Tucked in by St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is the first public library ever opened in Ireland. This is Marsh’s Library, built to the order of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (imagine going through life with the name of Narcissus!), and it opened in 1707. Marsh donated his own collection of books, and there have been other sizeable donations since then.
I love the architecture of this library. The bookcases are made of Baltic oak (some still show bullet holes from the Easter Rising), and there are three wire cages, where readers were locked in with precious books as they read them. There had been some thefts from the library, so these cages were installed in the 1770s.
The library holds over 25,000 books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and about 80 books dating from before 1501 (these are known as incunabula). The books cover a wide range of topics, from lives of saints, to medicine, music, law and theology. The first librarian was of French heritage, so the library also holds a large number of books in French.
Marsh’s Library is active on social media and every day posts an image from one of the items in the collection. It is open to the public and is well worth a visit if you go to Dublin.