One of the largest decants of a heritage building in Ireland − 350,000 early printed books and 700,000 collection items
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan visited the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin yesterday [October 19th] to see at close quarters the monumental task of decanting the Library collections as part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project.
In order for the landmark conservation project to start, all of the Library’s Research Collections housed in the Old Library must be transferred to special storage. This means removing 350,000 Early Printed books and a total of 700,000 items as part of the Library collections. Readers will continue to have access to all material in an Interim Research Collections Study Centre during the lifetime of the building conservation project. It is one of the largest decant processes to take place of a heritage building in Ireland.
Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan was joined by Trinity Provost, Dr Linda Doyle, Bursar, Professor Eleanor Denny, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton during the visit and met with the Library team involved in the historic project.
As part of the decant process, each book is carefully cleaned with a specialised vacuum, measured, electronically tagged and linked to an online catalogue record, before being safely relocated to a climate-controlled storage facility.
Minister Noonan said on the occasion of the visit:“I am delighted to be here today, witnessing this historic once in a lifetime decant as it unfolds.We have a shared responsibility towards our cultural heritage and Trinity College Dublin through this conservation project is ensuring this 18th century Old Library building and its collections are conserved for the next century. Significant care and consideration goes into moving a collection of this scale and the dedication of the Library team is impressive.”
Provost, Dr Linda Doyle said:“The Old Library Redevelopment Project is a transformative undertaking which will preserve this priceless cultural institution for the next generation and beyond. The decant, led by the Library team, is a massive operation, with more than 50 Library staff assisted by over 25 project assistants. It marks a key stage in this transformative redevelopment project.”
Minister Noonan met with Library staff who designed the project and are now carrying it out, helped by project assistants. The project assistants busily working away in the Long Room are early career archivists, conservators and museum professionals from across the country and internationally.
The first book to be decanted was a 19th century publication, ‘Reeves’ History of the English law: from the time of the Romans to the end of the reign of Elizabeth’ and many more have followed.
“This is a particularly complex and sensitive decant. There are so many precious books, manuscripts and objects held in the vast collections, which extend over many centuries. Imagine a house move at scale – thousands of times bigger and more complicated in order to move 700,000 items,” explained the Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton.
Trinity Bursar, Professor Eleanor Denny is Chair of the Old Library Redevelopment Project and is leading the project for the University along with all other construction projects on campus:
“The decant process is critical for the next stage of the restoration project. Once complete, the Old Library will close at the end of Autumn 2023 and the urgent structural and environmental upgrades can then take place over a three-year period. It is a once in a lifetime project, and it will future-proof both the 18th century building and its collections for the 22nd century and beyond.” said Professor Denny.
The Library is delighted to announce the purchase of 14 new electronic resources supporting multiple disciplines across the Arts and Humanities.
With access to millions of primary source collections this is a fantastic opportunity to expand your research and knowledge on a wide breadth of subjects, ranging from 18th-20th Irish history to global cultural and encyclopedic knowledge spanning the millennia.
After 3 long years, the Library of Trinity College Dublin gathered last night in the Long Room of the Old Library and held a very special event in honour of ten members of staff who retired in 2020, 2021 and four more due to retire this week, September 2022.
Sean Breen, Readers’ Services (1974-2021), Carmel Carr, Librarian’s Office (1980-2022), Loretto Curley, Library Guard (2005-2020), Paul Doyle, Readers’ Services (1972-2020), Helen Flynn, Cataloguing (1982-2021), Peter Guilding, Cataloguing (1980-2021), Assumpta Guilfoyle, Cataloguing (1974-2021), Una Lynch, Readers’ Services (1976-2022), Paul Mulligan, Map Library (2007-2022) and Paula Norris, Readers’ Services (1977-2022).
These ten people in particular, have given an enormous amount over the decades – who combined, served a staggering 387.5 years and of themselves – incalculable dedication.
Giordani music manuscripts rediscovered duringOld Library redevelopment preparations
The unseen high galleries and closed stacks of the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin are currently a hive of activity, as a small army of library staff and project assistants have begun to empty the shelves in preparation for the restoration and redevelopment of the building which is due to begin late next year. Each individual volume must be cleaned and measured, its physical condition assessed and recorded, an electronic tag attached, and its catalogue description checked for accuracy. All of this information must then be entered in the Library’s online database before the volume is carefully packed away and sent to secure off-site storage (where it will remain retrievable for researchers throughout the project).
