Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

Celebrating the Library’s medieval manuscript conservation and digitisation project

Two monkeys pictured in a page from West-Dereham-Bible-TCD-MS-51-f.100vlores.jpg

Precious medieval manuscripts and fragments that illuminate the art, music and literary culture of medieval Europe are being made available to the public for the first time thanks to a two-year conservation and digitisation project at the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

While the Book of Kells is Trinity’s best-known medieval manuscript, the Library of Trinity College Dublin is also home to 600 other precious medieval manuscripts dating from the 5th to the 16th centuries with origins right across western Europe. 

Sixty of these manuscripts have been conserved and digitised, rendered as 16,000 high quality images, and are now available to the public on as part of the Library’s Manuscripts for Medieval Studies Project.  

The material illuminates the social, creative, medicinal and culinary culture of medieval Europe. It forms part of the Virtual Trinity Library programme, a digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections.  

Support for the project was provided by a philanthropic grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Dame Louise Richardson, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, said: “The founder of Carnegie Corporation of New York, Andrew Carnegie, often said that books contain the treasures of the world. Over 140 years ago, he began funding libraries in the belief that providing a library exceeds anything else a community can do to help its people.

 
Dame Louise Richardson, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York speaking at a launch event last night.

“Today our foundation honours that legacy by supporting Trinity College Dublin’s stewardship in preserving knowledge for future generations. Through the careful restoration and digitisation of the medieval manuscripts, these cultural artifacts will be accessible to both the curious and the scholarly for the benefit of us all.”  

Commenting on the significance of the project, Helen Shenton, Librarian & College Archivist said: “The Library of Trinity College Dublin is delighted to make these magnificent medieval manuscripts accessible to a global audience. For the first time in their existence, these exquisite manuscripts can now be viewed digitally by anyone. As part of the Virtual Trinity Library’s Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project they are part of teaching and research at Trinity College Dublin and foster international collaboration with other universities and libraries.” 

The most significant manuscripts in this collection include the highly decorated medieval manuscripts, the Winchcombe Psalter (12th century), the Life of St Alban by Matthew Paris (13th century) and the West Dereham Bible (pictured above). These manuscripts of exceptional artistic quality have been photographed in their entirety in colour for the first time.  

Estelle Gittins, Manuscript Curator, Trinity Library, said: “The types of manuscripts represent virtually every area of medieval thought and activity across Western Europe and further afield, including lavishly decorated religious manuscripts; histories and chronicles; literary works in prose and verse; music manuscripts for communal singing; a whole host of recipes and cures; and fragments from long-lost manuscripts from a variety of eras. 

“These manuscripts’ significance lies not only in their beautiful illumination, but in the fact that they survived the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, not to mention the chaos and destruction wrought by accident, fire, flood, and warfare over several centuries of history. All are unique and irreplaceable.” 

The collection also includes manuscripts which give rare insights into medieval Irish culture. These manuscripts include Irish medieval music manuscripts, containing hymns and chants dating from the 15th Century.  

At the launch event choral ensemble Schola Hyberniae performed a chant from the 15th-century manuscript ‘Clondalkin Breviary’. The music was transcribed from medieval notation into modern musical notation and prepared for performance and wider scholarly study by Dr Ann Buckley, Medieval History Research Centre, Trinity. It is one of only a handful of manuscripts containing musical notation to survive from medieval Ireland and is one of the manuscripts conserved, digitised and now freely available to the public. 

To mark the culmination of the project the Library is also hosting a two-day conference (Nov 30-Dec 2) entitled The Many Lives of Medieval Manuscripts which is showcasing research outputs arising from the digitisation of these manuscripts including research papers on conservation of vellum manuscripts and using AI to transcribe medieval manuscripts. 

Dame Louise Richardson & University Chancellor, Dr Mary McAleese pictured with the Library team behind the project, Laura Shanahan, Head of Research Collections, Estelle Gittins, Manuscripts Curator, Curatorial lead, Claire McNulty, Carnegie Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Caroline Harding, Senior Digital Photographer, Digital Collections and Angelica Anchisi, Project Conservator, Preservation & Conservation.

Welcome from the Library of Trinity College Dublin

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
               −Albert Einstein

Dear students and staff,

A very warm welcome to all new students and returning students, academics, researchers, and staff. To our first-year undergraduates who have started classes, we especially wish you every success in your new lives. The Welcome to the Library page has everything needed for you to get started. If you have any queries, Library staff are here to assist you with virtual consultations, skills workshops and a range of services. Please email Library@tcd.ie and a Library staff member will get back to you, or contact your Subject Librarian directly. 

Library Supports & Services

We started the new academic year with in-person student orientation programmes. They included tours of the Library complex for undergraduate, postgraduate, Trinity Access Programme (TAP), Visiting, Erasmus and Neurodiverse Plus programmes. A big thank you to our TAP Ambassadors, S2S Mentors and Disability Ambassadors for their assistance throughout. There will also be Library sensory tours during the semester. 

Sometimes it can be challenging for students to recognise what constitutes good academic practice. In collaboration with Trinity Teaching and Learning, Student Learning Development and the Trinity Inclusive Curriculum our Guide to Academic Integrity has been refreshed, providing study and referencing tips to help students avoid common pitfalls. Look out for ‘citing and referencing’ and ‘avoiding plagiarism’ workshops and clinics taking place during Academic Integrity Week. 

