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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.

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.

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.”

Continue reading “Trinity marks major benefaction by Prince Albert II of Monaco to the preservation of the Old Library”

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.”

Continue reading “Government announces €25 million in funding for the Old Library Redevelopment Project”

The Fagels

A series of Videos about the Fagel Family and their Collections

The Library of Trinity College Dublin and the KB National Library of the Netherlands are collaborating on a video project about the Fagel family and their collections. The private library of the Fagels has been in Dublin since 1802, but traces of their working life and family history can still be found across The Hague. In a series of eight videos we visit the places, people, histories and collections that mattered to them most. After all, we should get to know the Fagels a little bit better before we can begin to understand the full significance of their private library. The first two videos have been released on the Dutch national holiday ‘King’s Day’ (27 April). Thereafter a new video highlighting a specific aspect of the history of the Fagels will be released every other week.

Fagel Collection

The Fagel collection has long been recognised as one of the jewels in the Library of Trinity College. It was built up over five generations of the Fagel family, many of whom held high public office in the Netherlands. Over the course of a century and a half they assembled 30,000 books and pamphlets, as well as an impressive collection of 10,000 maps. It is without doubt one of the most important still extant private libraries from the eighteenth century. The holdings in history, politics and law are particularly substantial, but virtually every other area of human endeavour is included such as philosophy, theology, geography and travels, natural history, the visual arts and much more.

The private library of the Fagels came to Dublin in 1802. Hendrik Fagel de Jonge had lost his position and income as a greffier and had few other options than to sell his collections. The governors of the Erasmus Smith Schools in Dublin put in a successful bid for the entire collection of books on behalf of Trinity College Dublin. In 2020 the Library of Trinity College and the KB National Library of the Netherlands started the project Unlocking the Fagel Collection, 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.

Connections in The Hague

The private library of the Fagels were transferred to Dublin over two centuries ago, but their archives, correspondence and a massive collection of state documents remained in the Netherlands. The prominent role of the Fagels in public life means that there are traces of the family all across The Hague. The house that François Fagel built in the early eighteenth century, is still standing next to the Noordeinde Palace, the administrative offices at the ‘Binnenhof’ are still at the political centre of the Netherlands, and the Fagel archives and correspondence cover over 60 metres in the National Archives today. Furthermore, there is a remarkable connecting between the end of the Fagel collection in The Hague in 1798 and the foundation of the National Library in the same year. One could say the KB came forth from the same revolution that drove the Fagels out of office.

The story of the Fagels is, in other words, goes beyond the Fagels’ private library at Trinity College. These videos aim to present an integrated story of the family, the collections and the collaborative project of the Library of Trinity College and the KB. These eight videos which  were made at significant and recognisable places in The Hague will be followed by a number of videos about the Fagel collection held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin later this summer.

The Library marks the anniversary of the first lockdown with a children’s online exhibition

On the anniversary of the first lockdown, the Library of Trinity College Dublin has launched an online exhibition showcasing children’s drawings, poems, diaries and fictional accounts in response to lockdown, 2020.

“One of this Library’s initiatives, in response to the first lockdown in March 2020, was a rapid-response archives collecting project called Living in Lockdown. The Library wanted to capture a snapshot of peoples’ lived experience, so that the voices of private individuals would form part of the future historical record of the Covid-19 pandemic. Out of the hundreds of submissions some of the most moving (and entertaining) were those submitted by school children, working with the Trinity Access Programme. We would like to mark the anniversary with some of the children’s work which has been curated for this online exhibition,” explained the Librarian and College Archivist of Trinity College Dublin, Helen Shenton.

The Library’s Dr Jane Maxwell who led the research said: “It is notoriously difficult to ensure that children’s own voices are preserved through time in the historical record. It can be expected that these children’s records will continue to add vigour and colour to future research focusing on the experience of the pandemic in Ireland.”

Individual children’s works were submitted from the earliest days of the project.

The Trinity Access Programme, in association with the Library and with Children’s Books Ireland, initiated a primary-schools competition. Children were invited to submit any form of record − it could be written or drawn, it could be a diary, a fictional account, a poem − with the chance of a prize. Submissions would be collected by the Library to be added to our primary-source research collections.

Most of the work submitted was produced in June 2020, when it appeared as though lockdown conditions were coming to an end. The schoolchildren’s works were submitted in the form of photographs, and parents have been encouraged to send in the originals.

There are a few distinctive themes to be observed among the children’s works, the key ones being the closure of schools, the absence of family members, and the inability to play with friends. The children wrote in their entries:

“Things haven’t been great and everything was sad and dreadful since [we] had to stay home from school….Sometimes I feel like that there was no escape from this. I also never seen my friends and it was a bit lonely sometimes.’”

“… the worst thing about it is we could not hug our mum or kiss her as she works as a frontliner in a … hospital … [and] the house it was like a prison cell.”

“I was very sad and confused as I am only 11. I though[t] pandemics only happened in movies. The most saddest part was not being able to see my Dad and my grandparents for 3 months.”

“I ring my nana every day. I also get worried in case my Mam, brothers or any one in in my family gets the virus but espec my brother … because he has more of a chance of dieing because he has diabeties.”

“Loneliness is another thing. I always thought of myself as a loner. I’m shy and avoid talking to new people. But I need a social life!! … At this point I’m desperate to see people.”

A distinction can be made between the children who have internalised adult concerns and language and those who speak in a recognisably youthful register. Examples from the children’s entries are:

“We remembered how to live and how to laugh. Our planet started to breath more and in the evening we could see very well the stars.”

“I believe this pandemic is a punishment from God because people are not doing his will anymore.”

“We prefer the world we have found in this horrible lockdown than the one we have created without thinking about what we were doing.”

“I would like to thank God for … giving so good ideas, intelligence to the people in the government …”

“Living though [Covid ] is like living through the world’s most boring apocalypse movie ever.”

“I will never say I am bored again. I was only truly bored when Coronovirus said ‘hi’.”

“Working from home is better because you have constant access to the fridge.”

“Things I’ve learnt … going to Penn[e]y’s every week is NON-ESSENTIAL. (I know, I know I was a bit surprised myself).”

Winners of the competition were awarded  personal book prizes, selected by Childrens’ Books Ireland, or a workshop for their class with an artist or a children’s author.  The winners of the workshop prizes were the assumption Senior Girls’ School in Walkinstown, and the Francis St CBS in the Liberties.

Living in Lockdown began as a collaboration with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

View the online exhibition of children’s drawings and responses  in the online exhibition.

Ends

Acknowledgements:

Curator: Dr Jane Maxwell, Manuscripts Curator, Manuscripts & Archives Research Collection.

Technical curator: Greg Sheaf, Web Services Librarian.

Dr Becky Long, the Primary and Junior Cycle Coordinator at Trinity Access Programme, is the organiser of the TAP Archive Project.

Living in Lockdown began as a collaboration with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

The Living in Lockdown team members are: Jane Maxwell, Aisling Lockhart, Greg Sheaf, Brendan Power, Ellen O’Flaherty, Jenny Doyle, Arlene Healy, Charles Montague, Siobhán Dunne, Estelle Gittins.

The project is ongoing and may be contacted at mscripts@tcd.ie.

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.

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

Hail to the Chief

Many congratulations to the 46th President of the USA! Mr Biden has visited us here in the Library twice, once as Vice President in 2016 and again in 2017 as a private citizen. We are quietly confident in his making it a third time, if he joins us in Ireland again.

The Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton, leads the way in September 2017.

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.

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