One of the world’s finest medieval manuscripts, the Book of St Albans is digitised for the first time

The Library of Trinity College Dublin makes a 13th century masterpiece globally accessible

One of the most finely illustrated medieval manuscripts, Matthew Paris’s Book of St Albans has been digitised by the Library of Trinity College Dublin for the first time. The 13th century masterpiece features 54 individual works of medieval art and has fascinated readers across the centuries, from royalty to renaissance scholars.

The precious manuscript survived the chaos and trauma of the dissolution of the monasteries and came to Trinity College Dublin in 1661.

Full page of the martyrdom of St Alban by beheading and the fate of his executioner, by Matthew Paris, TCD MS 177 f38r.

Created by the renowned scribe, the Benedictine monk, Matthew Paris of St Albans Abbey in England, the manuscript chronicles the life of St Alban, the first Christian martyr in England. It also outlines the construction of St Albans cathedral.

The monastery at St Albans was one of the most important in the country. It was a major site of pilgrimage receiving many pilgrims from Ireland.

The book was held in St Albans Abbey for 300 years until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

All other precious manuscripts by Matthew Paris are held in the British Library, and the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Chetham’s Library Manchester.

The Book of St Albans was a high-status book, viewed by King Henry VI. Written in Latin it also contains Anglo-Norman French which made it accessible to a wider secular audience including educated noble women.

It was borrowed by noble ladies of the period, including the King’s sister-in-law Countess of Cornwall, Sanchia of Provence, and others.

The content at times gruesome, include illustrations featuring the decapitation of St Alban and his executioner whose eyes literally pop out of his head at the point of execution.

The artwork consisting of mostly framed narrative scenes, is a tinted drawing technique where outlined drawings are highlighted with coloured washes from a limited palette. This technique was distinctly English, dating back to Anglo Saxon art of the 10th century.

From St Albans Abbey, it came into the ownership of the Elizabethan Royal adviser and astronomer, John Dee, following which it was sold to James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, and subsequently came to Trinity with his library in 1661.  It has remained in the Library of Trinity College Dublin for over 350 years.

For the first time, this manuscript is now fully digitised and available online, a process which has been undertaken through the Virtual Trinity Library initiative as part of its Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Book of St Albans has been fully digitised ahead of the feast day of St Alban, tomorrow Wednesday, 22nd June.

Commenting on its significance, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said:

“The Library of Trinity College Dublin is delighted to make this medieval masterpiece accessible to a global audience. For the first time in history, this exquisite manuscript by one of the world’s most famous medieval artists and chroniclers, Matthew Paris may be viewed digitally revealing its beautiful artistry in full colour. As part of the Virtual Trinity Library’s Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project it contributes to teaching and research at Trinity College Dublin and has fostered collaboration with other universities and libraries.”

Virtual Trinity Library is a digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections. It will conserve, catalogue, curate, digitise and research these unique collections of national importance, making them accessible to a global audience, from schoolchildren to scholars.

Manuscripts Curator, Estelle Gittins said: “This astonishing manuscript contains some of the most incredible medieval art, it is a window into an elaborate world of saints, kings and knights, but also sailors, builders and bell ringers. Before now the only way to study all of the images in this important manuscript was to consult the rare, black and white, 1924 facsimile edition, it is so exciting that this can now be viewed and enjoyed by everyone at the click of a button.”

Virtual Trinity Library’sManuscripts for Medieval Studies project which was philanthropically supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, has focussed on 16 medieval manuscripts of international research significance. The manuscripts are used for teaching on the Trinity M. Phil in Medieval Studies course. The selection demonstrates the breadth and variety of the Library’s collections of source material for the study of the art, history, culture, language and literature of the medieval period, and the history of the book in particular.

Other works digitised as part of this project include the highly decorated 12th century manuscript, the Winchcombe Psalter and surviving manuscripts of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury and Salisbury Cathedral, medieval music from Britain and Ireland, and a rare 15th-century life of St Thomas Becket.

Pictured on the occasion of the announcement were: Director of the M.Phil in Medieval Studies, Dr Mark Faulkner, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton and Manuscripts Curator, Estelle Gittins.

