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08 Dec

Frozen in Time: the Edward Worth Library

The Edward Worth Library (c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY)

The Edward Worth Library
(c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY)

For most of the 20th century Dr Steevens’ Hospital was a working hospital housed in a hodgepodge of buildings. After its closure in 1987 the 19th and 20th century buildings were cleared away to reveal the original hospital, first opened in 1733 through the efforts of Griselda Steevens. An important player in the history of medicine in Ireland, it is now an administrative centre for the Health Service Executive. Except for a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s it has housed a beautifully preserved early 18th century collection of books: The Edward Worth Library.

Entrance to Dr Steeven's Hospital (c) Irish Philosophy

Entrance to Dr Steevens’ Hospital
(c) Irish Philosophy

The library is the only room in the building that still carries out the purpose for which it was designed. Edward Worth (1678-1733) was a trustee for Dr Steevens’ Hospital and left the institution £1,000 and his library, valued at £5,000. Anxious not to divert money from the care of poor patients, Edward Worth also provided for the set-up of the library. The executor paid £100 to fit out the room allocated to the library, receiving 1,000 books from John Worth’s collection in return (these were ultimately left by him to Trinity in 1742).
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17 Nov

Exploring Irish Archives

Bookshelves in the Russell Library, Maynooth (c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY 2.0)

Bookshelves in the Russell Library, Maynooth
(c) Irish Philosophy (CC BY 2.0)

Some 87 separate Irish archives are listed on the Learn About Archives website, including some already feature on this site such as Marsh’s Library, the Russell Library in Maynooth and the Bolton Library. Other archives listed include those in universities and schools, National Archives (mostly based on Dublin), the Northern Irish Public Records Office (PRONI), county archives, diocesan libraries and more.

Learn About Archives also gives basic information about archives, gives news and events, lists a pdfs of documents under various categories and lists links to relevant websites. It also links to the Irish Archive Resource which allows users to search Irish Archives and lists genealogical resources.

Learn About Archives also maintains the Google Map of archives in Ireland.

30 Oct

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: GPA Bolton Library

Bolton Library

Is the sun setting on GPA Bolton Library?
© IrishPhilosophy (CC BY 2.0)

One of Ireland’s most visited sites, the Rock of Cashel, was in use up to the mid-Eighteenth century. To replace the cathedral there, a new one was built (1749-1784) on the site of a medieval church. The Church of Ireland Cathedral of St John the Baptist now stands next next to an unassuming chapterhouse, which houses the Bolton book collection, which the International Dictionary of Library Histories calls “one of the great treasures of the Church of Ireland” and “probably one of the finest collections of antiquarian books in Ireland outside Dublin.” The Directory of Rare Books and Special Collections (London 1997) says that, “The [Bolton] collection contains many items of great rarity, at least fifty not recorded elsewhere in the world, and some 800 not recorded elsewhere in Ireland.”

The Collection

Photography is not permitted in the library, but the Heritage Council report on the Library contains images of the interior and of many of the books mentioned below.

The collection includes 11,000-12,000 items. These include fragments of papyrus, 15 manuscripts predating 1701, 45 books printed before 1501 (incunabulas), letters, maps and 200 pamphlets. The oldest manuscript, on vellum, dates from the 12th century and includes an early example of the use of zero. The finest Irish manuscript comes from the hand of Dermot O’Connor of Limerick in 1716, and includes translation of French heraldric rules into Irish. The most notable of the incunabulas is probably an uncoloured copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1483).
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02 Sep

Old Library, New Name: Russell Library, Maynooth University

St Joseph's House, Maynooth © Bart Busschots on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

St Joseph’s House, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth
© Bart Busschots on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Maynooth University is the new name for the third-level institution located in the North Kildare town. Though formally established as an autonomous university in 1997, the university’s history stems from the establishment of the Royal College of St. Patrick on 5th June 1795 by Act of Parliament. Maynooth University has its origins in the seminary set up on the Duke of Leinster’s lands in 1795, St. Patrick’s College. It was intended “for the better education of persons professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion” and, one assumes, in the hope of stemming ideas coming from Revolutionary France.

The seminary was first housed in the house built by the Duke’s steward, John Stoyte, with the lay students in Riverside House (until 1814. Lay students were not admitted again until 1966). Stoyte House was extended soon after by architect Michael Stapleton by adding two symmetrical wings, each with an archway to the grounds beyond (the Long Corridor). The other two sides of the square were completed in 1809 (New House) and 1824 (Humanity House/Dunboyne House), in a similar style to Stoyte House.
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24 Jun

Philosophy in Marsh’s Library

Marsh's Library, © Janetmck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Gate to Marsh’s Library © Janetmck on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The current exhibition in Marsh’s Library (ends 30th June 2013) displays science books from their collection. Given that “science” as a term only replaced “natural philosophy” in the mid 19th century, there are many books by philosophers included. So as well as treatises by Johannes and Elisabetha Hevelius, Galileo, Kepler, Tycho, and a 14th century Irish translation of an astronomical treatise based on Arab works, there are also books of Aristotle (translated and with a commentary from Averroes), Lucretius’ Epicurean poetry, Pascal, Descartes and Gassendi. Robert Boyle’s complete works can been seen, as well as William Molyneaux’s (1690) Treatise on Dioptricks, dedicated in the author’s handwriting to Narcissus Marsh himself.

Marsh’s Library was the first public library in Ireland. Marsh had long contemplated a library for “publick use, where all might have free access seeing they cannot have it in [Trinity] College”. The library (the tour guide informed us) was open to all, regardless of religion.

Interior of Marsh's Library © Marsh's Library (CC)

Interior of Marsh’s Library © Marsh’s Library (CC)

Marsh donated his entire collection of over 10,000 volumes, including the collection of Bishop Edward Stillingfleet which he had bought for £2,500, to the public library. The first librarian, Dr. Elias Bouhereau, a Huguenot refugee who fled France in 1695, was the first librarian, and also donated his library. An additional bequest was made in 1745 by John Sterne Bishop of Clogher.
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06 Jun

Irish Student notebook from 1722

Maynooth Notebook

I wish my lecture notes looked this good!  This notebook relating to philosophy studies is from the Irish College in Salamanca. It is signed by Richardus Lincolne [Richard Lincoln] and dated 1722. Lincoln went on to become the Archbishop of Dublin.

The diagram on the right hand page is a Tree of Porphyry: a series of definitions outlined in diagrammatic form. A more modern version of the diagram is here; more on Porphyry’s tree (“The Earliest Metaphorical Tree of Knowledge”) here.

From Irish Students in Europe: celebrating 350 years of scholarship through the collections of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and NUI Maynooth, a small exhibition of notebooks (17th and 18th century; one each from Paris, Louvain, Glasgow, Salamanca and Seville, all from the Maynooth archives) and secondary literature relating to Irish students in Europe. The exhibition is on in the John Paul II Library in Maynooth and is open to the 21st June.