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St Mary’s Abbey Manuscript Acquired for Trinity

Trinity College Library Dublin has acquired the only medieval Irish manuscript to have been offered for sale for a century, a highly significant early 14th-century manuscript produced at St Mary’s Cistercian Abbey in Dublin. Lost to the world of scholarship since the 18th century, it has not been in Ireland since the 16th century.

A press launch announcing the acquisition, on 19 March, was followed by an event to thank the donors who were invited to a special viewing of the new arrival. They were then addressed by the Keeper of Manuscripts Bernard Meehan, the Professor of Medieval History at Trinity Seán Duffy and scholar Br Colmán Ó Clábaigh, OSB.

Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton said the manuscript includes a “considerable body of new information which will help to re-evaluate the history and culture of St Mary’s Abbey and the civic life of Dublin in the 14th and 15th centuries”.

The Cistercian Abbey of St Mary’s, after which Dublin’s Mary’s Street and Abbey Street are named, was the wealthiest monastic house in medieval Ireland. So important was it that the parliament, having no permanent building in the city, frequently met there.

MS11500Apart from legal texts, such as an early version of the 14th-century Ordinances which restricted the power of King Edward II, the manuscript also includes an account of the Trojan war by Dares Phrygius; Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pseudo-history of the kings of Britain, and works by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales, died 1223), the Topography of Ireland and Conquest of Ireland.

After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the manuscript fell into private hands; it was eventually purchased by the first earl Somers whose bookplate is in the volume. The manuscript was acquired by Trinity College Library Dublin at Christie’s auction in London in November 2014.

The acquisition of the manuscript aligns with Trinity College’s strategy of engagement with the city of Dublin as it contains a considerable body of new information which will help to re-evaluate the history and culture of St Mary’s Abbey and the civic life of Dublin in the 14th and 15th centuries. Digitising, scientific analysis, textual and codicological examination of the manuscript will provoke widespread research and popular interest. This ‘new’ manuscript will, through research, focus further attention on other manuscripts, from the same Abbey, which are held in major international repositories, including the British Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The level of enthusiasm among scholars, across the university and among the wider historically-minded community in Ireland, for the return of this manuscript to Dublin, was given practical expression: when the Library turned to its alumni and friends, seeking much needed support for this acquisition, the response was unprecedented.

Links to media coverage:


UTV Ireland

The Independent

The Irish Examiner

The Herald

Library HITS – Helpful Information for Trinity Students/Staff Info Sessions from 23/03/15 to 27/03/15

Students and staff are invited to join us for one or more of these information sessions  lasting no longer than 40 minutes (except for EndNote Desktop and EndNote Online, at one hour). If you have time, stay longer and we will answer any Library-related questions. Please come along to the Berkeley Library Basement: classes will be in the North Training Room except for EndNote Desktop which will be in the South Training Room.

Trinity College Library Dublin Announces Purchase of Samuel Beckett Letters – 8th October 2014

Trinity College Library Dublin has announced the purchase of the most extensive collection of Samuel Beckett letters ever to have been offered for public sale.
The collection comprises 347 items and was sold by a private seller.
The Library now holds the largest collection of Beckett letters of any research library in the world and is a fitting home for the correspondence of one of Trinity College Dublin’s most famous alumni.

The letters and cards were sent from the Nobel Prize-winning author to artists Henri and Josette Hayden.
Beckett and his wife, Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, met the Haydens when both couples were in southern France evading discovery by the Nazis during WWII.
The letters, dating from a period beginning in 1947, cover a troubled time in Beckett’s life, which saw the death of both his mother and his brother Frank.

“These Beckett letters are very significant for Beckett scholarship at Trinity College, as well as nationally and internationally,” said Helen Shanton, Librarian and College Archivist.
“We have been developing collections of significant Irish creative writers, and these letters build on the existing Beckett collections the library already holds. We welcome the opportunity to be able to share these collections with students of Beckett and researchers across the globe.”

A small sample of the collection is on display for the public in the Old Library.
RTE News – Trinity Buys Beckett Letters
BBC News – Trinity College buys largest collection of writers’ letters put on sale

A Book of Kells Costume!

Fancy something a little different for Halloween?

We occasionally come across iconic images and buildings associated with the Library using in novel and interesting ways, such as the recreation of the Old Library on a wall in Poland, or a library eerily reminiscent of the Long Room appearing in Star Wars.

Add to that this costume inspired by the Book of Kells. The creator used our online repository of the Book to create a skirt and temporary tattoos. She clearly has a great love for the manuscript and took pains to treat it with respect – even though medieval copyists themselves might not be so scrupulous. It’s certainly not something you’ll see every day – great work Amanda!