One of the world’s finest medieval manuscripts, the Book of St Albans is digitised for the first time

The Library of Trinity College Dublin makes a 13th century masterpiece globally accessible

One of the most finely illustrated medieval manuscripts, Matthew Paris’s Book of St Albans has been digitised by the Library of Trinity College Dublin for the first time. The 13th century masterpiece features 54 individual works of medieval art and has fascinated readers across the centuries, from royalty to renaissance scholars.

The precious manuscript survived the chaos and trauma of the dissolution of the monasteries and came to Trinity College Dublin in 1661.

Full page of the martyrdom of St Alban by beheading and the fate of his executioner, by Matthew Paris, TCD MS 177 f38r.

Created by the renowned scribe, the Benedictine monk, Matthew Paris of St Albans Abbey in England, the manuscript chronicles the life of St Alban, the first Christian martyr in England. It also outlines the construction of St Albans cathedral.

The monastery at St Albans was one of the most important in the country. It was a major site of pilgrimage receiving many pilgrims from Ireland.

The book was held in St Albans Abbey for 300 years until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

All other precious manuscripts by Matthew Paris are held in the British Library, and the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Chetham’s Library Manchester.

The Book of St Albans was a high-status book, viewed by King Henry VI. Written in Latin it also contains Anglo-Norman French which made it accessible to a wider secular audience including educated noble women.

It was borrowed by noble ladies of the period, including the King’s sister-in-law Countess of Cornwall, Sanchia of Provence, and others.

The content at times gruesome, include illustrations featuring the decapitation of St Alban and his executioner whose eyes literally pop out of his head at the point of execution.

The artwork consisting of mostly framed narrative scenes, is a tinted drawing technique where outlined drawings are highlighted with coloured washes from a limited palette. This technique was distinctly English, dating back to Anglo Saxon art of the 10th century.

From St Albans Abbey, it came into the ownership of the Elizabethan Royal adviser and astronomer, John Dee, following which it was sold to James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, and subsequently came to Trinity with his library in 1661.  It has remained in the Library of Trinity College Dublin for over 350 years.

For the first time, this manuscript is now fully digitised and available online, a process which has been undertaken through the Virtual Trinity Library initiative as part of its Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Book of St Albans has been fully digitised ahead of the feast day of St Alban, tomorrow Wednesday, 22nd June.

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

“The Library of Trinity College Dublin is delighted to make this medieval masterpiece accessible to a global audience. For the first time in history, this exquisite manuscript by one of the world’s most famous medieval artists and chroniclers, Matthew Paris may be viewed digitally revealing its beautiful artistry in full colour. As part of the Virtual Trinity Library’s Manuscripts for Medieval Studies project it contributes to teaching and research at Trinity College Dublin and has fostered collaboration with other universities and libraries.”

Virtual Trinity Library is a digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections. It will conserve, catalogue, curate, digitise and research these unique collections of national importance, making them accessible to a global audience, from schoolchildren to scholars.

Manuscripts Curator, Estelle Gittins said: “This astonishing manuscript contains some of the most incredible medieval art, it is a window into an elaborate world of saints, kings and knights, but also sailors, builders and bell ringers. Before now the only way to study all of the images in this important manuscript was to consult the rare, black and white, 1924 facsimile edition, it is so exciting that this can now be viewed and enjoyed by everyone at the click of a button.”

Virtual Trinity Library’sManuscripts for Medieval Studies project which was philanthropically supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, has focussed on 16 medieval manuscripts of international research significance. The manuscripts are used for teaching on the Trinity M. Phil in Medieval Studies course. The selection demonstrates the breadth and variety of the Library’s collections of source material for the study of the art, history, culture, language and literature of the medieval period, and the history of the book in particular.

Other works digitised as part of this project include the highly decorated 12th century manuscript, the Winchcombe Psalter and surviving manuscripts of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury and Salisbury Cathedral, medieval music from Britain and Ireland, and a rare 15th-century life of St Thomas Becket.

