The Library of Trinity College Dublin invites you to be inspired by its collections in a new online exhibition Director’s Choice Uncut

Highlights of the collections of the Library of Trinity College Dublin and their fascinating history are  showcased in a new online exhibition Director’s Choice Uncut. The Library invites you to connect and be inspired by a range of diverse objects and their stories in this magnificent new online exhibition selected by the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton. Building on the success of the  Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublin published this year by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, this new expanded digital platform features even more of the Library’s treasures.

Ranging from the iconic to the less well known, the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton has selected some of the collections’ unique and precious items in Director’s Choice Uncut. She is joined by her Library staff in the telling of the fascinating stories of each object, which range from the historic to the contemporary. It showcases items acquired over four centuries, since the foundation of the University in 1592. 

The selection ranges from 3,000-year-old papyrus scrolls of Egyptian Books of the Dead to Samuel Beckett’s minimalist postcards sent from France to his friends; from Dean Jonathan Swift’s death mask to the elegantly hand-written drafts of John Banville’s novel; from one of Trinity’s most celebrated alumni, Oscar Wilde’s witty trade cards to  John Millington Synge’s typewriter from the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, the most famous woodcut-illustrated book in the western world to the marriage certificate of James III; from the Book of Durrow , a hundred years older than the Book of Kells, to correspondence between Michael Collins and Winston Churchill, so revealing of their respective personalities; from Michael Davitt’s Diary to In Fairyland pictures from the elf-world from the Pollard Collection of children’s books.

The great prose satirist Jonathan Swift, Trinity graduate and later Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral was declared of ‘unsound mind and memory’ in 1742. His death mask is thought to have been taken four hours after his death. He died on 19 October 1745, leaving the greater part of his estate to establish St Patrick’s, Ireland’s first hospital for the mentally ill.

John Millington Synge’s typewriter a No. 5 Blickensderfer presents a lightweight, almost spectral mechanism. Synge, who struggled with both spelling and grammar, in producing clean copy for publishers was to use this little machine for the rest of his life, typing every draft of his literary works on it, from the first to final version.

Michael Davitt, the campaigner for land reform and workers’ rights led a life which was defined by profound challenges.  A tragedy of immense personal significance was the death of his daughter Kathleen Davitt. His diary shows that he always carried a photograph of Kathleen who died suddenly of tuberculosis while he was travelling to Australia for a lecture tour in 1895. Throughout that year Davitt carried her photograph close to his person, within this poignant little diary.

The marriage certificate of James III and the 17-year-old Polish princess Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702-1735) is a lavishly decorated manuscript. That the union took place at all is nothing short of remarkable given the events that led up to it: the bride was ambushed and imprisoned at Innsbruck, there was a subsequent jailbreak, a chase across Europe involving faked illness, a maid in disguise, lost jewels, forged passports among other eventful occurrences.

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton says:

We are delighted to be able to share some of the extraordinary items that form part of  our magnificent collections through this expanded new digital platform Director’s Choice Uncut. Taking inspiration from the success of the book Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublin published earlier this year by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, we decided to further expand the selection of items.These diverse riches represent 3,000 years of creativity, memory and knowledge. We hope you connect with, and are inspired by, these objects over the Christmas period.”

As part of the initiative, there will be a #TCDLibraryTreasures social media campaign, with a reflection on each item, each day over Christmas. Join us in the initiative @tcdlibary and share your thoughts on these wonderful items.

Trinity to commission four new sculptures – all representing women scholars for display in the Long Room

The scientist Rosalind Franklin, the folklorist, dramatist and theatre-founder Augusta Gregory, the mathematician Ada Lovelace and the writer and pioneering women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft have been chosen from a list of more than 500 suggestions.

There are currently 40 marble busts in the beautiful, historic space – all men. As the College recognises that its public spaces must better represent our diversity, it has decided as a first step to introduce a series of sculptures of women.

This is the first time in over a century that the University has commissioned new sculptures for this prestigious location. The first for this space were commissioned in the 1740s, soon after the Library was finished, and the collection was gradually extended in the following years. No new sculptures have been commissioned since the 1880s and no additional sculptures have been installed since the 1920s.

