Its provenance doesn’t end there as it further extends into the 19th century with the addition of John Armytage Nicholson’s (1798-1872) signature.

For our readers keen to learn more about bookplates, we have a selection of printed resources on open access available for consultation in our reading room.

The First Polyglot Bible – now on display

Ximénes' coat of arms

Ximénes’ coat of arms

The Complutensian Polyglot Bible (Shelfmark: was produced at the university in Alcalá de Henares, called in Latin Complutum, meaning ‘place where two rivers meet’. It is also known as the Spanish Polyglot or Ximénes’ Polyglot as the university was founded by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez (or Ximénes) de Cisneros and the work was financed and supervised by him. The title page of each volume bears his coat of arms. Continue reading

Words and Music

Concert programmes are often regarded as ephemeral publications, intended to guide the listener through a particular performance and to be discarded afterwards. However, there is a growing realisation that concert programmes can contain valuable evidence of concert activity, performance trends and the reception of musical repertoire.  In recent years a database of concert programme collections in the UK and Ireland has been developed: the Concert Programmes Project.

The ‘In Tune’ exhibition includes several word-books from performances in 18th century Dublin, the most famous of which is the word-book published by George Faulkner in 1742 for the first performance of Handel’s Messiah. Also included is a book published in 1741 containing libretti for vocal repertoire regularly performed by the Philharmonic Society, Dublin, often in aid of Mercer’s Hospital. This item, acquired in the 1890s by Ebenezer Prout, complements the Mercer’s Hospital collection of manuscript and printed part-books (one of which is also on display).

George Frideric Handel: Messiah word-book (Dublin: George Faulkner, 1742)  Shelfmark: OLS 198.t.70 no.8

George Frideric Handel: Messiah word-book (Dublin: George Faulkner, 1742)
Shelfmark: OLS L-6-605 no.8

Te Deum, Jubilate, anthems, odes ... (Dublin, 1741) Shelfmark: 109.u.151

Te Deum, Jubilate, anthems, odes oratorios and serenatas … (Dublin, 1741) Shelfmark: 109.u.151


Perhaps the most interesting item in this group is the word-book published for the performance of ‘The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus’ at Dublin Castle on 6 February 1711. This birthday ode in honour of Queen Anne, composed by John Sigismond Cousser, is one of a series of such works by Cousser and several of his successors as Master of the State Music.

John Sigismond Cousser: The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus (Dublin, 1711) Shelfmark: P.hh.16 no.1

John Sigismond Cousser: The Universal Applause of Mount Parnassus (Dublin, 1711) Shelfmark: P.hh.16 no.1

In almost all cases the music for these odes is lost, so the word-books, several of which are preserved in TCD’s collections, provide the only remaining evidence of their content. Uniquely, the music for the 1711 ode does survive (in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford), so this single work could still be performed.

In Tune, sponsored by KBC Bank, runs until 1 April 2014.The exhibition is also available online. Full details of the accompanying lecture and concert series are available here.

-Roy Stanley, Music Librarian.