And when I looked … a book was therein

Sometimes it’s obvious that a book has a story to tell before you even look at the text. The volume at OLS X-1-60 is a good example. As soon as it is lifted from its protective storage box, the hand-made brown velvet case begs to be stroked. The initials TW are embroidered on the top; the pink felt lining protrudes; and the cardboard backing shows through where moths have made a meal of the felt. Continue reading “And when I looked … a book was therein”

300 years on a desert island!

First edition, 1719, shelfmark VV.i.31

Robinson Crusoe is 300 years old today! Actually, the gentleman himself is older than that, as he was already a young man at the start of the book, but The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner was first published on April 25th, 1719. It was followed, later the same year, by The farther adventures of Robinson Crusoe; being the second and last part of his life, and of the strange surprizing accounts of his travels round three parts of the globe. (Rather appropriately, the first edition of the latter was printed at the Ship in Pater-Noster-Row, London.) Continue reading “300 years on a desert island!”

Banned books in Trinity College

This post was written by Assumpta Guilfoyle and Louise Kavanagh, both in Collection Management, TCD Library.

On preparing an exhibition on banned books, we knew a certain amount about censorship in Ireland. After a bit more research on the topic it became clear that the banning system failed our now-renowned Irish writers, and denied the Irish public the right to read the very best of literature. The Censorship Board did not set out to ban so many books, but they ended up doing just that. We kept reminding ourselves that it was the 1920s, a Catholic country that was trying to revive its national identity, it was a complex time both at home and abroad. Benedict Kiely, banned, said a prohibition was ‘the only laurel wreath that Ireland was offering to writers in that particular period’. Continue reading “Banned books in Trinity College”

Judging books by their covers

The saying says ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but sometimes the cover is so attractive you feel you just have to pick up the book. Of course, it’s always a disappointment if it doesn’t live up to its promise! A trend on Twitter in the past couple of weeks has been to post a book cover each day for seven days, with no explanations, and to challenge someone else each day to join in. Glucksman Library Special Collections & Archives at the University of Limerick invited us and I accepted. Here are the covers which featured in my responses: Continue reading “Judging books by their covers”

Wilde about Oscar

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

OL safe

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 “Wilde about Oscar”

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 “Library life in black and white”

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 “The Fascination of Fore-edges”

Revelling in Rackham

Arthur Rackham, the fourth of twelve children, was born in Lewisham on 19th September 1867. His father wanted him to have a career in business and he began as an insurance clerk, but attended Lambeth School of Art in the evenings, having won prizes for drawing at school. In 1892, after having illustrations published in the The Pall Mall Budget over the course of the previous year, he took a job there, moving to the new Westminster Budget the following year. After just a few years he was able to become a self-supporting book illustrator, also contributing to The Westminster Gazette and magazines such as Little Folks and Cassell’s Magazine, a career which continued until his death from cancer on 6th September 1939.

This self-portrait is the frontispiece to Derek Hudson’s biography of Rackham, published in 1960.

Continue reading “Revelling in Rackham”

Daphnis & Chloe

One of my favourite aspects of work in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections is the opportunity to hold and examine so many wonderful and diverse books. When I was returning a book to the Quin Case a few days ago, I picked one out to look at because of its beautifully decorated spine – many of the books bequeathed to the College library by the wealthy graduate Henry Quin (1760-1805) have fine bindings. The boards, endpapers, fore-edge and text turned out to be equally attractive. The book in question was Quin 43, a 1786 printing of the story of Daphnis and Chloe, bound by Christian Samuel Kalthoeber of London. A German by birth, Kalthoeber emigrated to England where he became apprentice to his compatriot Johann Ernst Baumgarten, taking over his business in 1782. Continue reading “Daphnis & Chloe”