Notes to Editors

View new online exhibition Matthew Paris’s 13th-Century ‘Book of St Albans’ – A masterpiece of medieval art

View the digitised manuscript at https://doi.org/10.48495/8p58pm63q

View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueIv6aEalio

12th Century Irish manuscript the Book of Leinster to be conserved, researched, and digitised for a global audience

Bank of America announced that the Library of Trinity College Dublin will receive funding to conserve, research and digitise the Book of Leinster, a 12th century parchment manuscript. It is one of the most important manuscripts written in Irish to have survived from the early medieval period and is of incalculable value to the history of Ireland and the Irish language.

The award is being made through the company’s 2022 global Art Conservation Project. Other prestigious international projects to receive funding include the restoration of Notre Dame, the Michelangelo drawing ‘Epifania cartoon’ at the British Museum and Edvard Munch’s ‘Vampire’ at the Munch Museum in Norway among others across the world.

Commenting on the significance of the award, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: “The Library of Trinity College Dublin’s collection of over 200 medieval and early modern manuscripts written in the Irish language is ranked as one of the most important collections in the world. Covering over a thousand years of Irish literature and learning, they shine a light on how Irish society operated, how our ancestors interacted with each other, what stories and myths they told about themselves and how they saw themselves on the world stage. Once conserved the Book of Leinster will form part of the Library’s major digitisation project, the Virtual Trinity Library and will be made globally accessible online.”

The Book of Leinster, written in the 12th century, is the earliest manuscript in the Library’s collection written entirely in Irish and one of the most important manuscripts of the early Irish period. Written by the ‘prime historian of Leinster’, Áed Úa Crimthainn, abbot of Terryglass, Co. Tipperary, it was formerly known as the Lebor na Nuachongbála or ‘Book of Nuachongbáil’, a monastic site known today as Oughaval in Co. Laois.

Pictured on the occasion of the announcement are CEO of Bank of America, Europe, Fernando Vicario,
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton  with Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, Susie Bioletti.
 

Fernando Vicario, CEO Bank of America Europe DAC and Country Executive for Ireland said: “We are honoured to once again support the Library of Trinity College Dublin. This year’s partnership sees the conservation, research and digitisation of the Book of Leinster, an invaluable medieval Irish manuscript. Previously, funding was awarded for four significant manuscripts, the Codex Usserianus Primus, the Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, and the Book of Mulling. Through our commitment to the arts and this continued partnership, we hope that millions of people around the world will be able to access and enjoy these cultural treasures.”

The manuscript is an anthology of prose, verse, genealogy, medical knowledge, and place-name lore. It contains the Irish ‘book of genesis’, Lebor Gabála Érenn, which establishes the place of Ireland, the Irish people and their language in a biblical world setting. A very important version of the saga An Táin Bó Cúailnge and the story of Cú Chulainn is also included in the collection.

 Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, Susie Bioletti said: “Bank of America’s support will enable the painstaking conservation of one of our most fragile and important 12th century Irish manuscripts. Currently inaccessible due to risk of damage if handled. The treatment will stabilise the parchment, and repair extensive losses and tears allowing the manuscript to be resewn and rebound. This transformation will enable researchers to engage with the manuscript and catalyse research on the materials, decoration, text and meaning of a complex and fascinating record from the early Middle Ages.”

Since 2010, Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project has supported the conservation of more than 6,000 individual pieces including paintings, sculptures, and archaeological and architectural pieces of critical importance to cultural heritage and the history of art. More than 200 projects across 39 countries have been managed by not-for-profit cultural institutions that receive grant funding to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration.

This is the second time that the Library of Trinity College Dublin has been awarded funding by Bank of America through its Art Conservation Project. In 2014 funding was awarded for its early medieval Irish manuscripts, the Codex Usserianus Primus, the Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, and the Book of Mulling dating from the 5th-9th centuries in a similar project that conserved, researched and digitised these precious manuscripts.

