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#37 In A Class Of Their Own

Over the next few posts we’ll look at some of the challenges faced in creating and maintaining the catalogues that index the Library’s large and ever-expanding collection. Here’s Niamh Harte, an Assistant Librarian with our Collections Management department:

Permanent library clerks were first employed in the 1830s for the purpose of cataloguing our collections, and it took around 50 years’ sweat and tears to complete a list of all holdings. Now known as the ‘1872 Printed Catalogue’, a copy of this eight-volume set is available to consult in the Iveagh Hall, and the reading room for Early Printed Books. An online, searchable version of the Printed Catalogue is also available. [Ed. – the story of how this entered the online world may feature another time!]

The 1872 Printed Catalogue.

Following the printing of the 1872 catalogue, new books continued to be added to the collection of course. A new Accessions Catalogue, and a Secondaries Catalogue (of paper slips in large cabinets of drawers) for subject access became the main discovery tools for material received from 1873-1963.

Filed paper slips of details of books, in this case listed by author’s name.

The Deputy Librarian noted in Trinity News, February 1959 that “cataloguing occupies about half the Library’s professional staff. The most time consuming part of it has a result that students rarely see. This is the immense subject catalogue kept in the classing room. It lists books according to subject and has about four times as many entries as the author catalogue”.

The “Classing Room” in the Old Library, where books were catalogued. Mid-1950s.

The large tan guard books of the Accessions Catalogue were recently removed from the Iveagh Hall for preservation, but scans are on Flickr and available in Early Printed Books and at least 80% of the half-million entries are now also in in Stella Search.


We’ve seen how catalogues and reference books dominated the Iveagh Hall for most of its life:

Even following the reorganisation of this space in 2002, when your humble correspondent joined the Library in 2005 much of Iveagh Hall was still taken up with hundreds of volumes of the Accessions Catalogue.

The Accessions Catalogue in 2014.

As Niamh says, the details of the vast majority of works in this catalogue were uploaded by Library staff into the modern electronic system a few years ago – however, not all of the details could be transcribed at the time (they are continuously being added to, however), and so if you think we should have received a book between 1873 and 1963 but it isn’t in Stella, you should still consult the scans of the Accession Catalogue online before giving up!