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.

Title-page of Trinity’s Charter and Statutes. Dublin, 1768 (shelfmark: I.i.39)

The volumes on display are both copies from the same edition of Trinity’s Charter and Statutes: Chartae et statuta Collegii sacrosanctae et individuae Trinitatis, Reginae Elizabethae, juxta Dublin. [Dublin]: Typis Academicis, 1768.

From 1760 onwards all students received a copy of the College statutes which necessitated the printing of this edition in 1768. (The previous edition, also the earliest known printed edition, had been printed by Samuel Powell in 1735).

The 1768 edition was issued in a quarto format and also in a duodecimo format for students, with both issues printed from the same setting of type. The engraved vignette on the title-page, drawn by S. Sproule, depicts the West Front of Trinity which had been completed by 1759.

Upper cover with arms of the Duke of Gloucester (shelfmark: OLS BIND C 3)

The copy at shelfmark OLS BIND C 3 is in a fine Irish binding. The volume was bound as a presentation copy for Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, when he became Chancellor of the University in 1771. Gloucester’s coat of arms is hand-painted on the upper cover, while Trinity’s arms is on the lower cover. This sumptuous gold-tooled vellum binding, one of the most expensive commissioned by Trinity in the 18th century, was produced in the Dublin bindery of Ann Leathley, who had taken over her late husband’s role as College binder.

Lower cover with arms of Trinity College Dublin

The volume passed to Gloucester’s son, William Frederick, and was later acquired by James Whatman, papermaker. It was subsequently inherited by the Trousdell family and presented to the Library by P.J.C. Trousdell in February 1978.

Further reading:

Vincent Kinane. A history of the Dublin University Press 1734-1976. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994.

Joseph McDonnell and Patrick Healy. Gold-tooled bookbindings commissioned by Trinity College Dublin in the eighteenth century. Leixlip: Irish Georgian Society, 1987.

See also our blog An 18th-century presentation binding produced in the Dublin bindery of Ann Leathley, written by the Library’s former conservation intern Julie Tyrlik.