Some Library users can also experience challenges with text. For example, those with a visual impairment, dyslexia or a physical disability. Bookshare Ireland provides Trinity readers access to a global database of over 1.2 million e-books which can be transformed into more accessible formats. 

The staff version of ‘CA7000;Research Integrity and Impact in an Open Scholarship Era’, co-ordinated by the Library’s Research Informatics Unit, will be available to Trinity staff via Blackboard on a voluntary, self-registration basis from September 20th.

A new monthly Ecological Emergency Book Club for staff, led by Dr Clare Kelly will start on October 13th, to engage staff in some of the best readings on the climate and biodiversity crisis, helping to educate, inform and build a community of solidarity. 

From October, the Manuscripts and Archives catalogue records will be accessible through the main online Library catalogue, Stella, meaning all users will now be able to search across the entirety of our collections through this one platform.

This semester’s Library HITS (Helpful Information for Trinity Students/Staff) started last week. If you are new to Trinity or want to refresh your existing skills, please join the programme which is delivered by the Library and Student Learning & Development.

Renaming of the Berkeley Library

Following extensive consultation and evidence-based submissions under the Trinity Legacy Review Working Group, in April the Board decided to dename the Berkeley Library, the brutalist modernist building in the centre of campus. In line with the Board’s decision to dename and explain,the building is temporarily being referred to simply as the Library’ and there is explanatory material in the foyer.

Over the academic year, there will be a consultative process for renaming the building, which will be an opportunity for people to convey views on what the former Berkeley Library should be called and why. All the evidence, submissions, and minutes of the Trinity Legacy Review Working Group are available here and a short film on the issues to date will be available soon.

Library Refurbishment Programmes

We will reach a major milestone in the preparation for the Old Library Redevelopment Project (OLRP) with the completion of construction of the new Interim Research Collections Study Centre in the Ussher Library Basement this semester.

For the duration of the conservation of the Old Library, Research Collections and staff currently in the Old Library, will be housed in the heart of the contemporary Library complex.

The construction works have caused intermittent noise and disruption over the summer and will continue for a while longer. I would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

Meanwhile, works to replace the windows in the 1937 Reading Room are scheduled to continue until the end of September. On completion, postgraduates will enjoy a warmer and healthier study environment.

Old Library Redevelopment Project 

The decant of the collections from the Old Library, involving the gargantuan task of transferring 350,000 early printed books (as part of a total 700,000 items) is near completion. Many of you will already have seen the wonderful timelapses of this process. By the end of this month, all the books will be removed from the Old Library, except for the first four bays on either side of the entrance to the Long Room. These will remain in place for visitors while the Old Library remains open until the end of 2025, when the conservation and construction of the building will commence.

Up-to-date information can be found on the Old Library Redevelopment: Update for Readers section of the Library website.

Virtual Trinity Library

Highlights of our astounding Library collections have featured throughout the year in symposia, and physical and online exhibitions thanks to the ambitious Virtual Trinity Library programme and its extensive digitisation of collections made available on Digital Collections.

A highlight this semester will be the Library symposium ‘Many Lives of Medieval Manuscripts’ as part of the Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York taking place on 30th November and 1st December 2023.

The achievements of the international Unlocking the Fagel Collection project were also celebrated with a Library symposium and an exhibition in the Long Room in June.

On the occasion of another Library exhibition in April, marking the 400th anniversary of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the First Folio, Trinity alumna and author Anne Enright launched the Trinity Centre for the Book. The new research centre, hosted in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, in collaboration with the Library, will co-ordinate and share research on the cultural and social importance of books of all types.

The Book of Kells will be the topic of the Trinity Centre for the Book Research Seminar in this week’s Trinity Arts & Humanities Research Festival on 27th September at 4pm. Afterwards, our librarians will describe some of their favourite items across the Library’s vast collections.  

Finally, last Thursday, we celebrated the donation of the Bollmann Collections of fore-edge paintings with an exhibition in the Long Room.

With warmest good wishes,

Helen Shenton

Librarian & College Archivist

Bound to please: Exhibition of fore-edge paintings and bindings go on display in Long Room

Pictured in the main image are Principal Librarian, Early Printed Books & Special Collections, Dr Lydia Ferguson and exhibition curator, donor, Bettina Bollmann.

Intricate scenes painted on book edges depicting landscapes, flowers and buildings are the subject of a new exhibition in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Château de Fontainebleau on the fore-edge of M. Menzikof & F. Dolgorouki: Histoire russe v.2 (London, 1805)

The exhibition features highlights from the Library’s Bollmann Collection which includes fore-edge paintings executed over 250 years. They were painted on books printed between 1639 and 1895, with a wide variety of subjects – landscapes, mansions, religious buildings, boats, coats of arms, and flowers. Many of the books in the collection are in decorative bindings and the most beautiful of these will be on view in the exhibition alongside the fore-edge paintings.

Entitled “Bound to please: the Elsbeth and Bettina Bollmann Collection of fore-edge paintings and bindings”, the exhibition in the Long Room of the Old Library will run until the end of November and forms part of the Book Of Kells exhibition.

