All posts by Adam May

Greek mythology of the huntress Atalanta

Atalanta fugiens (Oppenheim 1618. Fag.K.6.4) is an alchemical emblem book, written by German physician Michael Maier, with engravings by Theodor de Bry. The book title refers to the story in Greek mythology of the huntress Atalanta. The first edition of Atalanta fugiens was published in 1617. It combines fascinating engravings, prose (Latin), verse (Latin and German) and also pieces of music in the form of fugues. The entire volume has been digitised and is shown below in two parts.

Image set 1

Image set 2

The oldest printed book in the Fagel Library

The oldest printed book in the Fagel Library is Plutarch’s Vitae illustrium virorum sive parallelae, printed in 1478 in Venice by Nicolaus Jenson. This two-volume Latin translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (or Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans) is illuminated by the miniaturist known as the Master of the London Pliny. It was decorated for a Venetian merchant family, the Agostini. A selection of pages from the first volume, Fag.GG.2.1, is shown below. Continue reading The oldest printed book in the Fagel Library

an extraordinary series of 278 bound volumes

Members of the St Andrews Book group have been coming back and forth to Dublin for the best part of twenty years, drawn in each case by the fabulous riches of the Fagel collection. At first we worked exclusively on French materials. Most recently the extension of our on-line resource, the Universal Short Title Catalogue, into the seventeenth century, has inspired an effort to catalogue every one of the Dutch pamphlets in the collection.

These pamphlets survive in an extraordinary series of 278 bound volumes. They made up just two lots in the intended London sale, but they actually contain close to 6,000 precious, fascinating books. By November 2016 we will have examined and catalogued every one, revealing a mass of unknown editions, in a collection that offers comprehensive coverage of the political and religious turbulence of the Dutch Revolt and seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.

Since 2014 this work has been in the hands of the two Dutch specialists in the St Andrews group, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, who have now worked with most of the major collections of Dutch pamphlets worldwide. There is no doubt that Fagel has bestowed on Dublin the greatest, most coherent collection of Dutch pamphlets anywhere outside the Low Countries. The unconsidered gems, many the only surviving copy of a rare pamphlet or broadsheet, are previewed in the accompanying digital images. For Arthur der Weduwen an undoubted highlight was the discovery of several issues of an unknown Brussels news serial, the Nouvelles Neutrelles, a discovery that has allowed him to demonstrate that there was a newspaper in Brussels thirty years earlier than previously thought: indeed, in the very first years of the press in the Low Countries. Such priceless nuggets illuminate a collection that casts telling new light on the process and priorities of government of Europe’s most dynamic new state, the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.

Andrew and Arthur
Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

Highlights of the Collection:

Dutch declaration of independence
Dutch declaration of independence
The first major crisis of the Dutch Republic
The first major crisis of the Dutch Republic
Speeches and memoranda by the Spanish and French ambassadors
Speeches and memoranda by the Spanish and French ambassadors





an invaluable resource of primary material for research

The Fagel Map Collection

Contained within the Fagel Library is its map collection, one of the finest in the world, and unsurpassable in terms of quality and standard of preservation. It is the only extant contemporary collection of this size that was assembled as the material was published as opposed to retrospectively. As an example of an early modern working library, the collection is unique.

The Collection comprises:

  • 600 volumes of contemporary accounts of travels, books on geography and other geographical material
  • 142 bound atlases comprising approximately 8,200 double folio maps
  • The ‘Fagel Atlas’: 2880 single map sheets contained in 25 portfolio boxes, and a further 3,500 cartographic items, mainly smaller in size and contained in 500 travel and historical volumes.

The Fagel Atlas is arranged into 25 portfolios, by geographical region, and a catalogue of these maps was published as the “Catalogue of the Fagel Collection of maps, plans, etc” as an appendix to T.K. Abbott’s Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin (1900). Catalogue descriptions are based on the bibliographical information recorded on the printed maps, but many items are undated and the author unrecorded.

The bound material ranges in date from 1490 to 1798 with the greater volume of material published in the eighteenth century. There are maps of all parts of the world, but with a particular emphasis on Europe and areas outside Europe where the Dutch had trading or colonial interests. This content includes examples of all kinds of cartographic material, from celestial charts to detailed plans of buildings and fortifications, with volumes on geographical theory and methodology.

