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Trinity College Library

Address. College Street, Dublin 2 [Map]
Telephone. (01) 677-2941
Fax. (01) 671-9003
Telex. Dublin 9 37 82
e-mail. [early printed books]; [readers services]
Internet. http://www.tcd.ie/library/

Governing body or responsible institution. Trinity College
Functions. University library, research library.
Subjects. General subject coverage, with particular strength in theology. Legal deposit library for Great Britain and Ireland since 1801.

Access. Admission by a temporary ticket which can be issued to any reader who requires material not available in the National or Dublin public libraries on presenting a letter of recommendation. - Opening hours: October to early June: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 12.45 p.m. Mid June to end September: 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 9.30 a.m. - 12.45 p.m. The library is closed for the last two weeks of July.
Special facilities. Microfilm; scanning; photocopying; photography by arrangement. Searches of online and CD-ROM databases are available in the library.
Printed information. Printed leaflets on departments of the library, catalogues etc available.
Travel directions. In city centre. On several bus routes. - Car parking available nearby in Nassan St.


1.1 Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592 and remains the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin. The first decade of the college's existence was a turbulent one with the rebellion of the Earl of Tyrone against English rule. The College was given as a site the grounds of the ruined Augustinian priory of All Hallows just east of the city of Dublin.

1.2 A library building was an early priority for the College authorities and accounts exist for carpenters' and glaziers' work on it in the years 1595 and 1596. But the acquisition of bookstock was very limited and the earliest catalogue, dated 24 February 1600 [i.e. 1601] lists only 39 printed books and a handful of manuscripts. In June 1601 one of the founder Fellows of the College, Luke Challoner, went to London on a book-buying expedition. Six receipts survive from that trip which give total purchases of about 350 books. Two years later enormous purchases must have been made for an entry in the Particular Book records payment of £568.9s. for books and their carriage to Dublin. Extensive purchasing continued in the following few years for the library catalogue compiled in 1610 lists almost 4,000 vols.

1.3 The growth of the library slowed down in the succeeding decades as far as purchasing was concerned. Expansion through gifts was, however, enormous in both numbers and quality. In the 1660s Henry Jones (1605-1682), Bishop of Meath, presented the two world-famous illuminated manuscript gospel books, The Book of Kells and The Book of Durrow, and in 1661 the library of James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, was given to the college. Ussher's library was magnificent, consisting of 10,000 vols of manuscripts and printed books. A scholar of international standing, he had contacts all over Europe and as far as Aleppo and Constantinople. In the library was given a small collection by the Countess of Bath which included a copy of J. Blaeu, Atlas Minor.

1.4 By the beginning of the 18th century there was evident need of a new building and one was constructed between 1712 and 1732 to the design of Thomas Burgh, Surveyor General of Ireland. This magnificent building, with its 62 metre Long Room, was modified over the succeeding centuries to house all books accessioned until the 1950s. It now holds only printed books and manuscripts. During its construction an important bequest was received of 4,000 vols from the library of William Palliser (1646-1726), Archbishop of Cashel. The collection of Theophilus Butler, Baron Newtownbutler, which contained about 1,200 items of English literature and politics from the 1680s to the 1720s was also received in the 1720s. Shortly after the building was completed Claudius Gilbert (1670-1743), Vice-Provost and Professor of Divinity, gave a collection of over 13,000 books, collected in large measure to supply deficiencies in the library, and rich in continental works.

1.5 In 1801 the library was designated a legal deposit library for books printed in Great Britain and Ireland. This privilege, which it enjoys to this day, set the pattern for the future expansion of the library contributing largely to its present size of near 4 million books. In 1802 the library of Hendrik Fagel, Greffier or Chief Minister of Holland at the time of the French invasion in the winter of 1794/95, was bought for the college. This remarkable collection of some 20,000 vols almost doubled the size of the library. Built up by successive generations since the mid 17th century it had strong holdings of Dutch, French and German history and politics. Architecture, festival books, and natural history are well-represented. By contrast the bequest of Henry George Quin (1760-1805) in 1805 of 110 vols contained remarkable riches in its small scope. These included Virgil's Opera (Venice 1470) on vellum, and Melchior Pfintzing's Theuerdanck (Nuremberg 1517) also on vellum. The bindings present the work of the best contemporary English binders such as Roger Payne, C. S. Kalthoeber, L. Staggemeier and Samuel Welcher, and Edwards of Halifax as well as work executed for earlier collectors. There are, for instance, five bindings executed for Jean Grolier.