The unusual art of painting on the flat fore-edges of books goes back many centuries but the more subtle art of creating a hidden picture which is only visible when the leaves of the book are fanned appeared in England in the middle of the 17th century. There are three 17th-century fore-edge paintings in the Bollmann Collection, one of them probably executed in 1652 and the other two dated 1685 and 1688.

The art of fore-edge painting was taken up by the firm of Edwards of Halifax in the late 18th century and is often associated with that family. Founded by William Edwards in Halifax, Yorkshire, William was joined in his business by his sons, two of whom opened their own premises in London.

Apart from fore-edge paintings, the Edwards are known for their Etruscan-style bindings, described as such because motifs typical of Etruscan vases were used to decorate them, and for illustrated vellum bindings, on which a drawing on the cover is covered with a thin layer of transparent vellum to protect it. Both of these designs by the Edwards family are represented by several books in the Bollmann Collection. These stunning bindings are among those forming part of this exhibition.

Most fore-edge paintings are not dated and some of them were added to books many years after the books were published. Double fore-edge paintings and triple edge paintings, which are not commonly found, are believed to date from the early 20th century. Books with these paintings are among the highlights of this exhibition.

Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist, commented:

“The Bollmann Collection of fore-edge paintings and bindings is the largest collection of fine bindings acquired by the Library of Trinity College Dublin since the early 19th century. Most of the volumes are decorated with fore-edge paintings and many of them are in fine bindings, making this the most important collection of bindings to be acquired by the Library in over 200 years, since the Quin Collection was received in 1805.

We are most grateful to Bettina Bollmann for making this donation of exquisite fore-edge paintings and bindings to the Library’s precious Research Collections. We are delighted to showcase highlights in this physical exhibition as well as an online exhibition and videos.”

The books on display in the Trinity exhibition form part of a collection of 52 books which was donated to the Library in 2022 by Bettina Bollmann, who had joined her mother Elsbeth over several decades in assembling the collection.

Most of the volumes are decorated with fore-edge paintings and many of them are in fine bindings, making this the most important collection of bindings to be acquired by the Library in over 200 years, since the Quin Collection was received in 1805.

Pictured in the main image are Principal Librarian, Early Printed Books & Special Collections, Dr Lydia Ferguson  and exhibition curator, donor, Bettina Bollmann.

Read more here:

Unlocking the Fagel Collection – Trinity’s Old Library celebrates its Dutch treasures 

Botanical catalogues, lavish celestial atlases and unique pamphlets from the early modern period are among 30,000 titles being conserved and digitally catalogued in an ambitious collaboration to register the entirety of the 18th-century Fagel Collection, which fills a mile of shelving space in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin. 

50% of the collection has now been catalogued opening up this unique heritage library to 21st-century research. The achievements of the international Unlocking the Fagel Collection Project (2020-2023) was celebrated yesterday evening [Wed, June 21st] with the opening of an exhibition in the Library of Trinity College Dublin by Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ireland, Adriaan Palm and a conference in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute. KB Board of Director – responsible for Sustainable Access and Heritage, Geertrui Verbraak and the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton joined the Ambassador with opening words.

The project is a collaboration between the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the KB National Library of the Netherlands. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was launched following the State Visit of the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Ireland in 2019.

 
 
Head of Research Collections, Laura Shanahan, Dutch Ambassador, Adriaan Palm, KB Board of Director, Geertrui Verbraak, Fagel Collection Project Manager, Ann-Marie Hansen and KB Coordinator of Collection Knowledge, Maarten Heerlien.

All 30,000 books, pamphlets, and maps in the collection are being digitally recorded in the Trinity Library catalogue. It is a flagship project of the Virtual Trinity Library programme, which is opening up the unique and distinct collections of the College through conservation, cataloguing, digitisation, research and public engagement. Additionally, the Dutch titles are being recorded in the Short-Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN), the Dutch national bibliography.

The Fagel Collection is one of the jewels in the Library’s collections and is regarded as one of the most important private libraries in early modern Europe. The collection was amassed by five generations of the Fagel family – many of whom held high public office in the Netherlands. It was purchased as a whole for Trinity College Dublin in 1802 and is officially recorded as one of the treasures of the College. 

In an era when printed material was the foremost basis of power and information, the Fagel collection, assembled contemporaneously by five generations of bibliophiles, is a treasure trove of material detailing global politics, trade, law, exploration and knowledge management in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The exhibition, entitled “Unlocking the Fagel Collection”, forms part of the Book of Kells visitor experience, and comprises 20 items chosen to give a flavour of the wonderful range and diversity of printed material contained within the vast collection. Highlights of the exhibition include a beautifully illustrated and hand-coloured botanical reference book; poetry and song publications wrapped in decorated papers; and unique volumes of rare pamphlets and ephemeral publications. 

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton, noted that:

“This project is a flagship and exemplar in the ambitious Virtual Trinity Library programme. With the support of the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, we are well on the way to virtually reconstructing and reuniting this pan-European Library with sister collections in the Netherlands and in the wider region. Now over two centuries since arriving in Dublin, this historically significant collection is being made available for 21st-century research.”

Head of Research Collections, Laura Shanahan, commented:

“On its arrival to Trinity the Fagel Collection increased the Library’s holdings by 40%, and vastly expanded its subject content beyond largely theological material to all areas of scholarly interest. The Fagel collection also touches on every corner of the globe, opening up the realm of understanding beyond Ireland and Western Europe to the whole world. The collection’s importance for research now, and for understanding the political and social movements of Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, simply cannot be overstated. We are so proud that finally this collection is beginning to realise its full potential.”

