The Marsh’s Library is the oldest public library in Ireland. Built near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the library has had an impressive collection of over 25,000 books and 300 ancient manuscripts since 1701, all of which are available for public consultation!
The library was established in 1701 by order of the Irish Archbishop and former Dean of Trinity College, Narcissus Marsh. He commissioned William Robinson to build the library, and he undertook to donate his entire collection of over 10,000 volumes, which at the time numbered more than 10,000.
Other donors then rushed to share their precious works. Among them were Dr. Elias Bouhérau, who was the first official librarian of Marsh Library, and John Stearn, Bishop of Clogher, who bequeathed precious works, including one dating from 1472, long after the death of Narcissus Marsh.
Over the years, the library’s collection has grown considerably, as has its attendance, which has increased at a dizzying rate. It is only recently that the library has been modernized: it now offers the public a computerized list of all the works in the Marsh Library. In addition, the reader’s rooms have also been renovated and rooms have been specially set up to facilitate the work of restoring and conserving books.
The Marsh Library is open to the general public in exchange for a contribution of €2.50 per person (€1.50 for students). It offers its visitors works of exceptional rarity and quality, recognized throughout the world. Some of their books are so rare, moreover, that they sometimes require the reader to be “locked up” in a screened room when consulting them!
Generally speaking, the library’s collection is made up primarily of old books, dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. (Only 80 volumes date from before 1501). Among the themes covered, most of them deal with medicine, law, science, travel, mathematics, architecture, literature, theology, and music. There is nothing like this to get an accurate picture of the daily life of that time!
In addition, some books that belonged to the founder of the library are available in Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish and Russian. Others, donated by Dr Elias Bouhérau, are also available in French, and deal with religious controversies in France, as well as with medicine.
You will be able to leaf through his works in specially dedicated rooms, while some books, considered too fragile, will nevertheless be loaned in their digitized version. The atmosphere is calm and quiet, conducive to reflection and escape. In short, it is a dream place for lovers of rare reading!
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Open on Saturday morning, from 10am to 12.45pm
Duration: 30 minutes