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Archbishop Marsh's Library

Address. St Patrick's Close, Dublin 8 [Map]
Telephone. (01) 454-3511
Fax. (01) 454-3511
e-mail. [marshlib]
Internet. http://www.kst.dit.ie/marsh/

Governing body or responsible institution. The Governors and Guardians of Marsh's Library.
Functions. Research library, mainly 17th century.
Subjects. Theology, history, philosophy, science, mathematics, classics, music, travel.

Access. Open to all researchers. Letter of introduction, or identification, required. - Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 10 a.m. - 12.45 p.m., 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday 10.30 a.m. - 12.45 p.m. Tuesday and Sunday closed.
Special facilities. Photocopiers (modern literature only).
Printed information. Archbishop Marsh's Library [leaflet; also in German]
Travel directions. Bus 77 and 50 to Kevin Street. The library is besides St. Patrick's Cathedral. - Limited Disk Parking in St. Patrick's Close.


1.1 Marsh's Library, built in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), is the first public library in Ireland and one of the earliest in these islands. In 1707 an act was passed by the Irish parliament entitled ``An Act for Settling and Preserving a Public Library for ever'. The government of the library was vested in the Governors and Guardians; these were the Church of Ireland Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, the Deans of St. Patrick's and Christ Church, the Provost of Trinity College and four other Governors ex officio whose offices became extinct with the establishment of the State in 1922. One of these was the Lord Chancellor, and recently the government, at the request of the Governors, appointed the Chief Justice by actment order to be a Governor. The Governors and Guardians appoint a Keeper and a Deputy Keeper.

1.2 The library was designed by Sir William Robinson, who had earlier been the architect for the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. The interior of the library with its beautiful dark oak bookcases, each with carved and lettered gable, topped by a mitre, and the three elegant wired alcoves or ``cages' where the readers were locked with rare books, has remained unchanged since it was built nearly three hundred years ago. It is a magnificent example of a 17th-century scholar's library.

1.3 There are four main collections, consisting of 25,000 vols relating to the 16th, 17th and the early part of the 18th centuries. The most important collection is the library of Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699) who was Bishop of Worcester. In 1705 Narcissus Marsh paid £2,500 for his library of nearly 10,000 books. Stillingfleet's library was regarded as the finest private library in England in the later part of the 17th century. One of the most influential divines in the Church of England, Stillingfleet acted as spokesman for the Anglican Church during a period of great religious conflict in the 17th century. His noble library is a great tribute to his scholarship and knowledge of books. It contains books printed by some of the earliest English printers: Pynson, Wynkyn de Worde and others. A psalter printed by Richard Pynson in London in 1524 has pasted inside the cover an indulgence issued by Thomas Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio appealing for funds for Hereford Cathedral. It is in its original panel stamped binding decorated with the Tudor rose and vine leaves.

1.4 Archbishop Marsh left all his books to his library, but his great collection of Oriental manuscripts he left to the Bodleian Library. He was particularly interested in science, mathematics and music, and many of his mathematical books are extensively annotated by him. Marsh also collected books in Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish and Russian, the last being interesting and rare examples of early Russian printing. His collection of Latin Judaica is particularly important. In one Hebrew book, printed in Italy in 1491, Marsh wrote, nearly three hundred years ago: ``Liber rarissimus'.

1.5 Dr Elias Bouhéreau (1643-1719), a Huguenot refugee who fled from France in 1695, became the first librarian. The persecution of Protestants in Louis XIV's France brought Bouhéreau and his collection to Ireland, making Marsh's a truly continental library. His books, which he left to the library, relate to France and to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and its aftermath and the religious controversies of the 17th century. They also relate to the University of Saumur, which Bouhéreau had attended. His collection constitutes a unique source for the study of Calvinism in 17th-century France. There are also some very fine examples of early continental printing. A copy of Le Rommant de la Rose printed in Paris by Galliot du Pré is in its original binding. In addition to this, his medical books are of great interest.

1.6 The fourth collection was that of John Stearne (1660-1745), Bishop of Clogher, who bequeathed his books to Marsh's in 1745. These are similar to those in the other collections, but among them is the oldest and one of the most beautiful books in the Library, Cicero's Epistolae printed in Milan in 1472. During the second half of the 18th century the library developed steadily, but no further collections of note were added to the stock. In the 19th century a number of duplicates were sold at auction (on May 8th, 1833) by Charles Sharpe, Dublin (see below). Donations have been added occasionally.