A three-day conference  organised by the Library will hear research updates from some of the 30 scholars who are currently working on the Fagel Collection. The event which is free and open to the public is hosted by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute, the research partner of the Fagel project. Topics include how astronomy and the astral sciences are represented in the collection; document illuminated publications in the Fagel library, and present research on the Fagel family as international propaganda masters.

Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Eve Patten said:

“Trinity’s Fagel Collection opens up lines of enquiry into everything from the cultures of empire to climate change. We are delighted to host a conference that will bring so many international experts closer to this unique resource.”

Unlocking the Fagel Collection Project Manager, Ann-Marie Hansen, added:

“With half of this unique collection now digitally catalogued and fully discoverable ­the monumental efforts to ‘unlock’ the Fagel Collection are already delivering rich research impact. We have recorded over two-thousand editions that had never before been described. Additionally, we now know that 15% of the titles in the collection are the only known surviving copies of those publications.

“The Fagel Collection is attracting the attention of researchers locally and internationally and new scholarship is changing what we know, not only about the Fagel Collection, but also about what was printed in the 18th century. And we haven’t finished yet! The next stage is to complete the cataloguing, engage with digitisation and continuing to explore the full potential of the Fagel Collection for further research.”

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ireland, Adriaan Palm, who will launch the exhibition this evening, said:

“The partnership between Trinity, the National Library of the Netherlands, and the Dutch and Irish governments signals a Europe-wide dedication to the preservation of and access to our shared cultural heritage. The ‘Unlocking the Fagel Collection project’ is one of the finest examples of research and public engagement projects today, and we are very glad to be able to celebrate this major milestone in providing complete access to the pan-European collection.”

Note to editors:

Video content detailing the history, scope and research potential of the Fagel Collection can be viewed and embedded from the Trinity Website: https://www.tcd.ie/library/fagel/fagel-videos/

More about the Fagel Project:

The Library of Trinity is collaborating with the KB National Library of the Netherlands, to register all publications in the Fagel Collection in the catalogue of the Library of Trinity College and in the Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands, the Dutch pre-1800 national bibliography. The project is also working in conjunction with the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute to facilitate researchers to engage in the collection. The project ‘Unlocking the Fagel Collection’ is made possible by the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Fagel Collection will form a key component of the Library’s Virtual Trinity Library, which allows digital access to the unique and distinct collections of the Library. The Library has long term aims to digitally reunite the Fagel collection with related library, archive, museum and private collections around the world, using the latest enhanced technologies.

More about the Fagel Collection:

The Fagel collection at the Library of Trinity College Dublin is one of the most important and largest still extant Dutch private libraries from the eighteenth century. The library was assembled as a working library by several generations of the Fagel family, of whom successive members held high offices in the Dutch Republic throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The collection of books, pamphlets and maps was purchased as a whole for Trinity College Dublin in 1802. The material ranges in date from 1478 to 1799 with the greater volume of material published in the 18th century and relates to all parts of the world, but with a particular emphasis on Europe and areas outside Europe where the Dutch had trading or colonial interests. Many items in the library are private printings, in that they were not made available to the public at large, and are consequently very rare.

Trinity College Dublin to dename the Berkeley Library 

The Berkeley Library

Trinity College Dublin is to dename the Berkeley Library while adopting a retain-and-explain approach to a stained-glass window commemorating George Berkeley [26 April 2023].  

Portraits depicting Berkeley will be assessed in the future by a new overall College policy on artwork, while the academic Gold Medals memorialising Berkeley will be reviewed by the relevant academic department.  

These decisions represent a nuanced approach and are the result of careful consideration and detailed analysis. 

Opened in 1967, Trinity’s largest library was named in 1978 after George Berkeley, the world-renowned philosopher, and former Librarian at Trinity. Berkeley published some of his most important philosophical works while at Trinity in the 1700s. He bought slaves – named Philip, Anthony, Edward, and Agnes Berkeley – to work on his Rhode Island estate in 1730-31 and sought to advance ideology in support of slavery. 

Today’s decision was taken by the University’s Board following several months of research, analysis and public consultation overseen by the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group, which is considering legacy issues on a case-by-case basis. 

Trinity decided that the continued use of the Berkeley name on its library is inconsistent with the University’s core values of human dignity, freedom, inclusivity, and equality. The denaming does not deny Berkeley’s importance as a writer, philosopher, and towering intellectual figure. His philosophical work will still be taught at Trinity and remains of significant contemporary relevance. A separate process will determine what the new name for the library should be. 

Trinity’s Provost Dr Linda Doyle said:  

“The landscape of a university, especially one as old as Trinity, is not static. Each generation of students and staff deserves a chance to influence decisions. In this case, it was our students who called on us to address the issue. We welcome their engagement, and we thank the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group for its assistance in providing evidence-based information to underpin this decision. 

“George Berkeley’s enormous contribution to philosophical thought is not in question. However, it is also clear that he was both an owner of enslaved people and a theorist of slavery and racial discrimination, which is in clear conflict with Trinity’s core values.” 

