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.

Looking back over the 7 days, I find there were, in fact, 8! Day 4 occurred twice (with my holiday in between) and I tweeted the same photograph on two occasions (not the two Day 4s!). Either no-one was paying close attention or our followers were too kind to say that I am indeed a Twit!

Our first post of the week was a picture of the Long Room in 1860, when it was still a library reading room, taken from The book of Trinity College Dublin, 1591-1891, of which there are three copies in the library. The shelfmark of the EPB copy is OLS X-4-115.

I was greatly amused one day when a well-respected visiting Professor asked me if he could have another look at ‘that big, dirty book I had yesterday’. (I did clean it before he looked at it, but couldn’t resist taking a photograph first!)

This photograph shows correct use of the reading room – paper and pencil for taking notes; no liquids or any other extraneous material near your desk; using the supports provided to take care of the book’s spine and a ‘snake weight’ to hold the page open.

James Ussher (1581-1656) was, successively, a Fellow of TCD, Professor of Divinity here, and Bishop of Meath, before becoming Archbishop of Armagh. He collected books and manuscripts both for himself and for the College Library, and his own joined the latter after his death. The books are housed together at the east end of the Long Room.

The harp was donated to the College in 1782 and has been displayed in the Long Room on and off since the nineteenth century. Although legend says it belonged to Brian Boru, who was High King in the eleventh century, it is actually about 300 years too recent for that to be true, but even so, it is the oldest harp in Ireland.

In addition to our own Tweets, we were to challenge seven more libraries to do the same. In response, Flinders University Library in Adelaide, South Australia (@FlindersLib) posted one photograph with the comment “Personally, much prefer a library with people. No point otherwise.” which is a perfectly valid point of view, although we are rather fond of the Long Room when it is quite empty. Anyway, here is one picture with lots of people admiring our beautiful library, taken on Culture Night last year.

All photographs except the one from the Tercentenary book were taken by me and converted to black and white using Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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.

Continue reading

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

Fly into Fagel

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

In the 18th century the science of ornithology and the art of bird illustration began to advance rapidly together, with an increasing number of beautiful and informative books on birds being produced. Prior to this, books on botany were more … Continue reading