From the collection:

  • The complete coloured set of Blaeu’s Atlas Major
  • The complete set of atlases published by Jacob van Meurs
  • Atlases, many coloured, by de Witt, Jannson, D’Anville, J.B. Homann, Sanson, Jaillots, van der Aa, Cantelli and Coronelli.
  • A large collection of first hand accounts of voyages of exploration, including those of Hudson, Tasman, Cook and Bligh.
  • Several hundred battle plans showing all major conflicts in Europe from 1650 to 1800, approximately 30 of which are in manuscript.
  • Detailed city maps including Ogilby’s 1676, 20-sheet map of London, and Buillet’s 1676, 12-sheet map of Paris.
  • The celestial atlases of Cellari and Dopplemaiero.
  • Sea atlases by Colom, van Keulen and the Neptune Français.

The atlases, and their contents, have never been fully catalogued. The cataloguing of the atlases is particularly important as many were assembled on a custom basis – atlases of the same name do not necessarily contain the same maps but reflect the individual requirements and budgets of each customer. For instance, the World Sea Atlas by Jacob Colom, 1668, contains 18 charts in the standard version, 56 in the Fagel edition.

The special nature of this collection, in terms of both its scope and condition, make it an invaluable resource of primary material for research across a number of disciplines. A project to digitise the cartographic material has been completed resulting in an image bank of in excess of 10,000 maps, and considerable progress has been made towards developing an initial catalogue of this material.

Highlights of the collection:

The first map available to Europeans showing overland trade routes in central Asia
Coloured and contrasting maps of the moon
Coloured and contrasting maps of the moon
A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto
A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto

a unique collection of early modern printed books

Printed books

With the Fagel Library, Trinity College Dublin holds a unique collection of early modern printed books. This collection of approximately 11,000 titles contains books on an enormous variety of subjects. There are books on biology and natural history, medicine and human anatomy, studies on theology and religion, collected works from authors of classical antiquity, treatises on military affairs and naval warfare, on history and chronology, mathematics and physics, commerce and trade, art and architecture, and on the education of children. There are encyclopaedias and dictionaries, novels and poetry in various languages, and books written by the main protagonists of the Reformation and the famous philosophers of the Enlightenment. Some of the books are beautifully illustrated and hand-coloured, printed in limited editions, and some of them are so scarce they can only be found in a few libraries in Europe.

The main searching tool for the printed books in the Fagel Library is still the ‘Bibliotheca Fageliana’ auction catalogue of 1802, prepared by Samuel Paterson for Christie’s auction house. Thanks to an (ongoing) analysis by Dr Ingmar Vroomen of more than 9,000 lot numbers in this catalogue, we now have an overview of the contents of the library.

The books in the Fagel Library came from all over early modern Europe, from Poland to Portugal and from Sweden to Italy. However, most books were printed in three countries: the Dutch Republic (30%), England (27%) and France (14%), with Amsterdam, London and Paris as the main centres of the printing industry. Although most of the analysed titles in the Fagel Library were printed in the Dutch Republic, books written in Dutch were of little importance. Latin was still the most prominent language in the library, followed by English and French. But there were also books in German, Greek, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish and even Arabic, Russian and Hungarian. Over 60% of the books in the Fagel Library were printed in the eighteenth century, and 25% in the seventeenth century. The oldest printed book in the library dates from 1478. Even though Hendrik Fagel the Younger sold a part of his library (‘duplicates and useless books’) in 1792, he continued collecting until 1799 and the newest book dates from then.

But the Fagel Library is more than this very impressive collection of early modern books. Because Trinity College bought the library in 1802 in its entirety before it was auctioned, and hence we know the previous owners, the Fagel Library gives us an insight into the world of one of the most prominent families in the Dutch Republic of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and into the world of the well-educated political elite in early modern Europe in general. No matter how valuable, rare and special some of the books are, the Fagel Library as a whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. This is what makes the Fagel Library really unique.

Ingmar Vroomen

Highlights of the Collection:

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Amsterdam 1719) Fag.GG.2.10
Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio (Amsterdam 1734) Fag.N.1.63
Campi phlegræi. Observations on the volcanoes of the Two Sicilies as they have been communicated to the Royal Society by Sir William Hamilton (Naples 1776) Fag.GG.2.17