1.6 The collections continued to expand through the 19th century chiefly due to accessions under the Copyright Act. By the early 1850s over 4,000 items a year were being taken from this source. Nor was continental material neglected. The dispersal of books from German monastic libraries in the 1830s led to the acquisition of a substantial collection of Reformation pamphlets at the end of that decade and more continued to be purchased in succeeding years. The bequest of Aiken Irvine in 1881 had strong holdings in controversial theology from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Irvine was ardently Protestant. The expansion of courses of study led to increased purchasing of continental books in the sciences, engineering, classical studies and philosophy.

1.7 Since the start of the 20th century the collections have expanded steadily, chiefly due to legal deposit, but also reflecting the increased study of modern languages and continental history. Purchases of antiquarian books have increased steadily in the past three decades. Understandably the prime emphasis has been on Irish and English books but with substantial amounts of continental material, chiefly French.


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The library now contains about 4 million vols of printed books. Of these about 300,000 were printed before 1901. There are 550 incunabula, 11,000 books printed in the 16th century, 27,000 from the 17th century, 45,000 from the 18th century and over 200,000 19th-century books.

2.2 The books printed before 1601 are predominantly in Latin (including c. 15-20 per cent imprints from German-speaking countries) with lesser holdings in English, German and French; the 17th-century holdings are reasonably evenly spread over English, French and Latin with smaller holdings in Dutch and some German items. English is the dominant language in the 18th and 19th-century books, followed by French, Dutch, Latin and German.

Subject outline

2.3 The collections reflect the general teaching and research interests of the university throughout its existence. Areas with strong representation are theology and church history, botany, medicine, law, topography, philosophy, politics and literature.

2.4 About 23 per cent of the incunabula (at least 133 out of 550) were printed in German-speaking areas but only one text is in German, the Biblia (Strasbourg, c. 1470, GW 4296). The largest numbers are from Strasbourg (31), Cologne (23), Nuremberg (21), Basel (20), and Augsburg (9), but there are also items from Speyer (5), Brixen (4), Ulm (3), Esslingen, Freiburg, Leipzig and Vienna (2 each), Hagenau, Memmingen and Würzburg (1 each). The subjects covered are of course heavily orientated towards religion. There are 6 pre-1500 Bibles starting with a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on vellum (Mainz c. 1455) and works on Biblical criticism (e.g. Thomas Aquinas, Commentaria in omnes epistolas beati Pauli Apostoli, Basel 1495). There are a number of works on medieval theology, e.g. by Albertus Magnus, Alexander Anglus (Destructorium vitiorum, Cologne 1485), Joannes Capistranus, Jacobus de Clusa, Joannes Gerson (6 items), or Jacobus de Voragine (5 items). The Fathers of the Church are represented by Saints Ambrosius, Augustinus, Hieronymus and Gregorius. There are also a few examples of classical literature, e.g. a fine edition of Plutarch's Liber de viris clarissimis [Strasbourg: Rprinter c. 1470]. Finally, the collection also comprises significant works of history and travel, such as Bernhard de Breydenbach's Sanctarum peregrinationum in Montem Syon (Mainz 1486), the Gesta Romanorum [Strasbourg: Martin Schott c. 1482] or Hartmann Schedel's Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg 1493; Augsburg 1497) as well as works of early science (Georgius Purbachius's Theoriae novae planetarum [Nuremberg c. 1471]).

