Wilde about Oscar

By Monica Sanchidrian and Christoph Schmidt-Supprian, Collection Management Department

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Have you seen our online exhibition, Oscar Wilde: From Decadence to Despair? Making use of gorgeous images from rare photographs, trade cards, theatre programmes, and other printed works and manuscripts, it brings to life key moments in Wilde’s life. The Rosenthal collection of Wildeana, acquired in 2011 from the rare book dealer Julia Rosenthal, includes over 500 printed items by or about Oscar Wilde, his family and his friends. Many of them are first editions and/or inscribed copies, which makes them particularly valuable. Among these is a first edition of An ideal husband inscribed by Wilde to the book’s dedicatee, Frank Harris. Another rarity in the collection is a copy of the auction catalogue for the sale of Wilde’s possessions at his home in Tite Street at the time of his trial in 1895 – only four copies of this catalogue are known to survive. Continue reading

Library life in black and white

Recently on Twitter there has been a library challenge: 7 black & white photographs of , no humans, no explanations. We (@TCDResearchColl – are you following us?) were challenged originally by the Royal Irish Academy Library (@Library_RIA) and subsequently by Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries (@witlibraries). We thought our blog followers might like to see the photographs we posted, perhaps with explanations this time, although most of them speak for themselves. Continue reading

A 250-year-old work from Trinity’s Printing House

Two items printed 250 years ago in Trinity’s Printing House are currently on display in the Long Room of the Old Library. Building of the Printing House began in 1734, two years after the completion of the Old Library, and the first book was printed at the University Press in 1738. Continue reading

Tulip Time in Fagel

Ornamental head-piece from Abraham Munting’s Nauwkeurige Beschryving der Aardgewassen [Accurate Description of Terrestrial Plants] (Leiden, 1696). Shelfmark: Fag.GG.3.1,2

TULPENTIJD – the Dutch have a special name for it – the tulip season in the Netherlands, running from late March to mid-May when the bulb fields are streaked with glorious colour and 7 million flowers are blooming in the Keukenhof gardens. Emerging from the Fagel Collection at this season is evidence of the long established association of tulips with the Netherlands, represented in terms of botany and horticulture, scientific study and beautiful illustrations. The tulip reigns in Holland at this time of the year, in private and botanical gardens, in parks, houses and art galleries, in pots outside apartments and shops, on the streets and in transit in bicycle baskets. Continue reading

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

Leaves for St Patrick’s Day from the ‘Garden of the Soul’

Pilgrims crossing to Station Island on Lough Derg, by W. F. Wakeman. From ‘St. Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg’ by Rev. D. Canon O’Connor. Dublin, 1895. Shelfmark: 29.f.30

At our incunabula workshop last November we examined a striking two-leaf account in German of St Patrick’s Purgatory (shelfmark: Press B.6.3). As a follow-up to the workshop, and with St Patrick’s Day in mind, we have taken a closer look at this intriguing fragment which relates to what has remained one of the most well-known pilgrimages in Ireland, the pilgrimage to Lough Derg in Donegal.1 Continue reading

A leaf from the world’s most famous book

This month marks the 550th anniversary of the death of Johannes Gutenberg (1397?-1468), blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor and printer. To celebrate this, we have digitised our fragment from the Gutenberg Bible.

Leaf printed on vellum in black ink with manuscript rubrication in red

Recto of folio 317

The 42-line Bible in Latin was Europe’s first substantial book printed in ink on a printing press using moveable type, a technique of printing which Gutenberg invented. The ambitious work was completed by Gutenberg and his associates in Mainz, Germany, in around 1455. It is widely cited that about 180 copies were printed, comprising around a quarter on vellum with the rest of the edition on paper. Only 48 reasonably intact copies now survive (12 on vellum and 36 on paper) in addition to a number of fragments.1 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

Fifteenth-century delights with Dr Falk Eisermann

Dr Eisermann showing an incunabulum to participants at the workshop

Incunabula workshop led by Dr Falk Eisermann

On Tuesday 12th December 2017 the Department of Early Printed Books & Special Collections had the pleasure of facilitating an afternoon workshop on incunabula led by Dr Falk Eisermann.

Dr Eisermann is head of the Incunabula Division at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and is considered a world-leading expert in the field. The workshop was arranged by Dr Immo Warntjes, Ussher Assistant Professor in Early Medieval Irish History, and was attended by Trinity postgraduate students and staff.

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Miniature books and microchips

Miniature books, which typically measure less than 3 inches (76mm) in height, have been around since the written word was developed: first with cuneiform clay tablets, then hand-written manuscripts. The introduction of the printing press and moveable type printing in Europe, in middle of the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, set the stage for the first early printed books known as incunabula. Surviving editions of miniature incunabules are very rare treasures with only a dozen still in existence today. The new printing process made the production of miniature volumes a challenge to all involved – not just the printers themselves, but also the paper makers and book binders. Readers were also confronted with issues in the reading and handling of these tiny tomes as the size of type and pages kept getting smaller. So why print them? Continue reading