At the end of last year, Provost Patrick Prendergast invited nominations from Trinity students, staff and alumni for new sculpture busts.

Following the principles used for previous commissions, nominations were invited using two criteria; the subjects should be scholars and they should no longer be living. They did not need to be graduates of the University and there was no restriction as to nationality.

The panel, chaired by the Provost and including former Registrars, the Librarian and Academic and Collections experts, received well over 500 nominations covering a wide field of fascinating and deserving women scholars.

Given the strength of the achievements of the nominees, the panel decided on four new commissions, two from the Sciences and two from the Arts and Humanities.

They are:

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin’s scientific discoveries have benefited humanity in several ways. As a fundamental experimentalist, excelling in X-ray crystallography, and despite a career cut short by untimely death at the age of 37, she made two seminal contributions: her impeccable analysis generated key measurements for one of the most transformative advances of the 20th century, uncovering the structure of DNA. Her later work had an equally pivotal impact on revealing the structure of RNA viruses, including early work on the Polio virus. Discoveries in both areas contributed to the awarding of Nobel prizes after her death, though not to her (they cannot be awarded posthumously). While her name is often connected with missing out on a Nobel prize, her legacy is of much greater significance.

Augusta Gregory (1852 -1932)

Lady Gregory became one of the most significant intellectual and creative powerhouses of the Irish Literary Revival. Her work as a writer, dramatist, theatre-founder, champion of the Irish language, translator, folklorist and social commentator helped define and give voice to the tenets of cultural nationalism in the years leading up to, and after, the establishment of the Irish Free State. Today, scholars look to Augusta Gregory’s ground-breaking work for its artistry, for insights into the country’s complex revolutionary period and to explore the role of language and literature in defining Irish identity as distinct, self-determining and heroic, both nationally and internationally.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was the author of an 1843 monograph on Charles Babbage’s design for the first analytical engine (general-purpose computer). To her translation of Menabrea’s report of a presentation made by Babbage in Turin she added her famous Notes, highlighting the potential and flexibility of an analytical engine compared to a calculator. These Notes included an algorithm for computing Bernouilli numbers and presaged computer-generated music, a century before Alan Turing proved that such achievements required properties now intrinsic to computers, which Babbage’s design possessed. Ada Lovelace’s unique contribution was to publish the first recognition of the capacity of a computer to make logical deductions about both numerical and non-numerical objects.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

Mary Wollstonecraft was a pioneering women’s rights advocate, and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), often considered a foundational text for women’s rights movements. Radical for her time, she argued that all humans have the faculties of rational thought and reason. She also argued that women must be allowed to be educated and to contribute equally to society, stating in A Vindication, “my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue.”

Next steps

The next step will be to issue an invitation for expressions of interest from the artistic community. Following a shortlisting process, the finalists will be invited to submit maquettes of their proposed designs, for which there will be financial support. The realisation of the entire commission process is ultimately subject to finance being available, for which funding is being sought.

Even with this exciting new development, the University is aware that women will still represent only 10% of the busts in the Long Room and that the existing subjects do not represent the ethnic and gender diversity that distinguishes the history of scholarship.

As we develop the next steps in this process, the College will welcome contributions and ideas about how best to reflect the full diversity of academic achievement.

Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said;

“The Long Room in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin is one of the most magnificent rooms in the world visited by hundreds of thousands of people most years. I welcome this initiative as a step towards reflecting the university’s diversity in such a nationally significant location.”

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said;

As the first woman Librarian in the College’s 428-year history, I am especially delighted to champion this initiative to address the historic inequity in the Long Room.”

Library Response to COVID Level 5

The Provost and Secretary to the College wrote to us yesterday, about the universities being categorised as essential (as identified on the Department of the Taoiseach’s website see Education).

The libraries are essential to the research infrastructures during COVID Level 5, both for access to physical material for researchers and students, and as a safe, calm environment with good connectivity, especially for students.

Minister Simon Harris’ press release yesterday entitled ‘What Level 5 means for Further and Higher Education’ included ‘scheduled access to libraries and other onsite study space for those students who do not otherwise have suitable facilities or home environment to access learning remotely’.

