Trinity College Library Dublin: A History

Trinity College Library Cover
PETER FOX
Cambridge University Press, 2014
pp 412, 28 b/w ills &12 colour ills. h/b
€31.00 / £25.00 ISBN: 978-1-107011-20-5
Máire Kennedy

This handsome volume, its dust jacket showing the tall elegant stacks of the Long Room, one of the world’s most recognizable libraries, is a very welcome addition to the college’s history and to the intellectual history of Ireland. It has some worthy predecessors, which have whetted the appetite for such a comprehensive history: Peter Fox himself edited Treasures of the Library: Trinity College Dublin in 1986, a finely illustrated book of essays; Essays on the History of Trinity College Library Dublin in 2000, edited by the late Vincent Kinane and Anne Walsh; and The Old Library, Trinity College Dublin: 1712-2012 in 2013, edited by W E Vaughan.

The value of the present volume lies in its detailed wide-ranging discussion of the library’s 400-year history from its foundation in 1592 to 2003, and its thorough research base making excellent use of the college’s own extensive archives and including the fine work of historians such as Elizabethanne Boran on the library’s early history. As former librarian of the college library, the author can provide insights into its history that may be unavailable to outside historians. His emphasis is on the buildings that make up the library, the funding and political will that allowed the library to expand, and the acquisition of collections that give Trinity its foremost place among the world’s libraries.

As former librarian of the college library, the author can provide insights into its history that may be unavailable to outside historians.

The book is very strong on people, the people whose libraries form the core of the collections, Luke Challoner, James Ussher, John Stearne and Claudius Gilbert, and those librarians and readers who helped make the library what it has become. Management and care of the library are also discussed; of particular interest is the evolution of the library catalogue from the manuscript list of 1601 to the modern online catalogue, forming the essential building blocks for intellectual endeavour.

This book is not a dry recitation of facts, figures and money expended, it is an engrossing read, with shots of humour and quirky sidelights. It is well illustrated with portraits, plans for library buildings, and manuscript documents. The good-value price for an academic book should ensure a wide readership.

Máire Kennedy is Divisional Librarian with Dublin City Public Libraries & Archives, in charge of Special Collections, Early Printed Books and Manuscripts.

Share