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And then a Nero comes along …

NeroPosterThe Library of Trinity College Dublin has recently loaned a papyrus fragment (TCD PAP F.18) to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Trier for their exhibition Nero – Kaiser, Künstler und Tyrann (Nero – Emperor, Artist and Tyrant) on the life of the notorious Roman emperor Nero.  This exhibition will run from May to October 2016.

This small fragment, written in Greek and dated 54 AD, announces the death of the emperor Claudius, and the accession to the imperial throne of his grand-nephew Nero.  The new emperor is hailed as ‘the expectation and hope of the world … the good genius of the world and source of all good things’.  This description echoes the optimism that was engendered across the empire at the beginning of Nero’s reign.  The exhibition attempts to highlight some of the more positive aspects of his story – his popularity during the early years of his rule, and his love of the arts, as well as dealing with his darker and tyrannical side.


Trier is the oldest city in Germany, and the only one that was a seat of the Roman Empire. This major exhibition features over 700 exhibits, including statues, pottery, coins, jewellery and other artefacts relating to Nero and his world.  A substantial amount of these are from the museum’s own holdings, but there are also many items on loan from European repositories including the Vatican Museum, the Louvre, the British Museum, and of course, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

The collection of Greek papyri in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library dates from between the 13th century BC to the 7th century AD, and it is ranked second, after Oxford, among papyri collections in Britain and Ireland.  Documents include literary and sacred texts, as well as official and administrative documents: letters, tax receipts, accounts, contracts, leases and valuations.  Most of the several thousand fragments in the Library’s possession came from the excavations of Sir W. Flinders Petrie during the 1880s in the Fayyûm district of Egypt.  The fragment on loan to Trier is part of a find of papyrus documents discovered during the excavations of Hogarth, Grenfell and Hunt of the Egyptian Exploration Fund, which TCD part sponsored.  It was found in the ancient rubbish dumps of the town of Oxyrhynchus, which was roughly 300km south of Alexandria.

In September 2013, the Preservation and Conservation Department commenced work on a small selection of Greek papyri – including the Nero document – which had been housed between glass and Perspex pressure-mounts. The project involved the conservation of 300 papyri fragments and the implementation of an improved housing system as several of the glass mounts were smashed or cracked, so replacement was a priority. Many Perspex mounts also needed to be removed, because of its tendency to scratch and its electrostatic nature.

The papyrus itself was in a fragile condition; many of the fragments had never been surface cleaned and were heavily soiled. They were brittle and fragile, and several different types of tape had been attached in an attempt to hold fragments together; however, more often the tape obscured text or were causing more damage.

Treatment included removing the tapes and other material from direct contact with the papyrus, humidifying and flattening creases and folds. Realigning fibres and fragments and bridging and mending fractured areas. Once treatment was completed the papyri were returned in new glazed pressure-mounts permitting safe handling. The conservation of the papyri was key for their continued preservation and have ensured future accessibility through digitisation and exhibition.

Nero_Ausstellung_RLMT_Foto_Th_Zühmer (11)
© GDKE – Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, Th. Zühmer

Ellen O’Flaherty (Manuscripts & Archives Research Library)
Clodagh Neligan (Preservation and Conservation Department)

The Library of Trinity College Dublin Remembers Eleanor Knott

DeOsUo-nThe Department of Irish and Celtic Studies, in conjunction with the Trinity Long Room Hub, presents an inaugural conference in honour of Eleanor Knott on Thursday 28 April 2016. This one-day conference will showcase current research in the field of Early and Modern Irish language and literature in a manner that celebrates Knott’s academic interests. To coincide with the conference, the Library has organised an exhibition in the Long Room from the Eleanor Knott papers, a small collection of which are held in M&ARL, mostly pertaining to her work in Trinity College.

Eleanor Knott (1886-1975) was an eminent Irish-language scholar born in Ranelagh, Dublin. She was educated at Abercorn College, Dublin and her Cornish mother encouraged her to learn Irish. Knott was further urged by scholar Richard I. Best (1872-1959) to study Old Irish at the School of Irish Learning in Dublin and in 1907 she received a scholarship to continue these studies. During that year she also wrote on a weekly basis for Sinn Féin and The Irish Peasant under the pseudonyms EK, PMEK or Finnéigeas, expressing nationalist sentiments.

In 1911 Knott joined the staff of the Royal Irish Academy  (RIA) as an assistant to the Norwegian linguist Carl Marstrander (1883-1965) who was seeing the Dictionary of the Irish Language into publication. In 1928 she was appointed Lecturer in Celtic Languages in Trinity and a special Chair of Early Irish was created for her in 1939. Following the repeal of a statute prohibiting women members in 1949, Knott shared the distinction with four others of being the first women elected to the RIA. Her publications include The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (2 vols, 1922, 1926); An introduction to the Irish syllabic poetry of the period 1200–1600 (1928); Togail bruidne Da Derga (1936); and Irish classical poetry (1957). She also served as joint editor of Ériu (xii–xx).

IMG_1796Eleanor Knott was a scholar proficient in all periods of the Irish language and its literature, and a keen supporter of the Irish language revival movement. She left a legacy of sober, unbiased academic writing and her legacy represents many things Important to the history of Irish scholarship and Trinity College Dublin: impartial scholarship during times of intense, civil unrest; a long-standing relationship between cultural institutions and a landscape which is ever-progressing for women in academia.

The exhibition will run for one week from 28 April 2016.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin

Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016

The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1
The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1

The Library of Trinity College Dublin has launched a Long Room exhibition to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016 will run from 1 March to the end of April.

The exhibition features exhibits of unique material from Trinity’s Manuscripts & Archives Research Library and Early Printed Books collections relating to the 1916 Easter Rising, including photographs, diaries, memorabilia as well as digital content. The display will trace methods of recording and reflecting on the Rising from the initial scramble to record the events as they happened in 1916; the commemorative activity of 1966 and through to the Library’s current project to capture and preserve the 1916 related websites produced in 2016.

Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25
Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training Corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • The Library’s copy of the Proclamation, said to have been torn from the walls of the GPO, along with the World War I recruitment posters found pasted to the back
  • Photograph of British Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin
  • The scrapbook of Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of Trinity Provost John Pentland Mahaffy, and occupant of the Provost’s house during the Rising
  • Silver cup presented to a member of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916
  • The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library during Easter week 1916.

    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916
    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916

The items displayed all appear on the Library’s popular 1916 blog project Changed Utterly – Ireland and the Easter Rising.

The exhibition also showcases the work of the Library’s 1916 Web Archiving project which sees the Library working in collaboration with the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford and the British Library to archive websites from both the Irish and UK web domains as they reflect on the 1916 Easter Rising.

Photograph of Troops in Front Square TCD/MUN/MC/207
Photograph of Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin TCD/MUN/MC/207

The exhibition and web-archiving project are part of the Library’s contribution to the Trinity College Dublin Decade of Commemoration.


CERL Dublin Manuscripts Conference 25-27 May 2016

The 7th conference of CERL’s (Consortium of European Research Libraries European Manuscript Librarians Expert Group, hosted by the cerl logoLibrary of Trinity College Dublin will take place 25-27 May 2016.

The primary aims of the Group are to act as a forum for curatorial concerns, and to enhance understanding and practical cooperation among curators across Europe. The conference will focus on these themes:

Commemorations and Anniversaries; Materiality; Post-digital issues and concerns.

Draft programme:

Wednesday 25 May, 1315 – 2000

  • Estelle Gittins, ‘Commemorating 1916 in the Library of Trinity College Dublin’
  • Bernard Meehan, ‘The Faddan More Psalter’
  • Susie Bioletti, ‘Early Results from the “Early Irish Manuscripts” Project’
  • Jennifer Edmond, ‘CENDARI: what next?’
  • Jane Ohlmeyer, ‘The 1641 Depositions: what now?’

Reception in Old Library with Book of Kells and exhibition of treasures

Thursday 26 May, 0930-1900

  • Ad Leerintveld, ‘Authenticating the coat of arms in a Gruuthuse manuscript’
  • Birgit Vinther Hansen, ‘Exhibition and fading of manuscripts: microfadometry and a lighting policy to increase exposure and reduce risk’
  • Nicholas Pickwoad, ‘Ligatus:  the importance of bindings and their description’
  • Claire Breay, ‘Commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015’
  • Allen Packwood, ‘The Churchill Papers: a modern historical epic’
  • Gerhard Müller, “Understanding Archival Metadata and Shaping Perspectives on the Benefits of Standards beyond the Simple Search.”

Reception at Royal Irish Academy and viewing of early medieval Irish manuscripts. Conference dinner, 1930

Friday 27 May, 0915-1200, private visits to Marsh’s Library and the Chester Beatty Library


Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin

Grand designs

Architectural Model of West Front of College (TCD OBJECT 2015/1)
Architectural Model of West Front of College (TCD OBJECT 2015/1)

This Library, or rather this section of the Library, has become the final resting place for a collection of objects which is best described as random. Some of these originally formed part of a larger museum collection – the death masks for example – and some were consciously acquired to form part of our exhibitions. It is also not unusual to find that some manuscript collections – especially family papers – arrive complete with objects which must find a place in the catalogue. Spectacles, slippers, a hat with real hair attached, that sort of thing.

One of the most recent additions to the objects collection is an architectural model of the West Front of College, i.e. as seen from College Green. This has graced the offices of a number of members of Library staff for many decades; upon the retirement recently of a senior colleague,  its most recent ‘minder’, it was decided to retire the artefact and therefore it was formally accessioned so that it could enter into the next phase of its career, as a research item.

The process of accessioning required some research to be done to establish when the item came to be in the Library and it turned up a nice little story. As part of his research into the history of this Library – a very suitable Christmas-stocking filler, if we may say – former Librarian Peter Fox compiled an exhaustive list of every reference to the Library to be found among the College archives. When his book – so very suitable for Christmas – was published the author kindly gave us his notes as a resource for others interested in the subject.

Among these notes was a transcription from the Library minute book for January 1884 recording the donation of the model. It had been presented by Rev James Goodman, famous for preserving much of the traditional music of the Munster area. Goodman was the professor of Irish in Trinity and numbered Douglas Hyde and John Millington Synge among his pupils. But that is not material to this story.

Goodman’s letter which remains in the minute book indicates that he believed he was presenting something which could be linked directly – via James Gandon – to William Chambers who at that time – but no longer – was believed to be the architect of the West Front in the 1750s.

James Goodman's letter to the Library 1884
James Goodman’s letter to the Library 1884

When the model was repaired in the 1980s the Conservator Tony Cains putatively dated it to the mid-nineteenth century based on the animal glue used in its construction. In an attempt to establish a firmer date, and fervently wishing it would turn out to be eighteenth-century, a visit was paid to the Irish Architectural Archive which has an interesting collection of models. The Director put paid to our ambitions by informing us that this kind of model-making tended to be a very traditional activity, the style and process remaining little changed through decades and therefore not useful for dating purposes. He also introduced the idea that our model could have been either an apprentice piece, made subsequent to the building’s completion or a model done for the sheer love of the building by an architect who like making models.

Jane Maxwell