Last night friends, colleagues, academics and booksellers crowded into Trinity’s Long Room to celebrate the career of Dr. Charles Benson, Keeper of Early Printed Books and Special Collections until his retirement last September.
College Librarian, Robin Adams gave the first speech of the evening, paying tribute to Charles’ professional curiosity in all the works under his care, and to the quirkiness that ensured that working with him could never be described as dull. He also alluded to the (organised) chaos that reigned in Charles’ “office” on the gallery of the Long Room, so at odds with the stereotypical view of the librarian presiding over an immaculately ordered domain. Anyone who was privileged to consult Charles at his desk will recognise the truth of that statement!
Professor Andrew Carpenter then paid tribute to Charles’ numerous academic achievements, hailing him as the world expert on the 19th century Irish book trade, particularly emphasising the importance of his Doctoral thesis, and hoping for its eventual publication. (In the meantime, a copy may be consulted in TCD Library.)
Finally Charles took the podium himself, giving a speech that, though witty as always, did not shy away from emphasising the challenges facing Trinity Library in these straitened times.
Charles entered the library in 1968 as a trainee, and joined the staff of the Department of Early Printed Books in 1972, becoming Keeper in 1988. His achievements, both academic and as a librarian, are too numerous to list here, so suffice it to say that his expertise and humour will be sorely missed by the scholars who came to consult him and by his colleagues, particularly those in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections.
We are looking forward to welcoming Charles to the Department as a reader, and to subjecting him to the same strict reading room discipline as he always enforced with such a gimlet eye.