1 February 2022 Susannah

Book Addict Visits a Library – Marsh’s Library

Marsh's Library, Dublin,

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.

Do share with me some of the libraries you love most. Are they in Australia, or special places you’ve visited overseas? Tell me by leaving a comment here.

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Featured image credit- Marsh’s Library, Dublin, https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g186605-d214988-Reviews-Marsh_s_Library-Dublin_County_Dublin.html
Body image credit- The reading cages at Marsh’s Library, Dublin, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-library-that-put-readers-in-cages
Body image credit- Interior at Marsh’s Library, Dublin, https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g186605-d214988-Reviews-Marsh_s_Library-Dublin_County_Dublin.html
Body image credit- Entrance to Marsh’s Library by Leslie Noelle Sullivan, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51730957

Comments (4)

  1. Margaret Clingan Wright

    Thanks, Susannah. Your newsletters are just lovely. Right up my street!
    I also love Marsh’s Library (I spent 6 months in Dublin about 20 years ago when our son was recovering from an accident there.)Libraries are such marvellous places, and no stately home worth its salt would be without one. My husband gave me a superb book, ‘The Library, a world history’ by James Campbell, lavishly illustrated with photos. You probably know it.
    It saddens me when I hear of libraries being closed or having their collections culled.
    Sydney’s ‘Mitchell’ library is a favourite, and in London, the library of the Linnean Society in Burlington House, Piccadilly is a small and lovely place to visit.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so glad you enjoy my newsletters. Have you tried my video talks – I have a fabulous new series starting next week on great Scots.
      Yes, Marsh’s Library is gorgeous – such history there!
      I know the book you have – it is lovely!

  2. Faye Burns

    Thank you Susannah for another wonderful newsletter! I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge of ‘keeping up’ with all your news.
    ‘Marsh’s Library sounds a place that is full of history as well as books–I am hopeful that we will soon be able to travel to these places!
    In the meantime, I would like to mention a library, closer to ‘home’ which,for me, had that amazing element of unexpected surprise & delight–
    The Northern Territory Library & two Archive Centres inside Parliament House, Darwin.
    It was opened in 1980, beautiful setting overlooking lawns & ocean and staff are very welcoming to visitors–during this time of limited overseas travel,a visit here is worth considering!
    Regards Faye

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so glad you enjoy my newsletters.
      I had not heard of that Darwin Library, so many thanks for letting me know about it. It definitely sounds worth a visit.

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