Therefore, balancing supporting the research infrastructure and supporting undergraduates and postgraduates with ensuring our staff’s wellbeing, the libraries will remain open online and continue to be physically open to current staff and students with effect from midnight tonight as follows;

  • Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher Libraries. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm
  • Hamilton Library. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm
  • Joint Research Collections Reading Room in the Old Library. By appointment. Mondays and Thursdays.
  • John Stearne Medical Library. Online booking. Open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm
  • 1937 Postgraduate Reading Room. Online booking. Open Monday to Sunday 8am-8pm
  • Kinsella Hall. Online booking. From Tuesday 27th October 2020, open for study from 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and from 8am-8pm Saturday and Sunday.

Readers will continue to need to book in advance to gain entry to the Library. To book a visit, please use the ‘book a visit’ link on the Library homepage or go straight to the booking system via this direct link. Existing bookings remain valid except for those outside the new hours detailed above, namely, evenings and Saturdays (the 1937 Reading Room opening hours remain the same so all existing bookings remain valid).

There is access to reading room PCs with UK electronic Legal Deposit material, printing, book retrieval and returns. In addition, the new services of ‘scan on demand’, ‘click and collect’‘An Post delivery’ across Ireland continue. We will keep all services under review, and please bear with us if everything is not quite as smooth as usual.

For enquiries, please use our Live Chat facility on the Library website, email and a library staff member will get back to you, or contact your subject librarian directly.

As the Trinity Education Project is celebrated today, a reminder to those students embarking on a capstone project now and in the future, that the Library is a goldmine of material and expertise for your research. Current projects range from the Pollard Collection of Childrens’ books with the School of English to systematic reviews in Human Health and Disease with the School of Medicine. Please contact your Subject Librarian and Research Collections to discuss how the Library can support your research.

Finally, on your behalf, may I pay tribute to the Library staff and other colleagues across College from security to cleaning staff to postgraduate stewards, who are making this level of access to the libraries possible during Covid-19 Level 5.

With best wishes,

Helen Shenton

Librarian and College Archivist

Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries reopen for essential study: Resumption of activities next steps

Pomodoro Sphere

Today we are opening our doors to the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries as part of the phased resumption of Library activities. We know how much the libraries mean to all of us at Trinity, and just how much disruption to research, teaching and learning has been caused by COVID-19.

Our reopening is focused on the essential needs of academic staff, postgraduate students and undergraduate students who may be sitting reassessments. There is also an expanded range of new services, including ‘Click and Collect’, ‘Scan on Demand’ and a postal delivery service, supporting those working remotely − further details here.

Access for external/visiting readers is not possible at this time but please keep an eye on the Library homepage for updates. The situation may change as we approach the start of teaching term on the 28th September 2020.

The safety of our staff and students is foremost in this process, ensuring a safe working and studying environment. The safety protocols that will be in place for the physical reopening will be as follows:

  • Reading rooms in Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries will open for individual study and self-service borrowing
  • There will be no counter services and no group study activities
  • Social distancing will be in place across all reading rooms (chairs at least 2m apart)
  • There will be a ‘keep right’ policy and readers will be asked not to congregate anywhere in the building
  • The Library will make hand gel and wipes available at key locations throughout the buildings
  • Access to the Berkeley/Lecky/Ussher complex is via the Berkeley Library only (Lecky entrance in the Arts Block is closed)
  • The opening hours in the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton will be 09:30 – 17:00 (Mon-Fri)
  • The John Stearne Medical Library will reopen on 10th August with limited hours; in the interim, materials held there can be requested via the new services (‘Click & Collect’ etc).

There will be signage to assist you in observing these protocols which are in keeping with HSE guidelines. For those intending to use the Library, I would encourage you to plan your study and research in advance.

The reopening of the physical Library is being phased in keeping with Trinity’s overall health and safety guidelines and the government roadmap. The most recent phase on 29th June, involved the reopening of Kinsella Hall for the essential research needs of postgraduates and early stage researchers. Based on their feedback, we know it was hugely beneficial for those who availed of it. One postgrad wrote ‘I have got more done in the past two hours than I did in the past two months’. We hope that today’s further reopening will help others who need on-site Library study space and services.

