Irish Times
Friday, April 6, 2012

CELEBRATIONS MARKING the 300th anniversary of Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library began yesterday.

The foundation stone for the library was laid in May 1712 but it took another 20 years to complete the building. “The sheer scale of the library was very ambitious at the time, when the college only had a few hundred scholars,” Trinity librarian Robin Adams said yesterday.

Records of the construction will be displayed later this month as part of the celebrations. The archive shows how the college found money to pay the builder for materials, said Mr Adams.

The library has more than 500,000 visitors a year to view the Book of Kells and the Long Room, whose ceiling was not part of the original design.

“It was a bold step in the mid-19th century when they were running out of space,” said Mr Adams. “They decided to raise the ceiling and put in a full extra floor.”

The disciplined look of the library and the symmetry of the ceiling fits in with the “concept of the archetypal library” and makes it so iconic, he said.

As the only library at the college for more than 200 years, it was the place of study for many of the college’s famous students such as writer Jonathan Swift, philosopher Edmund Burke and artist Mary Delaney.

An exhibition of some rarer texts, from over a quarter of a million books and hundreds of manuscripts held at the library, will open later this month.

“We wanted to feature books which wouldn’t regularly be on display,” said Mr Adams.

A couple of 16th century manuscripts outlining some of the indigenous Irish Brehon laws will be exhibited as will the Annals of Ulster, a record of significant medieval events including cattle raids and plagues.

Also in the exhibition will be a first edition of Martin Luther’s Old Testament, a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible and 12th century manuscript Winchcombe Psalter.

The library’s collection is being digitised so it can be accessed remotely, said Mr Adams.