Something different going on in Marsh’s Library beside St Patrick’s Cathedral is an exhibition of print works by Melissa Ellis. It’s also different for the Library itself which normally caters for serious eggheads researching medieval heresies and other worthy topics. The Library’s Keeper, Jason McElligott is sweeping out the cobwebs and introducing new activities. McElligott wants to attract more tourists to the 300-year-old collection of mostly ecclesiastical books (and charge them a modest €3 entry) and, of course, Marsh’s is now responsible for running Benjamin Iveagh’s great collection of Irish titles in the library at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park. From 2018, the Iveagh collection will be integrated into the main online catalogue of Marsh’s.
The ancient atmosphere is indeed an ideal location for showing Melissa’s work which, as she states herself, ‘is based on the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the strange, the weird and the sublime, the dark and the unnatural’
‘Next year’s major exhibition will be on the most precious books in our collection; those books which survive in only one copy in the world,’ says McElligott. ‘We have an embarrassment of riches with this unique material, with more than 350 books from Ireland, France, Britain, Italy and Spain existing in only one copy – here at Marsh’s.’
Currently, McElligott is writing a book on theft and white-collar crime in 18th-century Dublin. He won’t have to look too far afield mind you – with no less than 1,185 titles lost to ‘visitors’ over the centuries, the bulk of those surreptitiously removed between 1707 and 1776.
The ancient atmosphere is indeed an ideal location for showing Melissa’s work which, as she states herself, ‘is based on the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the strange, the weird and the sublime, the dark and the unnatural. It’s a process of cherry picking delicious pieces of weirdness and informing a context around them.’ Melissa has two strands to her practice, watercolours and copper place etching. ‘Etching is enormously time consuming,’ she says. ‘You can have ten etches before you get what you want, but it gives you time to reflect on what you’re doing. Really great and wonderful things happen as it goes along.’
Melissa Ellis’s show ‘Stories Fantastic and Odd’ runs until the end of April 2018.
John Mulcahy, Editor of the Irish Arts Review