Library exhibition celebrates poet Derek Mahon’s life and work

The life and work of poet Derek Mahon was celebrated last November in Trinity College Dublin with a conference organised by Trinity’s School of English in association with Poetry Ireland and hosted in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. The event took place ahead of what would have been the poet’s 80th birthday.

To mark the occasion an online exhibition entitled Derek Mahon: Piecing Together the Poet was also organised jointly by the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the Stewart Rose Library of Emory University (home to the principal Mahon archive). The exhibition features readings by Mahon himself and Stephen Rea along with specially commissioned interviews with friends and fellow poets. It also features atmospheric photographs by John Minihan.

The exhibition charts the formative influences of Mahon’s life and work including: his ambivalent relationship with Belfast where he grew up; Trinity, where he found his voice as a poet; contemporary poets, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Michael Longley and Brendan Kennelly, all friends and close associates of Mahon; his great reflective poems, such as the famous ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’, as well as his beautifully lyrical shorter pieces, including the consolatory ‘Everything Is Going To Be All Right’ both read by Stephen Rea.

Mahon with other Irish writers in Paris, 1989. Image © John Minihan.
Writers: Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Jennifer Johnston, Derek Mahon, Sebastian Barry, John Montague and Tom Kilroy

Professor Nicholas Grene, a member of the conference organising committee and Emeritus Professor of English at Trinity, commented:

“Derek Mahon was a star in a generation of wonderful Trinity poets. He was our very first Writer Fellow in Trinity in 1986 and was awarded an honorary degree by Trinity in 1995. His international distinction as a poet was recognised in a number of prizes including the David Cohen lifetime achievement award in 2007.”

For more, see Library online exhibition ‘Derek Mahon: Piecing Together the Poet’ https://www.tcd.ie/library/exhibitions/mahon/

Trinity unveils sensory spaces to make campus more inclusive

Trinity College Dublin unveiled a series of new spaces on campus that have been designed as supportive sensory environments to meet the needs of students and staff. 

The plans were devised by TCD Sense – The Trinity Sensory Processing Project – which aims to make Trinity more inclusive by reviewing and improving new and existing spaces, building sensory awareness and delivering specialist supports to students who experience barriers to managing and adapting to the sensory environments of college. 

The project currently spans more than 80 study spaces in the Library, sensory areas within four student social spaces, as well as individual sensory rooms. Hundreds of students are using these spaces every day, but much more is to come. 

Since the project was begun in 2019 by staff in the Disability Service and Discipline of Occupational Therapy, TCD Sense has developed strong partnerships with the TCD Students Union, the Trinity Ability Coop, as well as staff in the Library and the science laboratories and with numerous other areas across Trinity.  

Jessica K Doyle, TCD Sense Project Officer, said:  

“We are all sensory beings, and although we may not always be fully aware of it, sensation is everywhere. Sometimes we may crave activity and movement, louder music and natural light and brighter colours. At other times, we might feel extra sensitive and prefer quieter spaces with dim lighting and less going on. Everyone has a unique sensory system and ways of perceiving and processing sensation that can change depending on time, context, mood, energy levels, neurotype & mechanism of perception”. 

Kieran Lewis, Senior Occupational Therapist at Trinity, said: 

“We are focusing on areas which students use most. Over the past number of months, as well as the spaces in the Library, we have designed sensory areas within four student social spaces, as well as individual sensory rooms.  These have been designed to enable students to engage fully in the college environments and to allow for individuals’ different sensory preferences”. 

User experience research by the Library with students highlighted the impact of the sensory environment on wellbeing and productivity; lighting, noise and sanctuary affect student comfort in library spaces, especially students who experience sensory overload and have high awareness of the sensory environment. These findings are reinforced by further research by the Disability Service and Discipline of Occupational Therapy, which included a sensory audit of Library buildings.  

Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist at Trinity, said: 

“As part of this collaborative University initiative TCD Sense, the Library has created six sensory spaces across the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher, Hamilton and Stearne libraries which will support our students and staff with diverse sensory needs. Another five will be completed in the coming weeks.  Based on inclusive research with our students, we have designed a range of environments that will help our readers feel at ease and comfortable while in the Library. We hope they will improve the quality of their experience both in the Library and across the University.” 