Access to all Library reading rooms, including Manuscripts & Archives and Early Printed Books (as well as the Book of Kells exhibition), will resume on August 10th. Please continue to consult the Library’s Academic Continuity Guide on the Library website for regular updates.

I look forward to welcoming you all back in person as our resumption plans progress.

Helen Shenton, Librarian & College Archivist


Reopening of the Physical Library

As part of Trinity College Dublin’s overall plans for the resumption of activities the reopening of the physical Library and services will be phased and gradual. The safety of our staff and students will at all times remain our priority throughout this process.

“When we had to close the library buildings, we kept the Library open online and continued to provide students and staff with our Library services throughout COVID-19, including online services and virtual consultations. I am delighted that the reopening of the physical Library will now begin, starting on a modest scale, from the end of this month, culminating with virtually full access in August (with social distancing and other safety measures in place.) All of this will be complemented by a range of new online services starting on June 29th through to August. The overarching goal is the safe resumption of activity within the Library in a phased manner that enables access whilst protecting the health and safety of our readers and our Library staff.  We very much look forward to opening our doors once again to our readers,” says Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton.

Continue reading “Reopening of the Physical Library”

Honouring the pioneering work of Professor M.L. Colker

Illuminating the Middle Ages which showcases the treasure trove of medieval Latin manuscripts in the Library is this week’s choice of exhibition in the online exhibition series. Professor M.L Colker who created the first comprehensive catalogue of the Library’s medieval Latin manuscript collection sadly passed away last week. We pay tribute to his pioneering work by revisiting this exhibition curated in his honour.

In the 1950s, Marvin ‘Mark’ Colker of the University of Virginia embarked on the Herculean task of cataloguing this collection, comprising around 450 manuscripts.Over the course of 30 years, Colker made regular visits to Dublin, spending long hours working tirelessly in the manuscripts reading room at the Library. His dedication resulted in the publication of Trinity College Dublin Library: Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Latin Manuscripts (Dublin, 1991), fondly referred to as the ‘Colker Catalogue’. His ground-breaking work is the cornerstone for any project or research based on the Latin manuscripts.

By way of tribute, an exhibition entitled Illuminating the Middle Ages showcases the diversity of material made accessible to researchers through Colker’s commitment and expertise. The online exhibition features vividly illuminated psalters, a vibrantly decorated Book of Hours, a handbook for classical learning and a thirteenth-century copy of Peter Lombard’s Sentences. It also includes images from the Book of Armagh, the sumptuously decorated Dublin Apocalypse, as well as a unique handbook for confessors.

Colker’s work was also honoured with the publication of a special edition of Hermathena: a Trinity College Dublin Review — the Department of Classics’ journal which has been published without interruption since 1873. The special issue of Hermathena was edited by Anna Chahoud, Professor of Latin.

The collection, entitled Fabellae Dublinenses Revisited and other Essays in Honour of Marvin Colker, includes essays by scholars from Trinity College (John Scattergood, Edward McParland, Anna Chahoud) and abroad (Thomas Smith, Ernesto Stagni, Giulio Vannini, Ornella Rossi, Silverio Franzoni). The collection of essays gives special attention to the text known, after Colker’s discovery in TCD MS 602, as ‘Petronius Redivivus’. The studies partly engage with Colker’s pioneering research on select Latin manuscripts (MS 602, MS 632) and partly offer a complementary tribute to the extraordinary value of Trinity Library collections for literary, historical and architectural inquiries (MS 115, MS 496, Fagel Collections I.1.95).

Dublin Apocalypse, folio 3v (Early 14th century)

Valentine’s Fines Amnesty

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
We won’t charge you fines,
If your books are overdue

…from Friday 14 – Saturday 29 February, anyway.

After consultation with the two Student Unions the Library is implementing a once-off, two-week amnesty on collecting fines. Show your love for the Library by getting any lost and overdue books back to their home. No fines levied and no questions asked!

The fine print:

  • The amnesty will apply for two weeks from Friday 14 February (Valentine’s Day!) to Saturday 29 February (leap year!) 2020.
  • The amnesty will be limited to materials currently on loan. It will *not* apply to fines/charges associated with items that have already been returned.
  • Readers are asked to return items via the service counters or specially designated book return bins (which will be clearly marked and very visible).

Trinity Pays Tribute to Architect Paul Koralek

It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of Paul Koralek, the renowned architect who originally designed the iconic modernist Berkeley Library.

The 1960s building was considered a beacon of modernism for Trinity, Dublin and Ireland. More importantly it hailed a new era for students and researchers, opening up the Library collections to a much wider readership.

The Library of Trinity College Dublin was honoured by the architect’s presence on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Berkeley Library in 2017 when he gave a public interview in Trinity College.

“It is where it all started,” he said as he walked around the Berkeley Library during that historic visit.

Commenting on the architect’s passing, College Librarian and Archivist, Helen Shenton said:

“Paul had a long-standing relationship with the Library, Trinity and Ireland. Many of us who had the privilege to know him formed a deep respect and admiration for him and we have especially fond memories of his recent visit in 2017. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to his daughters Lucy and Katy on this very sad occasion.”

“The Berkeley Library when built transformed library services for our students and readers. It was a modern library not just for Trinity, but for Ireland. Paul’s architectural vision for this modernist building played a critical role in making this possible.”

Paul Koralek’s Architectural Vision for the Berkeley Library

The architect, Paul Koralek was just 28 when he won the international competition in 1961 for a new library building. The highest standards of design were commanded by an international competition and the award was publicly announced by the then Lord Mayor of the winning architect, the young New York based architect Paul Koralek. Dublin of the 1960s featured buildings such as Busáras, Liberty Hall and Hawkins House and the new Berkeley Library was to join this cityscape. Considered one of the finest modern buildings in Ireland, the Berkeley Library is a pure example of the “Brutalist” style of bare concrete architecture popularised by le Corbusier.

Koralek’s innovative use of concrete, poured into wooden moulds gives it the impression of wood grain on the surface of the concrete slabs. Contractors G and T Crampton built it, with Koralek overseeing the meticulous mixing of concrete on site. When complete, it doubled the reading space as well as storage for books for the College, which also involved the employment of 57 new members of staff. Moreover, it provided a unique reading experience where the reader was prioritised. It was officially opened in 1967 by the President Éamon De Valera.

Open Day Library Tours – Saturday 23 November

As part of Open Day the Library would be delighted if you could join us for a short tour of the Berkeley, Lecky and Ussher Libraries. Students and their families are all very welcome. Teachers too! Please meet us in the foyer of the Berkeley Library.

Tours will run every 15 minutes from 10:15 to 13:00 and will last about 10 minutes. They will be led by Trinity students so it’s a chance to talk to them about life at Trinity and they might even show you their favourite spot to study in the Library!
We look forward to seeing you.

Library Study Space Campaign

To address the issue of ‘desk-hogging’ (i.e., the practice of leaving books and personal belongings unattended for long periods of time at Library study spaces, thus preventing others from using those spaces), the Library is launching a Study Space Campaign on Wednesday 20 November 2019 in the Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher, John Stearne and Hamilton Libraries. A dedicated study space team, wearing blue t-shirts, will patrol Library reading rooms to free up study spaces that have been unoccupied for more than 60 minutes.

The team will operate using the following procedure:

  • Leaflets will be left at study spaces observed to be unattended. The leaflets will indicate the time at which the study space was observed to be unoccupied and the time at which it will be cleared should the reader fail to return within the allotted 60 minute period
  • Any books and belongings left at the study space will be cleared to a box and moved to a designated storage area on the same floor. This includes laptops and other portable devices, so readers are strongly advised to back-up all work regularly!
  • The information on each leaflet will also be recorded on separate clipboard sheets to ensure transparency

**please note that the above procedure does not apply to officially reserved carrels**

The Library Study Space Campaign relies on the cooperation of all readers. We ask that you support the study space team to ensure a level playing field for those who come to the Library to study and prepare for exams. You can assist us by not leaving laptops, phones, USB drives or any other valuables unattended for any length of time, and by sticking to the 60 minute rule.

The Library shall not be held responsible for damaged or stolen belongings.

For further information about the Library’s seating policy, please see our Library Regulations page.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at: