Celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of Trinity College’s Friends of the Library, one of Ireland’s oldest cultural support groups were launched in the Library’s Long Room on November 2 with an exhibition, highlighting the support of the Friends and the contribution of philanthropic donations to the Library across the 400 years of the College’s history.
Founded in the lean post-war years when Trinity’s Library had little money for the acquisition of research materials, the provision of the permanent income for the purchase of rare books and manuscripts was and remains one of the Friends’ main objectives. It has 1,000 members worldwide united by a common interest in books, scholarship, Irish studies and in the collections of Trinity College Library. Senator David Norris is currently its chairperson.
With the support of the Friends, major acquisitions have been made by the TCD Library that have significantly enhanced its research collections. These include the first book printed in Ireland in the Irish language, Aibidil Gaoidheilge & Caiticiosma an ABC and Catechism written by the Treasurer of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Seán Ó Cearnaigh in 1571. There are only three other copies of this Catechism worldwide, all of which are held by libraries outside Ireland. With the aid of the Friends the TCD Library succeeded in purchasing this last remaining fourth copy of the Catechism when it was auctioned at Christies in London in 1995.
Other significant purchases include the Alfred Bole Goldsmith Collection. The Friends helped TCD’s Department of Early Printed Books to acquire this excellent collection of first editions of Oliver Goldsmith’s work, putting Trinity’s holdings in the first rank of such collections. The Friends have also made major contributions towards the Map Library, including important purchases as Greenwood’s Atlas of England and Wales 1818.
The exhibition – The Bounty of Friends – Philanthropy and Trinity College Library – to mark the 60th anniversary of the Friends of the Library will include the Friends’ significant purchase of Ó Cearnaigh’s first printed book in Irish. It will also illustrate a number of the Library’s notable collections acquired through donation, including the eighteenth century Crofton pamphlets, a wonderful chronicle of politics and economics in Ireland at that time. It will include the Elizabeth Corbet Yeats collection of 19th and 20th century Anglo- Irish literature as well as the Cuala Press collection, the printing company established by W B Yeats’ sisters, which counts many of the poet’s first editions among its collection. The exhibition will also include more recent donations by philanthropists Lew and Loretta Glucksman’s gift of two collections of caricatures, including French political caricatures from the Napoleonic era.
Commenting on the significance of the Friends of the Library’s support, the College’s Librarian, Robin Adams said: “The loyal and generous contribution of the Friends of the Library will continue to be an important element in the ability of the Library to develop collections for research into the future. Funding from government sources does not include provision for acquiring these research collections, so the Library will have to rely heavily on philanthropic donations, gifts of papers and collections and its own income to build on these rich and historic collections.”
Notes to the editor:
Trinity College’s Library has benefited from the generosity of governments, individuals and companies. Private philanthropy has been a feature from the early seventeenth century. The high point for the Library in that century was the presentation of one of Ireland’s greatest treasures, the Book of Kells, by Henry Jones, the Bishop of Meath in the early 1660s.
Other notable gifts donated to Trinity Library include the bequest of mathematical books by St. George Ashe, Bishop of Derry and Vice Provost and the bequest of 4,000 volumes from the library of William Palliser, Archbishop of Cashel. The largest gift was the library of Claudius Gilbert, a Fellow of the College 1693-1735, who collected about 12,000 items over several decades with the express intention of embellishing the library.
More recent gifts have included correspondence by J M Synge; papers belonging to the novelist, Máirtín Ó Cadhain; notebooks by author, Samuel Beckett; correspondence of the novelist, Jennifer Johnston and papers and correspondence from Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd among many others.
The Friends of the Library publish a regular newsletter and also publish a widely respected journal, entitled Long Room.
There will be a series of events organised by the Friends to mark the 60th
Anniversary celebrations. The association has also commissioned a work by the artist Bernadette Madden.
The exhibition – The Bounty of Friends – Philanthropy and Trinity College Library – to mark the 60th anniversary of the Friends of the Library will be on display in the Long Room, Trinity College throughout November.