1.7 There have been catalogues since the early 18th century. The 1707 Act of Parliament setting up Archbishop Marsh's Library as a public library forever included the following clause: ``that the library-keeper for the time being, shall prepare, on or before the first Visitation of the said library three fair catalogues of all the books ...' . At the first Visitation held on the second Thursday in October in 1708, the Governors and Guardians allowed the librarian, Dr Elias Bouhéreau, further time to prepare the catalogue. At the next annual Visitation Dr Bouhéreau produced four books of catalogues: two ``alphabetical and two ``according to the classes. Dr Bouhéreau was also ordered to prepare a catalogue of the duplicates. It is hardly surprising that Dr Bouhéreau was allowed further time to work on the catalogues since there were probably about 14,500 books already in the library at that time. During the next few years there are constant references to preparing catalogues until in 1715 the librarian was ordered to quire into the cost of printing them. Two years later the assistant librarian John Bouhéreau, son of Dr Elias Bouhéreau, was asked to enquire into the costs again and ordered to report to the Chairman of the Governors. In spite of these orders, and annual references to various catalogues produced to the Governors, no catalogue appears to have been printed.

1.8 The only catalogue made by Dr Bouhéreau that now exists is a large shelf catalogue, and since Dr Bouhéreau died in 1719 it does not contain the last major donation bequeathed to Marsh's by Bishop Stearne in 1745. (For this and further catalogues see below 3.3.) In the 20th century several sectional catalogues have been published, but no serious attempt appears to have been made to produce a complete printed catalogue of the entire collection since the library was founded in 1701. In 1994 a project to computerize the library catalogue was started. The collection of printed works is now completed and can be searched on the Internet (see below 3.1).


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The library comprises c. 25,000 items, consisting mainly of the four collections named above. There are c. 80 incunabula, c. 1,300 STC items and c. 5,000 Wing items. The library holdings of works printed in Germany before 1900 are distributed among the four main collections and also under a general collection of books which mostly holds works printed in the second half of the 18th century and in the 19th century. There are 2,860 items printed in Germany of which 26 are incunabula, 595 are printed in the 16th century, 1,908 are printed in the 17th century, 46 are printed in the 18th century and 116 are printed in the 19th century. The number of works in the German language is rather small. The majority of works are in Latin but there are also works printed in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean (mostly combined with Latin), French and English.

Muriel McCarthy

Subject outline

2.2 There is a large theological section including liturgical works, missals, breviaries, Bibles printed in almost every language, and with a great deal of religious controversy. As the collectors were men of scholarly tastes, the scope of the subjects is surprisingly wide and varied. There are books on medicine, law, science, travel, navigation, mathematics, music, surveying and classical literature in all the collections. Books printed in Germany are also mainly theological, but there are numerous fine examples of other subjects documenting the wide-ranging interest of the collectors.

2.3 The library holds books printed in 112 different locations in Germany, Basel and Strasbourg not included. The most prominent places are Frankfurt a. M. (610 titles), Cologne (408), Leipzig (280), Helmstedt (174), Wittenberg (116), Heidelberg (104), Jena (94), Nuremberg (93), Hanau (73), Mainz (67), Hamburg (49), Augsburg and Ingolstadt (46 each), Rostock (29) and Herborn (26). There is also a number of minor printing places such as Altdorf, Altenburg, Amberg, Bautzen, Coburg, Emden, Erfurt, Isny, Köthen, Lich, Lüneburg, Oberursel or Schweidnitz.