Professor Eoin O Sullivan, Senior Dean and Chair of the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group, said: 

“I am grateful to all those who contributed their time and expertise to the consideration of this critical issue. We received close to 100 submissions from members of the public, alumni and our own students and staff on this matter. 

“Especially influential on our thinking has been the pioneering work at the universities of Glasgow, Dalhousie, Brown, and Harvard, all of which have faced similar issues to those we face at Trinity as we reckon with our past. We are committed to addressing issues around Trinity’s complex legacy, from an evidence-based perspective and on a case-by-case basis.” 
 
Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist at Trinity College Dublinsaid: 

“Technological advances, societal changes and cultural evolutions shape the Library for each generation. Libraries are both fundamental constants in the university and simultaneously constantly in flux. 

“The Library building known today as the ‘Berkeley’ started out as the ‘New’ Library in 1967. As a 21st century Library, another name change prioritises the current generation of students’ experience of a welcoming and supportive Library space. There is the opportunity to be creative and imaginative in response to this change.  

“Trinity will continue to hold George Berkeley’s philosophical works in the Library collections and continue to teach and to research his works.” 

ENDS

Background on Trinity’s process:

Trinity’s Legacies Review Working Group (TLRWG), comprising Trinity students, professional staff, academic staff as well as external members, began an evidence-based review of the issues around the Berkeley last year.

This followed a call from the Trinity College Dublin Student Union to dename the library.

93 written submissions were received about George Berkeley by the end of January 2023.  These included submissions from current students and staff, emeritus staff, alumni and international experts on Berkeley and other associated subjects. Of these, 47 were in favour of de-naming the library, 23 suggested new names for the library and should be seen as broadly supportive of de-naming, even if renaming was outside the brief of this consultation. There were 16 submissions that supported retaining Bishop Berkeley’s name on the library.

All submissions made on the topic of George Berkeley can be downloaded and read here (https://www.tcd.ie/seniordean/legacies/).

For a working paper on Berkeley’s legacies at Trinity prepared for TLRWG, see here (https://www.tcd.ie/seniordean/legacies/berkeleyTLRWGworkingpaper.pdf).

The role of the TLRWG is to document the historical evidence on specific legacy issues, to seek evidence-based submissions from the College and wider community on each identified issue, and, based on the evidence collated, provide options for consideration to the relevant decision-making authority (College Board, Faculty Executive or School Executive) as is appropriate and determined by the Working Group. The Terms of Reference for the Group can be read here: https://www.tcd.ie/seniordean/legacies/TLRWGToR.pdf

 A brief biography of George Berkeley

George Berkeley was born at Dysart, Co. Kilkenny in March 1685. Educated at Kilkenny College, he entered Trinity College Dublin in March 1700, receiving his BA degree in February 1704. He took holy orders and became a fellow of Trinity by competitive examination in 1707. He subsequently held several college offices including Librarian (1709), Junior Dean (1710), junior Greek Lecturer (1712), senior Greek lecturer (1721), Divinity lecturer and preacher (1721) senior Proctor (1722) and Hebrew lecturer (1723) before relinquishing his fellowship in 1724 to become Dean of Derry. As Librarian in 1709 he was instrumental in overseeing the building of the then new library, now the Old Library.

While at Trinity he published the three books upon which his fame and reputation as a philosopher rests. The first of these, An essay towards a new theory of vision was published in 1709 and developed his ideas on vision which would later support his more famous immaterialist hypotheses. His Treatise concerning the principles of Human Knowledge followed in 1710 and is regarded as his masterpiece. It developed his full-blown philosophy of materialism or subjective idealism and continues to have a major influence on modern philosophical scholarship. Finally, the third of these pioneering works, Three dialogues between Hylas and Philonous was published in London in 1713. His reputation established; Berkeley embarked on two extensive grand tours of Europe from 1714-20 before eventually returning to his fellowship.

While Dean of Derry, he developed his idea for establishing a university in the American colonial territory of Bermuda. This eventually involved Berkeley moving to Rhode Island in 1729 where he purchased a farm at Whitehall worked by enslaved people.

Upon his return from America and following a period living in London with his growing family, Berkeley was appointed to the provincial bishopric of Cloyne, in which role he remained until his death. During this period, he wrote his influential work on Irish political economy, The Querist (1735-37), as well a series of other pamphlets.

More detail on Berkeley’s memorialisation at Trinity

Berkeley Memorial Window

The Berkeley Memorial window is one of three major pieces of stained glass sited in the chancel of the College Chapel and dates to 1866. It is not well-known – even within the College – and the only scholarly article written about it is a 1972 piece by E.J. Furlong in Hermathena, from which the bulk of the following description is taken. The idea of a window dedicated to Bishop Berkeley emerged alongside suggestions for windows in honour of Archbishop Ussher and Richard Graves, Dean of Armagh and was approved by Board in 1867. It was funded by the gift of £300 from Richard R. Warren, then MP for Trinity, and a further gift of £72 from the incoming Provost Humphrey Lloyd – both given in 1867. Designs were considered for the window in February 1868, and the London firm of Clayton and Bell were successful.

