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

Library Exhibition celebrates the centenary of Trinity Women Graduates.

To celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of its establishment Trinity Women Graduates (formerly Dublin University Women Graduates Association) has partnered with the Library of Trinity College to present an exhibition of photographs, records and other historical documents from the Trinity Women Graduates’ archive and College Records in the Long Room of the Old Library. Trinity Women Graduates (TWG) was founded on the 25th of April 1922 to keep its members in touch with Trinity and each other and with women graduates internationally.

Continue reading “Library Exhibition celebrates the centenary of Trinity Women Graduates.”

Library exhibition celebrates poet Derek Mahon’s life and work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”

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

Brendan Kennelly Private Collection

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Trinity Announces Brendan Kennelly Literary Archive to mark Poet’s 85th Birthday”

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.

The Library unveils Beckett archive of play Rockaby building on its world leading Beckett collections

The Library of Trinity College Dublin has acquired the Beckett archive of the play Rockaby building on its world leading Beckett collections. The Beckett material is being digitised and will be accessible online.

Marking the acquisition of  the 1981 play Rockaby, one of the iconic plays of the Beckett canon, an online exhibition  curated by Dr Jane Maxwell has been launched today. The entire archive will be made available later this year as part of the Library’s Digital Collections. It includes 30 items of correspondence from Beckett; copies of the original play and its French translation; productions notes; photographs; and a printed commemoration booklet of photographs from the premiere among other items.

Continue reading “The Library unveils Beckett archive of play Rockaby building on its world leading Beckett collections”

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)

Celebrating Irish Artist Harry Clarke

One of Ireland’s most renowned artists, Harry Clarke, is celebrated in the first of a series of Library online exhibitions which will be showcased in this extended period of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Clarke Stained Glass Studios Collection is for anyone interested in 20th-century Irish art and craft as exemplified by the creative genius of the leading exponent of stained glass work, Harry Clarke.

Continue reading “Celebrating Irish Artist Harry Clarke”