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School Trip to Dublin–Library Visits 1: Chester Beatty Library

June 11, 2008

Last week (Mon afternoon-Thursday night) we went on a study trip to Dublin. I served my mission in Ireland, but I was only based in Dublin for 6 weeks, and that was in the suburbs. I went back to Ireland in the spring of ’05 as a tourist, but I was with two other friends and we only spend one day in Dublin–and I was too shy to find my way to Trinity Library and try to get a behind-the-scenes look at the conservation department, etc…

So this time was complete wish fulfillment! We visited four libraries/archives: The Chester Beatty Library, Trinity, Marsh’s Library, and the National Archives. All of them spent time with us and gave us tours of the collections/conservation facilities. Well–three of them, anyway…

Chester Beatty Library:
The Chester Beatty Library was fantastic! Their exhibitions rival in presentation quality to the British Library. We were lucky in that we arrived just a week after their latest exhibition went up. I’m going to keep saying it: the collection is glorious to behold.

Chester Beatty was a self-made American gold-mining millionaire of the early 20th century…He collected books–looking especially for one-of-a-kinds and beautiful bindings (Eastern books were especially attractive to him). He found them. The collection is small compared to some libraries, but excruciatingly beautiful. Beatty moved to Dublin later in his life, and passed away at a ripe old age in I think it was the 1960s. He left his library to the people of Dublin. It’s a small library, newly added-on-to, with a nice informative video telling about him (which is why I was able to give you this scoop). The level of funding is apparent, and I suspect put to good use.

The collection is small (compared to the National Archives or the British Library), and so is the conservation team. Currently, there are two paper conservators, one book conservator, and one student. I think I would love to work somewhere like this, though–where each item is gorgeous and there’s enough time to really baby a book when treating it.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed in the exhibition space, so you’ll all just have to go see it to believe me, but here are some photos from our tour of the conservation department:

If I remember correctly, this is the earliest known Turkish Koran? It is not in its original binding.

(Turkish Koran again)

The detail on these pages, when viewed in person, is incredibly fine

Dublin Castle viewed from the entrance to the Chester Beatty Library

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