2.4 Incunabula. The library owns 26 incunabula printed in the German-speaking countries. Most of them were printed in Basel and Strasbourg, some in Nuremberg and Cologne and one each in Mainz and Hagenau (see below Abbott 3.2). The collection is mainly theological with a typical range of subjects: dogmatics (e.g. St. Antoninus, Summa theologica, Basel n. d. [i.e. 1511] and Strasbourg 1496), patristic writings (e.g. Gregory the Great, 3 items, Basel 1496), sermons (e.g. Meffreth, Opus sermonum tripartitum, Nuremberg 1487), early church history (e.g. Eusebius, Ecclesiastica historia, Strasbourg 1500, Jacobus de Voragine's Legenda aurea, Cologne: Ulrich Zell 1483), or canon law (e.g. Bernardus Parmensis, Casus longi super Decretales, Strasbourg 1484, or Bartholomaeus Brixiensis, Casus Decretorum, Basel 1489). Pelbartus de Themesvar's Stellarium corone benedicte Marie virginis (Hagenau 1498) also deserves mention. Bernhard von Breydenbach's Sanctarum peregrinationum in montem Syon ... (Mainz: Erhard Reuwick 1486; Stillingfleet Collection) is the earliest example of the library's travel literature.

2.5 Among the various Bible editions 2 editions in German should be mentioned: Luther's version Biblia das ist die gantze heilige Schrift (Tübingen 1629; Marsh Collection) and a London edition of this version ``gedruckt für das Depot der brittischen und ausländischen Bibelgesellschaft E. M. Watts 1855', obviously printed for the German-speaking community in England. Patristics are represented e.g. by Aurelius Augustinus (editions from Erfurt and Mainz) and Johannes Chrysostomos (several editions, also from Rinteln).

2.6 One of the library's strengths is Reformation literature and controversy. There are a number of editions by Luther (e.g. his Works, 7 vols, Wittenberg 1554-1583, or his Ennarationes seu postillae in lectiones, Strasbourg 1535). His companions and friends are also well represented, e.g. his precursor Johannes Hus whose Epistolae are extant with Luther's preface (Wittenberg 1537), Philipp Melanchthon, Johannes Oecolampadius, Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Martin Bucer, Johannes Camerarius, Matthias Flacius Illyricus, Andreas Osiander (the younger), Lucas Osiander (the elder and the younger), Justus Jonas and Johannes Aurifaber. Of the latter the library holds the remarkable True historie of the Christen departynge of the reuerende D Martyne Luther collected by Justus Jonas, Michael Celius and Joannes Aurifaber translated into Englysh by Johan Bale ([Wesel? 1546?]).

2.7 There are numerous works by Swiss reformers, e.g. by Theodorus Beza, Heinrich Bullinger (e.g. Judgement of Henry Bullinger in certeyne matters of religion translated by Myles Coverdale, [Emden?] 1566), Huldreich Zwingli (De vera et falsa religione, Zürich [1525]) and by Calvin. In addition to Swiss imprints the library holds a number of German imprints from centres of Reformed theology, such as Emden (e.g. Abraham Scultetus, De curriculo vitae imprimis de actionibus Pragensibus Abrah. Sculteti narratio apologetica, 1625), Herborn, Bremen or Burgsteinfurt. Authors represented are Georg Calixt, Martin Chemnitz, or Martin Crusius. Roman Catholic printing is also well represented with authors such as Roberto Bellarmino, Petrus Canisius, Johannes Cochlaeus, Johann Eck, John Fisher or Jakob Gretser. Here, too, various places of imprint indicate the tradition of Roman Catholic printing, e.g. Dillingen, Ingolstadt, Munich or Würzburg. Of particular note are a few Wesel imprints of English texts, such as John Bale's Comedy concernynge thre lawes of nature ... ([Wesel? D. van den Straten?] per Nicolaum Bamburgensem [1548?]), John Bradford's Copye of a letter sent ...to the Erles of Arundel ... ([Wesel? J. Lambrecht?] 1556?) or Thomas Cranmer's Confutation of vnwritten verities both bi the holye scriptures and moste auncient aut(h)ors ([Wesel? J. Lambrecht?] 1556?). These examples demonstrate how British religious controversy was received on the continent, especially in the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558).