2.5 Religion is also a major feature of the German-language holdings of 16th-century books. There are over 1,000 Reformation pamphlets between 1517 and 1545 with over 200 editions of items by Luther (e.g. Von der Freyhayt Aines Christen menschen, Strasbourg 1520) and a good representation of works by Melanchthon (17 items, e.g. Ain warhafftigs vrtayl ...von D. Martin luthers leer, Augsburg 1524). A particular rarity is [H. Hergot], Von der newen Wandlung eynes Christlichen lebens [Leipzig 1526], of which only three copies seem to have survived. Among Lutheran authors are Johann Agricola (5 items), Nicolaus von Amsdorff (7), Andreas Bodenstein (35), Johann Brentz (6), Martin Bucer (4), Johann Bugenhagen (2), Ulrich von Hutten (4), Justus Jonas (3), Johannes Oecolampadius (6), Andreas Osiander (7), Urbanus Rhegius and Michael Stifel. Swiss reformed authors are represented by Heinrich Bullinger (3 items) or Ulrich Zwingli (7), Roman Catholic authors by Johann Dobneck (i.e. Cochlaeus, 25 items), Johannes Eck (8), Hieronymus Emser (4), John Fisher, Saint (1) and Georg Witzel (9). There are 55 pamphlets by Erasmus (e.g. Ain Ernstliche ermanung Ihesu Christi ...an dyn vnfleyssigen Christen, Augsburg 1532). Alongside the pamphlets there are copies of the first editions of Luther's translations of the Old Testament (Wittenberg: M. Lotter 1523) and the New Testament, the so-called September-Testament (ibid. 1522). To balance the Reformation holdings in Bible criticism there are good holdings of works by Erasmus (e.g. his Greek New Testament with a new Latin translation, Basel: Froben 1516) and Roberto Bellarmino. The library also has comprehensive 16th-century holdings of the Fathers of the Church and of medieval theologians. Finally, chronicles deserve mention, such as Melchior Pfintzing's Theuerdanck (Nuremberg 1517).

2.6 Early science is well-represented, examples including Leonhard Fuchs, De historia stirpium commentarii (Basel 1542), Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (Basel 1543) and Petrus Apianus, Astronomicum Caesareum (Ingolstadt 1540). An early example of festival books is Hanns Friderich Hörwart von Hohenburg, Von der Hochberhümpten Adelichen und Ritterlichen Kunst der Reyterey (Tegernsee 1581).

2.7 The 17th-century holdings are comparatively modest. A survey conducted in 1995 identified only about 1,000 German imprints, of which a mere 121 were in German, the rest being in Latin and French. A substantial part of these relate to theological controversy, classics and scientific subjects (e.g. Joannes Jonston, Historia naturalis, Frankfurt a. M. [1650]). There has been a recent purchase of 150 pamphlets printed 1618-1620 entirely devoted to the outbreak and early events of the Thirty Years' War. There are some festival books recording coronations, state entries etc. Typical examples are Salomon de Caus, Hortus Palatinus à Friderico Rege Boemiæ Electore Palatino Heidelbergæ extructus (Frankfurt a. M. 1620), Ferencz Count Nàdasdy, Mausoleum ...Regni Apostolici Regum at Ducum Ungariae (Nuremberg 1660) or Repraesentatio der Fürstlichen Auffzuge, Ritterspiel auch Feuerwerck und Ballett ... Halle den 8-12 Aprilis Anno 1616 gehalten (Halle 1617). The library also holds 19 vols of Matthaeus Merian's Topographia (Frankfurt a. M. 1644-1657).

2.8 The focus of the limited 18th-century holdings is primarily in scientific and classical studies with theological items being comparatively few in number. A fine example of contemporary ornithology is Johann M. Seligmann's translation, Sammlung verschiedener ausländischer und seltener Vögel (Nuremberg 153), a compilation of works by Mark Catesby and George Edwards. There are fair holdings of works by Leibniz and Euler. Towards the end of the century interest was taken in the works of Kant. Although the first Chair of German in the British Isles was installed at Trinity College Dublin in 1775, there is comparatively little in the way of literature. Goethe is represented by Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (Freystadt 1775) and by a copy of Das Römische Carneval (Berlin 1789), Schiller and Kotzebue by a couple of plays each. There are extensive holdings of English translations of both of these authors.

