School Trip to Dublin–Library Visits 2: Marsh’s Library
Marsh’s Library was the first public library in Ireland; founded at the beginning of the 18th Century by…ok I didn’t listen as well as I thought–I already forgot. OK, I googled it. How could I have forgotten a name like the Archbishop Narcissus Marsh?! (The librarian tells us his brothers names were Epaphroditus and Onesiphorus…and his two sisters were named something like Dorothy and Mary. Haha).
Marsh’s Library has had the same head librarian for longer than I’ve lived…and while she showed us the books and the garden, we didn’t even get to set foot in the conservation department! Grant it, it’s a three-rooms-stacked-three-stories-high (one room each–they had to build it up in order to fit it at all), but still…I guess somehow she didn’t quite grasp that we were particularly interested in conservation and the care for the collections…based on what I saw..I felt very sorry for the books. But it’s fabulous that this library still even exists and is intact…and perhaps over time the conservation program at Marsh’s will thrive.
Outside Gate to the back door.
The library was a chained library, and it has two main halls, each with a domed ceiling. Emphasis in these early chained “stall” libraries was to invite light into the library so the reader would have natural light for reading. Three hundred years later, we know that light causes cumulative irreversible damage to organic materials (such as leather and paper in books)…and now all these fantastic libraries have to have the windows fitted with UV filters and other measures taken to protect the books from light exposure.
The UV damage to the spines was evident. I felt like they would disintegrate if I looked at them too hard. But it’s a miracle this library/collection has survived intact…at one point the library was completely dilapidated…
These books have been rebacked, with whatever leather remained being placed over the good leather. There’s enough work left for this library to keep a conservator busy for a lifetime.
Pretty vellum books
Where the books used to be chained. The bars across the bookshelves have only been there a couple decades. Unfortunately, people still like to steal rare books. Maybe we should still chain books in libraries ;)
The stalls: legend has it that this is where scholars were locked to do their research–so they wouldn’t steal the books.