Marsh’s Library: a treasure trove of literature

Friday 26 May, 2017

Blessed with yet another glorious Summer’s day, I strolled through the streets of Dublin to keep my 10 am appointment with Dr. Jason McElligott, Keeper, Marsh’s Library.

I love the smell and the sight of historical and valuable books lined up neatly on shelves. People often ask me where I grew up. I reply “In a Library!” My inspiring mum was a Librarian for 40 years in Australia and I spent many happy days quietly wiling away the hours reading beautiful books in the libraries that she worked in.

Marsh’s Library is situated just along from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in St. Patrick’s close Dublin and well worth a visit.

Dr. McElligott greeted me and kindly escorted me on a private tour around Marsh’s amazing Library pointing out interesting facts. For instance, it was usual in the past to lock a Reader in a cubicle with the book they were reading for security. Fortunately this practice has ceased as Dr. McElligott had pulled out several books that had my ancestors beautifully inscribed signatures on the pages. He was also able to show me what books they had been reading. Viewing a primary document really does “put flesh on the bones” of an ancestor.


Marsh’s Library was opened in 1707 and was the first public Library in Ireland.” The interior” according to the brochure supplied ”has remained largely unchanged over the past 300 years. Visitors come from all over the world to admire the architecture and soak up the atmosphere”

”Marsh’s Library houses important collections of European books and manuscripts from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries”, the brochure advised.

A number of the books had especially taped binders indicating these were listed to be repaired. As Dr. McElligott remarked, the work is never ending and costly but he is very aware of the importance of preserving the collection for future generations.

Marsh’s Library has not gone unscathed over time and during the Easter Rising, 4 books were shot through and there are bullet holes still in them.

Before contacting Marsh’s Library, I had watched the Walking tour of Dublin App and was surprised when Dr. McElligott referred to the event of books being “attacked” at Marsh’s Library. Such a beautiful collection, what a shame!

During the civil War of 1922, my 5 x Grandmother’s Will that had been memorialized and recorded in a Tomb Stone book was shot through. Some repairs of the Will books took place but my Grandmother’s Will still bares the scars of the bullet hole.

I enjoyed my time at Marsh’s Library and the staff are all friendly and helpful so do pop in when you are in Dublin next.

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