Bishop Berkeley’s Gold Medals

 On 8 May 1752, ‘the Provost and Senior Fellows agreed to give annually, forever, two Gold Medals for the encouragement of Bachelor of Arts in the Study of the Greek language: having received a Benefaction of one hundred and twenty guineas, besides a die, from the Right Rev. Dr. George Berkeley, Lord Bishop of Cloyne for that purpose.’ These medals are still listed in the College Calendar today but have not been awarded by the Dept. of Classics since 2011.

The Department of Classics has a preference to dename Bishop Berkeley’s Gold Medals.

Portraits

There are three portraits of George Berkeley in the College art collection. One, by Robert Home (1782), is hung in the Examination Hall, another, by Francis Bindon (1733), is in the Senior Common Room, and the last is by James Latham (1743).

Ireland’s only copy of the first edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays goes on display in the Library

Image of the Library's First Folio

Paw prints, burn marks and a mysterious code … Ireland’s only copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio has all the hall marks of a book that was much used and much loved. 

The highly-regarded volume is the centrepiece of a new exhibition in the Library of Trinity College Dublin entitled ‘Shakespeare the Irishman’ marking 400 years since the Bard’s complete works were first published. Both a physical exhibition and online version of the Library exhibition were launched last night in the Old Library [Thurs, April 13th] by Trinity alumna and author Anne Enright.  

The first collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays was published in 1623, seven years after his death. Without it, half of his plays would have been lost. Surviving copies of the First Folio are among the most highly-sought after books in the world.  

Trinity’s copy was acquired at the auction of the library of the late academic Arthur Browne after his death in 1805.  Since then the First Folio has been one of the most cherished items in the Library’s collections.  

Head of Research Collections, Laura Shanahan, author, Anne Enright, exhibition curator, Professor Andy Murphy and co-curator & Assistant Librarian, Shane Mawe at the exhibition launch.

Helen Shenton, Librarian & College Archivist, commented: 

“This exhibition is part of the global celebrations of ‘the book that gave us Shakespeare’ – without the publication of the First Folio we would have lost half of Shakespeare’s plays. It is important to Trinity and Ireland because we have the only copy of the First Folio on the island. It is the highlight of the extensive Shakespearean material in our Library collections. It’s fantastic that it can be seen in the exhibition here in the Old Library and in its digitised form through the Virtual Trinity Library.” 

Andy Murphy, Professor of English and curator of the exhibition, commented:  

“This exhibition tells the story of Trinity’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the jewels in the crown of the Library’s collection. While in good condition, it’s clear that it was a much beloved and read volume. Evidence of burn marks, drink stains, paw prints, and mysterious symbols, which have yet to be deciphered, tell us that this is a book that has been used and abused, but always cherished.  

“In Ireland, Shakespeare’s plays have always been deeply intertwined with politics. The exhibition explores how his plays were adopted and adapted in Ireland focusing on his centrality to 18th century ascendancy colonial culture; his influence on 19th century Irish nationalists such as Wolfe Tone, James Connolly, and Patrick Pearse and the translation of some of his work into the Irish language in the 20th century.” 

 
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton, Provost, Dr Linda Doyle, author, Anne Enright and Professor Andy Murphy viewing the exhibits.

As part of global Folio400 celebrations, Trinity’s copy of the First Folio has been digitised in its entirety and is now freely available to the public online via the Virtual Trinity Library.  

The exhibition marks the launch of the Trinity Centre for the Book a new research centre hosted in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute in collaboration with the Library, which will co-ordinate and share research on the rich cultural and social importance of books of all types.  

Mark Faulkner, Ussher Assistant Professor in Medieval Literature and Director of the Trinity Centre for the Book, commented: 

“As this exhibition demonstrates, Trinity’s Library has an outstanding collection of Shakespearean material; and this excellence is mirrored in its holdings of medieval manuscripts, early printed books and the archives of authors, politicians, thinkers and many others. The new Trinity Centre for the Book will harness these outstanding collections and the university’s significant concentration of experts across its three faculties and the Library to further our understanding of one of society’s most important technologies – the book.” 

Niamh O’Farrell-Tyler, 4th year Student in Drama and Theatre Studies, School of Creative Arts
recites ‘the isle is full of noises’ speech from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ as part of the Library exhibition.

More about the Trinity Centre for the Book: 

The Trinity Centre for the Book, hosted in Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, in collaboration with the Library, aspires to make Trinity a globally recognised centre for the study, understanding and sharing of the book. The centre will capitalise on Trinity’s outstanding Library collections that span thousands of years, from the Egyptian Books of the Dead to the Library’s rapid response collecting initiative ‘Living in  Lockdown’ – a hybrid collection of physical works and born digital submissions. It will also harness the university’s significant concentration of expertise, with more than 150 researchers publishing over 1,000 works on book history over the last ten years. The centre will examine all aspects of the history of the book to broaden our understanding of its rich cultural and social importance. This will include the key role it has played in communicating knowledge and lived experience for millennia, to recent developments in non-alphabetic forms of communication such as emojis and the emergence of AI-driven content generation engines such as ChatGPT. See more here

More about Trinity’s First Folio: 

The First Folio is one of the most highly-regarded books in the world. Trinity holds the only copy of the book on the island of Ireland. It formerly belonged to Arthur Browne, who was born in New England into a family with strong Irish connections. He studied at Trinity and settled in Dublin. Browne was a distinguished lawyer and an academic at Trinity, where he was both Prof of Law and Prof of Greek. At the time Trinity had its own seat in the Irish parliament and Browne was MP for Trinity from 1783 until parliament was dissolved in 1800. Trinity’s copy of the volume, while in good condition, includes evidence of its having been well used by readers over the decades with evidence of burn marks; drink stains; paw prints; and annotations. The most intriguing aspect of Trinity’s copy is a page that includes a set of inscriptions on one of its blank pages. These are yet to be deciphered, but are most likely shorthand symbols. Trinity purchased the book at the sale of Browne’s books in the wake of his death in 1805 paying £26 11s 6d for the volume.  