2.9 Travel and cartography are more important areas in the holdings with such works as Peter Schenk, Neuer Sächsischer Atlas (Amsterdam and Leipzig 1753) and M. Oesterreich, Description de l'interieur des Palais de Sans-Souci, de Potsdam, et de Charlottenbourg (Potsdam 1773), several works by Salomon Kleiner and about 300 individual 18th-century maps of Germany, e.g. Specialkarte der Gegend von Mannheim (1780).

2.10 Acquisition of German books increased in the 19th century. There was a greater interest in literature and the German authors are well-represented in standard editions, as are the major German philosophers. In music the Prout collection contains a substantial amount of 19th-century orchestral and choral music while the Strollers collection has a good deal of mid to late 19th-century songs. There are substantial holdings relating to classical literature and archaeology. The Starkey Collection, bequeathed by James Sullivan Starkey in 1959, contains c. 380 hymnals and psalters, chiefly before 1850, among which are 25 vols of the Moravian Church and c. 50 other hymnals in the German language.


3.1 General catalogues

The library's holdings are distributed over three catalogues:

Catalogus librorum impressorum qui in Bibliotheca Collegii Sacrosanctae et individuae Trinitatis, Reginae Elizabethae, juxta Dublin, adservantur. 9 vols. Dublin 1864-87

[Alphabetical listing of the contents of the library catalogued up to 1872; while principally an author catalogue it has useful groupings under proper names, e.g. Ireland; also available on microfilm.]

Accessions catalogue 1873-1963

[paste-in slip catalogue for books received after 1872 and catalogued before 1963; author catalogue; subject index exists in partial form]

Online catalogue

[books catalogued since 1963; this online catalogue has the standard features of author and Library of Congress subject access. Entries for early printed books are in a separate module which also has indexes for printers, illustrators and papermakers.]

Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL)

[Trinity College is a member of CURL, and all its library holdings recorded online are also included in the COPAC union catalogue: http://copac.ac.uk/copac.]

3.2 Special catalogues

From 1968 to 1991 the following special card files were generated for material catalogued by the Department of Early Printed Books:

Separate author catalogues of special collections

Imprint date, arranged under country for all books to 1800

Imprint names, arranged under country

Separate files for information on paper, illustrations, binding, provenance

[Searches for information can also be carried out in the online catalogue.]

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

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

Pegg, M. A.: A catalogue of German reformation pamphlets (1516-1546) in libraries of Great Britain and Ireland. Baden-Baden 1973 (Bibliotheca Bibliographica Aureliana 45) [includes Trinity College holdings]

3.3 Historic catalogue

Catalogus librorum in Bibliotheca Collegii Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis Regiae Elizabethae juxta Dublin. Dublin c. 1715?


Parke, H. W.: The Library of Trinity College Dublin. A historical description by the librarian. Dublin 1961

Fox, Peter: Trinity College Dublin. Dublin 1982

McDowell, R. B.; Webb, D. A.: Trinity College Dublin 1592-1952. Cambridge 1982

Fox, Peter (ed.): Treasures of the Library Trinity College, Dublin. Dublin 1986 [With a detailed bibliography; of special interest is H. Robinson-Hammerstein's article: Word and image in early modern German print, pp. 75-85.]

Koeper-Saul, V.: German language 17th century imprints at Trinity College Dublin acquired until 1872. Unpublished M.L.I.S. thesis. University College Dublin 1995

Morrow, V. M. R.: Bibliotheca Quiniana: a description of the books and bindings in the Quin Collection in the library of Trinity College Dublin. Unpublished thesis. University of London 1970 [see also abstract in P. Fox, Treasures, pp. 184-196]

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 610-614

October 1999

Charles Benson

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