This amounts to the most detailed and systematic shelf check of this material for many years, and already it has thrown up some interesting new discoveries. One such occurred when examining the contents of a volume of assorted vocal and instrumental sheet music collected in the late 18th century by a member of the Balfour family of Townley Hall, (a country house near Drogheda in Co. Louth, about 55 kilometres from Dublin). Bound in at the back of this volume (shelfmark OLS X-2-1) was a hitherto undocumented music manuscript, faintly headed “Giordani Solfeggio”.
A very warm welcome to all returning students, academics, researchers and staff.
Library Supports & Services
We have a new orientation guide which is a result of students’ questions about the Library; a special thank you to the Global Student Ambassadors who were so generous with sharing their top tips in this new Getting to know your Library video.
We in the Library kickstarted the new academic year with in-person student orientation programmes. They included tours for postgraduates, mature and Trinity Access Programme students.
Sensory Library tours are also taking place this week as part of Trinity’s Autism orientation programme, and we look forward to welcoming incoming first year undergraduate students with the wonderful S2S Mentor team. Keep an eye out for new sensory furniture and spaces as part of the TCD Sense project.
This semester’s Library HITS (Helpful Information for Trinity Students/Staff) are starting next week and the first module will focus on skills for postgraduate and returning students. The interdisciplinary taster sessions co-delivered with Student Learning & Development are relevant for all students and cover everything from essay writing, academic integrity and critical thinking to publishing and promoting your research.
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.
A refurbishment project of the Library entrances will start in the coming months. It will involve the installation of new access control gates at the entrances of the Berkeley, Lecky, John Stearne and Hamilton Libraries, providing automated access to the Library using the physical ID card and Trinity Live App. The aim is to give seamless access for staff and students, while improving security for Library collections and enhancing the spaces. All information on the project will be available on the Library website.
Virtual Trinity Library
In June 2022 the Library released the digitised version of the one of the world’s finest manuscripts, the Book of St Albans by the 13th century scribe, historian and artist Matthew Paris. The Book of St Albans received conservation attention, cataloguing updates, and was fully digitised, as part of the Virtual Trinity Library’s ‘Manuscripts for Medieval Studies’ project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The digitised version is being used by students of the M. Phil in Medieval Studies. Its launch received extensive media coverage in the Irish Central, Irish Times and Irish Independent.
Discover more at European Researchers’ Night on September 30th and join the Library and those involved in the research theme ‘Manuscript, Print and Book Cultures’ for a range of activities on Trinity’s outstanding Library collections.
Old Library Redevelopment Project
The Old Library Redevelopment Project is progressing apace with 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.
Access to all the Library’s Research Collections and its staff expertise will continue throughout the lifetime of the Old Library Redevelopment Project (OLRP).
The Joint Research Collections Reading Room is currently housed in the East Pavilion of the Old Library. In 2023 it will transfer to an Interim Research Collections Study Centre in the basement of the Ussher Library. You will find up-to-date information on the Old Library Redevelopment: Update for Readers section of the Library website.
The Old Library and Long Room remain open and accessible to you and visitors for the next year. The restoration and construction phase will require its closure from the end of 2023.
The Book of Kells Interim Exhibition will ensure that the 9th century manuscript remains on view throughout. Subject to planning permission, the plan for the Interim Exhibition is to restore the historic Printing House to display the Book of Kells and erect a temporary pavilion in New Square to host a temporary exhibition for the three years of the Old Library’s closure.
Join us on Culture Night, 23rd September, when the Conservation team will be giving talks on the conservation process as part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project.
Please enjoy the Long Room, often called the ‘most beautiful room in Ireland’, this year – as a reminder, every member of Trinity’s community is welcome to visit for free, but it is important to book ahead, for more details email BookofKells@tcd.ie. The Library will also be organising tours for staff and students in the coming months with more information to follow.
Finally, the 87th IFLA World Library and Information Congress was held in Ireland for the first time at the Dublin Convention Centre in July. I was honoured to give a keynote presentation on intertwined digital and cultural heritage, and the former Chancellor Mary Robinson gave an outstanding keynote address on ‘Climate Justice’ to the 2000+ delegates at the opening ceremony. Her challenges to us all were stark, simple and clear, and highly recommended viewing, as we figure out our collective and individual responses to the environmental crises.
With warmest good wishes for the forthcoming semester,
Our readers come from many different backgrounds and traditions. We are aware that a “one size fits all” approach cannot work for our readers – who may be staff, mature students, non-English speakers, first-generation College students, part-time students with busy family and work commitments… or something else entirely. We want to ensure that any innovation or change we introduce for specific groups will also benefit the wider University community.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is one approach we are using to achieve change that helps all our users. Our recent collaboration with the Disability Service on the TCDSense project, which seeks to improve the Library’s sensory environment by introducing spaces, furniture and services for more conducive learning and comfort, is not only benefiting students with sensory overload but all students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.