Trinity Librarian honoured by the French Government

Posted on: 20 December 2010

The French Government has awarded the honour of ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ to Dr Charles Benson, Keeper of Early Printed Books and Special Collections in Trinity College Library. The Ordre was established in 1957 to recognise significant contributions to the diffusion and public appreciation of French culture. It was awarded to Dr Benson in recognition of his work in developing and promoting resources for the study of French in Trinity College.

Dr Benson devised two major exhibitions on French themes in the Old Library in Trinity College. Both of these, Le Grand Siècle in 1994 and Napoleon I, Emperor of the French in 2009, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. In the past two decades the range and depth of the early French books in the College Library have been enormously improved. In two fields in particular the recently acquired holdings are of international importance. The early French drama collection with imprints from the 1580s to 1830 consists of over 4,000 items and is one of the largest collections in Europe outside France. It is especially rich in editions of seventeenth century authors. The collection of books, pamphlets, posters, caricatures and prints relating to the French Revolution and First Empire contains over 13,000 items and is one of the largest in Ireland or Great Britain. In all, the pre-1830 acquisitions of French material in the past twenty years amount to 26,000 items and reflect the central importance of France in the cultural and political history of Europe.

Dr  Charles Benson has been Keeper of Early Printed Books and Special Collections in Trinity College Library since 1988 and is widely known as an historian of the early nineteenth century book trade in Dublin.

Other recent recipients of this honour include the violinist André Rieu and the actor George Clooney.