2.8 Other fields of interest are classical philology with authors such as Erasmus (e.g. Omnia opera, 9 vols, Basel 1540), Melanchthon, Sebastian Münster and Johannes Reuchlin or, an especially strong field, oriental and Hebrew philology. There are texts in Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean, and Arabic (often combined with Latin), most of which come from Bishop Stillingfleet's or Archbishop Marsh's Library, which also contains a remarkable collection of Judaica. A number of German printing places indicate the scholarly tradition of printing in oriental languages, e.g. Augsburg (Arabic, Chaldean), Berlin (Hebrew), Frankfurt a. M. (Arabic, Hebrew), Hamburg (Arabic, Hebrew), Helmstedt (Hebrew, Syriac), Isny (Chaldean, Hebrew), Jena (Hebrew), Köthen (Syriac), Leipzig (Chaldean, Hebrew, Syriac), Sulzbach (Hebrew), Wittenberg (Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac) and Zeitz (Samaritan Aramaic). The collection contains dictionaries (also polyglot), grammars, paraphrases of the Old Testament, editions of the Koran, astronomical works (e.g. by Sebastian Münster, Ferdinand Verbiest S.J., Albohazen and Georgius Hieronymus Velschius), eastern Christian literature or a history on the Samaritans by Christopher Cellarius. Typical examples are Rabi Moses ben Joseph Kimhi, In introductorio grammaticae (Hagenau 1519), Sebastian Münster, Kalendariu Hebraicum (Basel 1527) or Pentateuch Thargum, hoc est, paraphrasis ...in sacra Biblia (Strasbourg 1546).

2.9 Science and medicine. The library is strong in these fields owing to the wide-ranging interests of the founding collectors. There are several items by Georgius Agricola, Conrad Gesner, Regiomontanus (e.g. Wittenberg 1606) and Johannes Kepler (more than 20 entries, e.g. Harmonices mundi libri V, Linz 1619). Medicine is represented by Galen (Basel 1538 and 1540-1541), Avicenna (Frankfurt a. M. 1550), Averroes and Hippocrates. One of the library's rare books printed in German is Quintus Apollinaris, Kurtz ...Büchlin ...aller Artzneyen durch den gantzen Cörper des Menschens (Frankfurt a. M. 1561; Marsh Collection). Among the numerous botanical books are Caspar Bauhin's Pinax theatri botanici (Basel 1623) and Linnaeus's Systema plantarum (Frankfurt a. M. 1779-1780). There is also a small collection in Marsh's which deals with the subject of witchcraft, the majority of which is in the Stillingfleet Collection. Examples are Heinrich Institoris's and Jakob Sprenger's Malleus maleficarum (Frankfurt a. M. 1588), Johann Weyer's De praestigiis daemonum (Basel 1568), or Philipp Elich's Daemonomagia (Frankfurt a. M. 1607).

2.10 History, geography, travel. The library holds remarkable examples in these fields, e.g. Melchior Goldast's edition of Willibald Pirckheimer's Opera politica, historica, ...cum Alberto Duereri figuris Aeneis ... (Frankfurt a. M. 1610), works on ancient history by Herodotus, Flavius Josephus or Thucydides (Helmstedt 1593), or on ``modern' history, e.g. Theodore de Bry's Historiae Americae (Frankfurt a. M. 1590-1602). Geographical works of note are Ptolemaeus's Geographiae libri VIII (Basel 1552), Sebastian Münster's Cosmographiae universalis (Basel 1634), works by Martin Zeiller or Philip Cluver's Germaniae antiquae libri tres (Leiden 1631). There are fine examples of early travel literature, starting with Bernhard von Breydenbach's Sanctarum peregrinationum ... (see above 2.4) or works by Siegmund von Herberstein. One of the finest and best-illustrated works is Jobus Ludolphus's Historia Aethiopica (Frankfurt a. M. 1681).

2.11 In the fields of law and literature, too, the holdings reflect the interests of past archbishops and former owners. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is represented by several items, e.g. his edition of the Codex juris gentium diplomaticus (Hanover 1693), whereas Goethe is represented by his Faust eine tragödie (Stuttgart and Tübingen 1825).

Karen Kloth

2.12 Manuscripts. In addition to the extensive printed collections there are about 300 MSS in the library. The most important is a volume of the Lives of the Irish Saints, dating from about 1400, written in Latin. There are also medical, theological, legal and music manuscripts. The music in manuscript consists of fantasias for instruments and virginal, lute and lyra viol music by composers of the first half of the 17th century. There are also rare 16th-century madrigals printed in Venice, Antwerp and London.


