President Higgins Opens Exhibition Celebrating Tercentenary of Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library

Posted on: 30 April 2012

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins opened the exhibition celebrating the tercentenary of Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library on April 27th last. 

The exhibition ‘A great many choice books: 300  years of the Old Library’ features some of the Old Library’s rich collection of manuscripts and printed books, covering the last millennium. Trinity College Library’s history reflects that of the nation: periods of stability, prosperity and growth interrupted by political turbulence and stagnation. The wealth of the Library’s collections owes much to the foresight of the College’s founders and the generosity of its benefactors dating from shortly after its foundation in 1592.

This long history is celebrated with a display of fine books and manuscripts alongside records relating to the construction and fabric of the Old Library building. Among the exhibition highlights are: the 12th-century Winchcombe Psalter; the Annals of Ulster and the Book of Leinster;  the 14th-century Dublin Apocalypse; a first edition of Martin Luther’s Old Testament; a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible; fine bindings from the collection of the 18th-century connoisseur Henry George Quin; and books from the superb Fagel Library.

The foundation stone for the Library was laid in May 1712 and the Long Room was completed in 1733. The Old Library went on to become a place of study for many of Trinity’s most famous alumni.  

Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast with President Higgins and Librarian Robin Adams at the launch of Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library Tercentenary celebrations.

Today Trinity’s Library is the largest research library in Ireland and one of the largest libraries in Europe with 4.25 million books and electronic access to over 30,000 journals. It has a strategic national preservation role. As a library of Legal Deposit for Ireland and the United Kingdom it acquires 100,000 printed books and journals each year, amounting to two kilometres of new material annually.

Over 500,000 visitors also come to enjoy the Library every year, to see the Book of Kells Exhibition and to experience the Long Room, the Old Library’s main chamber.  

Speaking on the occasion of the opening of the Old Library tercentenary exhibition, the President Higgins said:

“Libraries encourage students to be inquisitive about the world in which we live, about how our past has shaped our present and about how we use our knowledge and talents to create a better future. The books they contain, intrigue us with information and ideas, stimulate us to pursue more knowledge and to form new ideas which add value to communities and society.”

 Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast continued:

“The three centuries since the foundation of this great building have seen the Library of Trinity evolve into a unique institution, delivering a service to hundreds of thousands of students, researchers and members of the public each year. Like other great libraries, Trinity College Library is a memory organisation that exists for our future; to acquire, preserve and make available human knowledge, thought, opinion and art in all past, present and emerging forms.  It will also continue to share its resources with Ireland, and with people throughout the world.”

The Old Library Tercentenary will be marked by a series of additional events, including a library conference Building collections’ in June, the publication of a book on the Library and its collections, celebrity readings from the Library’s collection of children’s books and other events celebrating the role of the building in Dublin.

The Library is marking this signal year by launching the ‘Patrons of the Library’ initiative to provide support for the acquisition and care of its collections, and to create a state-of-the art research facility for scholars to work on its collections.

For further details on these events, many of which will be open to the public, click on