Unlocking the Fagel Collection – Trinity's Old Library celebrates its Dutch treasures
Posted on: 21 June 2023
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 will be celebrated today [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.
Ann-Marie Hansen, Unlocking the Fagel Collection Project Manager, holds a copy of Jakób Breyne’s 'Plantarum Exoticarum Centuria Prima'
The project is a collaboration between the Library of Trinity College Dublin and theKB 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.
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.
Ann-Marie Hansen, Unlocking the Fagel Collection Project Manager, said:
“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.”
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 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."
A depiction of the Copernican system including the summer solstice in a 17th-century celestial atlas is admired by Trinity’s Laura Shanahan and Dr Ann-Marie Hansen.
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.”
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.”
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 will include how astronomy and the astral sciences are represented in the collection; document illuminated publications in the Fagel library, and research on the Fagel family as international propaganda masters.
Eve Patten, Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, 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.”