Pictured on the occasion of the announcement were: Director of the M.Phil in Medieval Studies, Dr Mark Faulkner, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton and Manuscripts Curator, Estelle Gittins.

Notes to Editors

View new online exhibition Matthew Paris’s 13th-Century ‘Book of St Albans’ – A masterpiece of medieval art

View the digitised manuscript at https://doi.org/10.48495/8p58pm63q

View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueIv6aEalio

12th Century Irish manuscript the Book of Leinster to be conserved, researched, and digitised for a global audience

Bank of America announced that the Library of Trinity College Dublin will receive funding to conserve, research and digitise the Book of Leinster, a 12th century parchment manuscript. It is one of the most important manuscripts written in Irish to have survived from the early medieval period and is of incalculable value to the history of Ireland and the Irish language.

The award is being made through the company’s 2022 global Art Conservation Project. Other prestigious international projects to receive funding include the restoration of Notre Dame, the Michelangelo drawing ‘Epifania cartoon’ at the British Museum and Edvard Munch’s ‘Vampire’ at the Munch Museum in Norway among others across the world.

Commenting on the significance of the award, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: “The Library of Trinity College Dublin’s collection of over 200 medieval and early modern manuscripts written in the Irish language is ranked as one of the most important collections in the world. Covering over a thousand years of Irish literature and learning, they shine a light on how Irish society operated, how our ancestors interacted with each other, what stories and myths they told about themselves and how they saw themselves on the world stage. Once conserved the Book of Leinster will form part of the Library’s major digitisation project, the Virtual Trinity Library and will be made globally accessible online.”

The Book of Leinster, written in the 12th century, is the earliest manuscript in the Library’s collection written entirely in Irish and one of the most important manuscripts of the early Irish period. Written by the ‘prime historian of Leinster’, Áed Úa Crimthainn, abbot of Terryglass, Co. Tipperary, it was formerly known as the Lebor na Nuachongbála or ‘Book of Nuachongbáil’, a monastic site known today as Oughaval in Co. Laois.

Pictured on the occasion of the announcement are CEO of Bank of America, Europe, Fernando Vicario,
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton  with Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, Susie Bioletti.
 

Fernando Vicario, CEO Bank of America Europe DAC and Country Executive for Ireland said: “We are honoured to once again support the Library of Trinity College Dublin. This year’s partnership sees the conservation, research and digitisation of the Book of Leinster, an invaluable medieval Irish manuscript. Previously, funding was awarded for four significant manuscripts, the Codex Usserianus Primus, the Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, and the Book of Mulling. Through our commitment to the arts and this continued partnership, we hope that millions of people around the world will be able to access and enjoy these cultural treasures.”

The manuscript is an anthology of prose, verse, genealogy, medical knowledge, and place-name lore. It contains the Irish ‘book of genesis’, Lebor Gabála Érenn, which establishes the place of Ireland, the Irish people and their language in a biblical world setting. A very important version of the saga An Táin Bó Cúailnge and the story of Cú Chulainn is also included in the collection.

 Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, Susie Bioletti said: “Bank of America’s support will enable the painstaking conservation of one of our most fragile and important 12th century Irish manuscripts. Currently inaccessible due to risk of damage if handled. The treatment will stabilise the parchment, and repair extensive losses and tears allowing the manuscript to be resewn and rebound. This transformation will enable researchers to engage with the manuscript and catalyse research on the materials, decoration, text and meaning of a complex and fascinating record from the early Middle Ages.”

Since 2010, Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project has supported the conservation of more than 6,000 individual pieces including paintings, sculptures, and archaeological and architectural pieces of critical importance to cultural heritage and the history of art. More than 200 projects across 39 countries have been managed by not-for-profit cultural institutions that receive grant funding to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art that are in danger of deterioration.

This is the second time that the Library of Trinity College Dublin has been awarded funding by Bank of America through its Art Conservation Project. In 2014 funding was awarded for its early medieval Irish manuscripts, the Codex Usserianus Primus, the Garland of Howth, the Book of Dimma, and the Book of Mulling dating from the 5th-9th centuries in a similar project that conserved, researched and digitised these precious manuscripts.