3.1 Modern general catalogues

Author catalogue

Subject catalogue

[Both catalogues are MS volumes.]

Computerized catalogue of printed works

[to be searched on the Internet at http://www.kst.dit.ie/marsh]

The manuscripts catalogue has now been computerized and will shortly be added to the website.

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

3.2 Modern special catalogues

Catalogue of books printed in and relating to Ireland to 1800

[typescript; compiled 1932]

Catalogue of English pamphlets and anonymous works 1641-1750


Printed catalogues:

Abbott, T. K.: Catalogue of 15th century books in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and in Marsh's Library, Dublin. Dublin 1905; repr. New York 1970

White, Newport J. D.: A short catalogue of English books in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin, printed before 1641. Oxford 1905

White, Newport J. D.: A catalogue of books in the French language, printed in or before AD 1715, remaining in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin. Dublin 1918

Charteris, Richard: A catalogue of the printed books on music, printed music and music manuscripts in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin. Clifden (Co. Kelkenny) 1982

Exhibition catalogues see below 5

3.3 Historic catalogues


[compiled by Dr Elias Bouhéreau (d. 1719); does not contain the bequest of Bishop Stearne (d. 1745); still in use]

Author/subject catalogue

[begun by Dr Robert Dougatt, compiled by different hands; still in use]

There are also some 18th and 19th-century shelf and author/subject catalogues.


4.1 Archival sources

The library has records, such as minute books etc., but these are not available for public consultation.

4.2 Publications

White, Newport J. D.: An account of Archbishop Marsh's Library, with a note on autographs. Dublin 1926

McCarthy, Muriel: Swift and the Primate of Ireland. Marsh's Library in the early eighteenth century. In: Dublin Historical Record 27, no. 3 (June 1974) pp. 109-112

McCarthy, Muriel: Archbishop Marsh and his library. In: Dublin Historical Record 29, no. 3 (Dec. 1975) pp. 2-23

McCarthy, Muriel: Archbishop Marsh and his library. Dublin 1977

McCarthy, Muriel: All graduates & gentlemen. Dublin 1980 [detailed account of Archbishop Marsh, the foundation of the library, the books in the collections and the librarians]

McCarthy, Muriel: Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and the foundation of the first public library in Ireland. In: the East-Central Intelligencer 10, no. 2 (May 1996) pp. 3-9


Bibliotheca Marsiana. Catalogue of books, the duplicate copies of the public library, Dublin, sold by auction ...May 8th, 1833, by Charles Sharpe. Dublin 1833 [sale of duplicates]

McCarthy, Muriel: The Bishop's Books. In: The World of Interiors (May 1992) pp. 126-131

McCarthy, Muriel: From Manuscript to the
Internet. The catalogues of Marsh's Library, Dublin. In: Long Room no. 42 (1997) pp. 14-15

White, Newport B.: Manuscript and printed music in Marsh's Library. In: Aloys Fleischmann (ed.): Music in Ireland. A symposium. Cork and Oxford 1952, pp. 319-321

Exhibition catalogues (chronological):

An exhibition of early European printings 1472-1700. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy. Dublin 1977

An exhibition of travel books and the Age of Discovery. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy. Dublin 1983

Galen remembered. An exhibition of early medical books. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy. Dublin 1986

Ancient bestsellers. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Ruth Whelan. Dublin 1989 5

``And then there were twelve'. An exhibition of European books and manuscripts. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Ruth Whelan. Dublin 1991

``The enchanted herbs'. An exhibition of rare botanical, gardening and herbal books. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. Dublin 1993

``Mighty monsters in Marsh's'. An exhibition of early natural history books. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. Dublin 1993

The triumph of antiquity. An exhibition of rare books relating to classical antiquity. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. Dublin 1995

Echoes of splendour. An exhibition of music manuscripts and early printed music books. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. Dublin 1996

Eve Revived. An exhibition of early printed books relating to women in Marsh's Library. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. 1997

The majestic world. An exhibition of early printed maps & atlases. Dublin 1998

The wisdom of the East. Marsh's oriental books. Compiled by Muriel McCarthy and Caroline Sherwood-Smith. Dublin 1999

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 604-605

August 1999

Muriel McCarthy

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.