 

Legal deposit libraries of Ireland and the UK celebrate 10th anniversary of digital collecting

The six legal deposit libraries of Ireland and the UK, comprising  the Library of Trinity College Dublin, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and Cambridge University Library,  are celebrating 10 years of collecting and preserving digital publications today [6 April, 2023].

The Library of Trinity College Dublin is the only library on the island of Ireland that enjoys UK Legal Deposit status which entitles it to receive a copy of every item published in Ireland and the UK. It has enjoyed this status since 1801, enabling the Library to build an unparalleled record of our intellectual and cultural heritage for the benefit of students, researchers and visitors from near and far.

In 2013 these powers were extended from printed publications to include non-print (electronic) legal deposit, allowing readers to access websites, e-books, and online journals, creating an unprecedented collection of digital and online publishing which captures contemporary living. The commitment to electronic legal deposit has also provided access to the UK Web Archive, which holds millions of websites and over 100 curated collections including Brexit and the global Covid-19 pandemic, to name but a few.

Ranging from the most contemporary electronic collections to 19th century print collections, the impact of both print and non-print legal deposit for the island of Ireland has been significant.

  • In 2016, marking the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, the Library of Trinity College Dublin collaborated with the Bodleian Library and British Library to archive websites from both the Irish and UK web domains as they reflected on this pivotal moment in modern Irish history in the 1916 Web Archiving Project.
  • The Library of Trinity College Dublin has one of the most significant collections of Northern Irish publications published on the island of Ireland, including books, pamphlets and local history, especially relevant as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement also this week.
  • By the 1930s, the number of newly published books banned in Ireland each year was between 100-150, denying the Irish public the right to important Irish and international literature. Under Legal Deposit, the Library of Trinity College Dublin continued to receive these books and was able to provide access, albeit under very restricted conditions.
  • Legal Deposit enabled the collection of books by women authors from the 19th century onwards, both from Ireland and the UK. This helped to counteract collection bias and improved representation.

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

“Today, the Library of Trinity College Dublin together with our five legal deposit libraries in the UK, celebrate 10-years of digital collecting, which has enabled the creation of a seventh, transnational digital library for the benefit of all. It is also an opportunity to look back on the significant impact Legal Deposit has had over centuries, building an unparalleled record of our intellectual and cultural heritage.”

About Legal Deposit Libraries

There are six legal deposit libraries across in Ireland and the UK. They are:

The legal deposit libraries work together to ensure the long-term preservation of Irish and UK publications. They ensure that publications are held securely and that they can be discovered and accessed by readers. For further details on the 10th anniversary celebrations on digital collecting see British Library announcement.

Book of Kells designs adorn stamps for St Patrick’s Day  

An Post issued two stamps featuring illustrations from the Book of Kells this week.  The brightly coloured stamps show the profile of the lion, a reoccurring image in the manuscript, symbolising Christ and the resurrection.

Unveiling the stamps at Trinity College Dublin, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, Jack Chambers, said: “The stamps feature some of our most recognisable and iconic heritage images. As we approach St Patrick’s day, that global celebration of Irish culture, these stamps will carry these beautiful details from the Book of Kells to every corner of the globe.”

Librarian & College Archivist at the Library of Trinity College Dublin, Helen Shenton added: “We are delighted these exquisite images from the Book of Kells will feature in An Post’s Stamp for Ireland series marking St Patrick’s Day. The Book of Kells is an iconic symbol of Irish identity worldwide and it is very fitting that such beautifully illustrated stamps communicate with those living in Ireland and abroad.”

Details of stamp imagery

W – international rate stamp features a detail from the Book of Kells folio 124r (detail of profile lion.)  The Physiologus, a 4th-century Greek text describing animals and their symbolic qualities, was a source of inspiration for the Irish monks working on the Book of Kells. According to the Physiologus the lion cub was born dead, but on the third day was revived by the father lion breathing on its face. This was a potent analogy for the resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion. 

N – national rate stamp features a detail from the Book of Kells folio 114v (detail of profile lion.)  The detail of the profile of the lion’s head is taken from a page of display text introducing the passage in which Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and foretells his abandonment by his disciples and his resurrection. The border of this folio is filled with snakes and dominating it all is the striking profile head of the lion, symbol of Christ and his resurrection.