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.”

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Ussher Library Basement Stock Relocation Project

Ussher Library

As part of the enabling works for the Old Library Redevelopment Project, a stock relocation project has commenced in the Ussher Library basement. The goal of the project is to clear the Ussher basement so that it can be redesigned as a temporary home for the Early Printed Books and Manuscripts & Archives departments while the Old Library is decanted and renovated.

The Ussher basement stock relocation project will involve temporary restrictions on access to selected collections. Full details and updates are available on the Library’s ‘Plan your visit‘ webpage.

Government announces €25 million in funding for the Old Library Redevelopment Project

Government announced funding of €25 million for the restoration of one of Ireland’s foremost national heritage sites, the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin yesterday. The Old Library is home to the magnificent Long Room and precious manuscripts, including the 9th century Book of Kells.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I am delighted to announce €25 million in Government funding for the Old Library, one of Ireland’s foremost heritage sites and a jewel in the nation’s crown. This landmark restoration project will use leading technology and preventive conservation, providing optimum environmental conditions for the 18th century building and its precious collections. With the aid of this Government funding we are safeguarding our heritage for generations to come.”

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

Virtual Trinity Library, an ambitious digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections was launched this week. It will conserve, catalogue, curate, digitise and research these unique collections of national importance, making them accessible to a global audience, from schoolchildren to scholars.

Using the most advanced technology the Library’s new Digital Collections platform will showcase the breadth of these collections, ranging from precious manuscripts to scientific papers. 

The Library of Trinity College Dublin is joining other world libraries that are collectively enabling access to patrimony and cultural heritage.

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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.

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

Highlights of the collections of the Library of Trinity College Dublin and their fascinating history are  showcased in a new online exhibition Director’s Choice Uncut. The Library invites you to connect and be inspired by a range of diverse objects and their stories in this magnificent new online exhibition selected by the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton. Building on the success of the  Director’s Choice: The Library of Trinity College Dublin published this year by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, this new expanded digital platform features even more of the Library’s treasures.

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Trinity to commission four new sculptures – all representing women scholars for display in the Long Room

The scientist Rosalind Franklin, the folklorist, dramatist and theatre-founder Augusta Gregory, the mathematician Ada Lovelace and the writer and pioneering women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft have been chosen from a list of more than 500 suggestions.

There are currently 40 marble busts in the beautiful, historic space – all men. As the College recognises that its public spaces must better represent our diversity, it has decided as a first step to introduce a series of sculptures of women.

This is the first time in over a century that the University has commissioned new sculptures for this prestigious location. The first for this space were commissioned in the 1740s, soon after the Library was finished, and the collection was gradually extended in the following years. No new sculptures have been commissioned since the 1880s and no additional sculptures have been installed since the 1920s.

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College townhall meeting on the Old Library Redevelopment Project

Following Dublin City Council’s recent decision to grant planning permission to Trinity’s conservation and redevelopment plans for the Old Library,  staff and students are invited to an online townhall meeting at 4pm on Thursday October 29th 2020 to update you on plans and next steps.

The Chair of the Programme, Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation, Professor Veronica Campbell and Librarian & College Archivist and Programme Sponsor Helen Shenton, will outline the Old Library Redevelopment Project, which will draw on the best 21st-century design and technology to safeguard the Old Library building and conserve its precious collections for future generations. It includes urgent structural and environmental upgrades; the redevelopment of facilities in line with the best library and museum experiences around the world; and a new Research Collections Study Centre. Internationally renowned architects, Heneghan Peng, who successfully conserved and revitalised the National Gallery of Ireland, are leading the design team in this transformative development.  

The Old Library holds a special place for all of us in the College community. A Q&A session will follow – if you want to submit a question in advance please email trinity.communications@tcd.ie. Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Tom Molloy will be chairing proceedings.

Signing up is easy, simply go to

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_gh2pc9aKTxaeTY3ZqCVKmg

We hope you can join us.

Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation, Veronica Campbell

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton