International Symposium on Fagel Collection of books amassed by powerful Dutch Family

Posted on: 04 September 2008

Trinity College Library’s renowned Fagel Collection of books, pamphlets and maps amassed by the powerful Dutch Fagel family by the end of the 18th century is the subject of a symposium opening today (September 4). It will bring together international academics and librarians to discuss and exploit the research potential of the renowned collection.

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, the Fagels  fell on hard times and their entire library was to be auctioned by Christie’s of London in March 1802.  TCD, however, succeeded at the time in buying the collection before it went to auction.

Representing the intellectual and social interests of a wealthy and distinguished Dutch family over a period of some 200 years, the collection  transformed the content of the  College library that had until then been dominated by theology. Published in the principal languages of Europe, the newly acquired holdings were particularly strong in such areas as history, politics, law, belles lettres, geography, cartography (everything from cosmography to manuscript plans of dyke systems), natural history and philosophy. The scale of the acquisition is impressive by any standards: lot 7593 was ‘A Collection of Historical and Political tracts, in Number upwards of 10,000’ and lot 9061 ‘A fine Collection of Maps and Plans, in Number about 2000’.

Highlights of the collection include its botanical masterpieces, notable both for the scientific discoveries documented and for technical innovations in colour printing.  The botanical works include a unique manuscript catalogue of tulip varieties and prices compiled when the Dutch republic was in the throes of its ‘tulipomania’, often described as the first recorded speculative bubble. Within weeks of the production of this catalogue in February 1637, tulip bulbs which had cost several times the average yearly wage had lost about 90% of their value. 

The symposium will host a public lecture entitled ‘Den Haag to Dublin’ by Peter Fox, University Librarian at University of Cambridge who will describe how the collection came to Trinity College. (7pm, Thursday, September 4th, 2008. Venue: Emmet Theatre, Arts Building, TCD, Entrance free)

Also a public concert, an organ recital by Andrew Johnstone in Trinity’s College Chapel, ‘Fugues and Concertos from Dutch State Circles’ at 8pm, Friday, September  5th, 2008. (Entrance is also free)

An exhibition in the Long Room, Old Library, TCD will open on Friday, September 5th, 2008 ‘Nature’s bounty: botanical beauties in Trinity College Library’ which will feature some of the Fagel Collection’s botanical works.

The symposium has been coordinated by  TCD’s  Department of Germanic Studies in the School of Languages, Literatures and Culture Studies under the aegis of Trinity’s Long Room Hub, the research institute for the arts and humanities at TCD.

Commenting on the significance of the Fagel Collection,  Professor Tim Jackson of  the Department of Germanic Studies says: “The working library of a family of diplomats and high-level administrators in the service of the Dutch Republic, the Fagel collection offers research opportunities in early modern culture for many years to come.”