The First Day Cover envelope features a more sedate image from the manuscript and shows a domestic cat chasing a rat, which has managed to snatch a communion host into its mouth. Cats were kept as pets during the time the Book of Kells was created and the monks may have kept them to help preserve the food stores in the monastery

Lyric Feature focuses on an 18th century Tipperary woman whose extraordinary memoir survives in the Library

Last Sunday’s Lyric Feature, Dorothea the doozy, presented by Trinity alumna  and radio documentary maker Angie Mezzetti, brings to light the work of Dorothea Herbert, a long-overlooked 18th Century writer, diarist, poet and artist from Carrick-on-Suir.  Herbert’s memoir, which she called ‘Retrospections of an Outcast’, was written between 1780 to 1806 and was published for the first time in 1929. In this documentary, Manuscripts Curator Dr Jane Maxwell, a specialist in the history of women in the 18th century, introduces this memoir, beautifully illustrated with watercolours by the author – which has been in the care of the Library since the 1980s.

This document is of immense significance to the social history of Ireland in the 18th century, and especially for the history of women in a century which saw them emerge more clearly into society. What gives this document added significance is that the author was clearly suffering severely from a mental illness at a time when there was little understanding for such afflictions.

Readers can listen back to the feature here.

First sculptures of women installed in Trinity’s Old Library

On St Brigid’s Day Trinity College Dublin installed four new sculptures in its Old Library to honour the scholarship of four trailblazing women. 

The women represented are the scientist Rosalind Franklin, the folklorist, dramatist and theatre-founder Augusta Gregory, the mathematician Ada Lovelace and the pioneering women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft. 

The new sculptures, the first to be commissioned in more than a century, will be displayed among the 40 marble sculpture-busts that line Trinity’s historic Long Room, which were hitherto all of men. The current artworks represent men throughout history, from Homer and Shakespeare to Dean Jonathan Swift, Sir Rowan Hamilton and Wolfe Tone. 

The new sculptures were launched by Trinity’s Chancellor Dr Mary McAleese at a ceremony in the Long Room. 

Their addition represents a first step toward a better representation of our diversity in all of Trinity’s public spaces. 

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton, Provost, Dr Linda Doyle & Curator & Head of the University Art Collections, Catherine Giltrap viewing Mary Wollstonecraft.

The sculptures are the work of four accomplished artists:  Maudie Brady (Ada Lovelace); Rowan Gillespie (Mary Wollstonecraft); Vera Klute (Rosalind Franklin) and Guy Reid (Augusta Gregory). 

Rowan Gillespie’s sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft was modelled in wax, 3-d-scanned, milled in Carrara marble and then carved and fine finished. Rowan is known for his work in bronze and this is the first time he carved in marble since his student years.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Maudie Brady’s sculpture of Ada Lovelace was modelled originally in clay, then 3-d scanned and carved from a block of statuary Carrara marble by computer-programming, and, finished by hand.  Maudie thought it would be apt for Lovelace, as a mathematician and, effectively, the first ‘computer programmer’ to be represented using techniques enabled by computer programmes and algorithms, book-ended by modelling initially in clay, and, finishing the marble sculpture by hand. 

Ada Lovelace

Guy Reid’s sculpture of Augusta Gregory was hand-carved in lime wood. Guy’s practice is focused singularly on portraiture, and is inspired by medieval, coloured wooden sculptures, resulting in painted depictions of family and friends, alongside special commissions.

Augusta Gregory

Vera Klute’s sculpture has been created in three sections with classical and contemporary techniques. The portrait is made with cast Parian (a type of porcelain) Jesmonite, marble, and Swarovski crystals, the latter making direct references to Franklin’s use of x-ray crystallography to research the structure of DNA. The helix of the socle is a visual nod to Franklin’s contribution to the discovery of the helical form of DNA 

Rosalind Franklin

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton and also Chair of the Artist Selection Panel welcomed the College community, sculptors and invited guests to the packed launch event:

“On this auspicious day, St Brigid’s Day, we celebrate women’s scholarship with these sculptures in the Long Room of the Old Library. Their individual contributions to knowledge and to society will now be permanently honoured in this cathedral of learning at the heart of Trinity.”  

Provost Dr Linda Doyle stressed the historic significance of the occasion:

“While it is important to respect tradition, it is also important to break tradition. The addition of these sculptures of women has been a long time coming. I want to thank everyone involved in the creation and installation of these beautiful pieces. Sculptures are an iconic feature of Trinity’s Long Room, and I hope that the inclusion of these four outstanding women is the furthering of a collective recognition of the incredible contribution of women across many fields.” 

In an uplifting inauguration, Chancellor poignantly quoted the 18th century Irish poet Antaine Ó Raifteirí in her speech:

“Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá dul chun síneadh, Is tar eis na féile Bríde ardóigh mé mo sheol”.

“Spring is coming. The days are lengthening and after Brigid’s feast day, I will raise my sail. We are the lucky generation to be here to see the springtide. To see Brigid’s sail raised to catch the wind, to see great women given the respect and recognition they deserve. Congratulations to all those who have helped open the floodgates which will one day see full justice done to the work and talent of women everywhere.” 

The four women being honoured were chosen in 2020 from more than 500 nominations by students, staff, and alumni covering a wide field of ground-breaking individuals who contributed significantly to scholarship and culture across history.  

In 2021, after an extensive national and international shortlisting process, nine artists were invited and supported financially to submit maquettes (preliminary models) of at least two of the nominated women, from which the four artists were chosen. 

An ‘In Conversation’ event with the artists and Trinity champions of the scholars  also took place in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute the following day on 2nd February 2023 (more information here). 

More about the portrait candidates:

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.” 

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. 

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. 

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 premature 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.