In May 2019, 150 students registered with the Disability Service in TCD completed a survey on sensory experiences: 

  • 68% reported that there is no quiet space on campus that they can access easily if feeling overwhelmed 
  • Over 50% commented that they go home/leave campus if feeling overwhelmed 
  • 93% would use a quiet space if it was available in the library 
  • 49% reported difficulty with acoustics (e.g. noises, echoes, humming) in the library 
  • 41% reported difficulty with acoustics in lectures. 

This development is being part funded from a €5.4 million fund for students with disabilities announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris earlier this year. Trinity has used €233,934 of its allocation of €482,364 on these developments. Additional resources of €126,500 have come from the Trinity Library, TCDSU and the Director of Student Services.  

Trinity Provost Linda Doyle welcomed the new spaces:  

“This has been a return to campus like no other, at a time when students and staff have been under unprecedented stress. It’s more important now than ever that everyone in the College community has access to places around the campus where they can find respite to focus, or to relax in peace. The TCD Sense Project is a wonderful addition to our campus and will contribute to the health and wellbeing of all.” 

Trinity Student Union President Leah Keogh said: 

“It has been a joy to work alongside the Disability Service on this project which has uniquely provided quiet spaces in busy places. The attention to detail is what has made this project so effective; the colours, textures and pieces were all hand selected to create the best possible environment for students to take some time out. This project has set the benchmark for what our student spaces should be going forward.” 

Dr Clodagh Nolan, Asst. Professor, Discipline of Occupational Therapy added: 

“Learning and social environments are fraught with sensory information that needs to be processed and managed by individuals. For some it can be overwhelming whereas for others it can be underwhelming. Managing the sensory environment including its design is an important element in enabling a person to learn constructively and to get the most from their day-to-day activities whether those activities include study, research, or social engagement. Real world research into the sensory environment which included all stakeholders in collaboration with the Discipline of Occupational Therapy has enabled us to translate the findings of this research into managing and changing environments to meet the needs of those who are challenged by these environments.”  

Declan Treanor, Director of the Trinity Disability Services, said:  

“We have identified making Trinity a more inclusive place from a sensory perspective as a key aim in The Disability Service’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2025. Plans are underway to look at developing a sensory map of Trinity, including sensory design principles in new developments, as well as adding sensory designed spaces in student accommodation and other spaces that are deemed to be useful to develop. We are looking at indoor and outdoor opportunities. We are also developing a sensory environment evaluation tool in collaboration with Technological University Dublin”.  

More information on the supports and resources available in managing the sensory environment and on the project can be found here.

The Library Pays Tribute to our Friend and one of Ireland’s great poets Brendan Kennelly

Brendan Kennelly Private Collection

It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of our friend and one of lreland’s major poets, Brendan Kennelly.

Brendan Kennelly was a poet, a professor, a public figure, cultural commentator, and a mentor to many.  Throughout his life on the Trinity campus he was also a great friend to the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin honoured his immense contribution to Irish life with a celebratory online event on his 85th birthday in April of this year. The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive was also launched on the occasion of the event. With the appointment of an archivist in the Library in the Spring to oversee the cataloguing of the poet’s papers, this unique collection will be made available to students and scholars.

The celebratory event which was organised at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, during our last lockdown, featured a read message from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins along with selected poems recited by celebrated singer, Bono, poet, Paula Meehan and Trinity student Lily O’Byrne. We were especially honoured that Brendan himself attended online from Kerry where he spent his final years. The event also prompted members of the public to contribute further items to this constantly expanding archive.

The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive reflects all of the facets of Brendan Kennelly’s life. His work, with roots in early twentieth-century rural traditions, developed to give a voice to the marginalised urban dweller, as well as difficult historical characters such as Judas and Oliver Cromwell. The poet’s own private life has often involved struggle and triumph, both of which he has shared freely and publicly, giving encouragement to many in their own personal struggles. Professor Kennelly’s teaching influenced generations of scholars, teachers, parents, and citizens and he has always been unfailingly encouraging to younger poets, from Paula Meehan to Leanne O’Sullivan. The collection contains literary drafts, lectures, research materials, reviews, workshop material, works by others, theatrical ephemera, personal material, photographs, memorabilia, and a great quantity of correspondence

The Library’s online exhibition ‘Forever Begin’ draws from the archive and provides wonderful insight into the poet’s life and immense contribution to Irish literary and cultural life over many decades.  

Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

The Library launches a video series on the Dutch Fagel collection

The Library of Trinity College Dublin and the KB National Library of the Netherlands have launched a video series about the Dutch 18th-century Fagel collection. The Fagel collection which is considered one of the jewels of the Trinity Library’s collections was built up over five generations of the Fagel family.

The Library of Trinity College and the KB National Library of the Netherlands are joint collaborators in the ‘Unlocking the Fagel Collection‘, project which aims to provide digital access to the collection. In the next two years, all books and pamphlets will be catalogued and made available through the online catalogue of the library of Trinity College, and the Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN). It forms part of the Virtual Trinity Library, a digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections.  These videos aim to present an integrated story of the family (many of whom held high public office in the Netherlands), the collections and the overall collaborative library project.

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Trinity marks major benefaction by Prince Albert II of Monaco to the preservation of the Old Library

His Serene Highness (HSH) Prince Albert II of Monaco visited Trinity College Dublin today as part of his three-day visit to Ireland.  An unveiling ceremony took place during his visit, marking a major benefaction Prince Albert II has made to the conservation of the iconic Old Library at Trinity College.

Welcoming Prince Albert II to Trinity, Provost & President, Professor Linda Doyle said:

“We are delighted to welcome Prince Albert II to Trinity College Dublin. His visit builds on Trinity’s existing links with Monaco through the Princess Grace Irish Library and our Centre for War Studies. Prince Albert joins a tradition of philanthropy that dates from the establishment of the University in 1592. On behalf of the Trinity community, I would like to thank Prince Albert for his support of this landmark restoration project which will ensure the preservation of the Old Library, as a global cultural icon for Trinity, the city of Dublin and Ireland.”

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Government announces €25 million in funding for the Old Library Redevelopment Project

Government announced funding of €25 million for the restoration of one of Ireland’s foremost national heritage sites, the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin yesterday. The Old Library is home to the magnificent Long Room and precious manuscripts, including the 9th century Book of Kells.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I am delighted to announce €25 million in Government funding for the Old Library, one of Ireland’s foremost heritage sites and a jewel in the nation’s crown. This landmark restoration project will use leading technology and preventive conservation, providing optimum environmental conditions for the 18th century building and its precious collections. With the aid of this Government funding we are safeguarding our heritage for generations to come.”

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Trinity Announces Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive to mark Poet’s 85th Birthday

Brendan Kennelly Private Collection

The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive was launched today in Trinity College Dublin at a celebratory online event marking the poet’s eighty-fifth birthday later this week [April 17th, 2021].

Hosted by the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, the event featured a read message from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins along with selected poems recited by celebrated singer, Bono, poet, Paula Meehan and Trinity student Lily O’Byrne.

Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast said on the occasion of the launch:

“The Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive reflects all of the facets of Brendan Kennelly’s life, and his national and international role – as a poet and a professor, as a public figure and cultural commentator, and a mentor to many. It spans from his earliest poetry to his years in Trinity College. I am delighted to announce this unique collection will now be made available to students and scholars with the appointment of an archivist, made possible through philanthropic support.”  

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Virtual Trinity Library − A Major Digitisation Initiative of the Library of Trinity College’s Collections is Launched

Virtual Trinity Library, an ambitious digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections was launched this week. It will conserve, catalogue, curate, digitise and research these unique collections of national importance, making them accessible to a global audience, from schoolchildren to scholars.

Using the most advanced technology the Library’s new Digital Collections platform will showcase the breadth of these collections, ranging from precious manuscripts to scientific papers. 

The Library of Trinity College Dublin is joining other world libraries that are collectively enabling access to patrimony and cultural heritage.

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