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Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland – Pic of the Week

Carrying on the tradition of Law Library staff visiting, and taking photos of, beautiful and interesting libraries around the world, today I bring you pictures from my recent visit to the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

The Trinity College Library opened in 1592 and is the largest library in Ireland, currently holding ”over 6 million printed volumes with extensive collections of journals, manuscripts, maps and music reflecting over 400 years of academic development.” The library is located on Trinity College’s campus in the heart of the city of Dublin. One of the most distinctive features of the library’s architecture is the Long Room, which became a solution to the storage problem the library was encountering in 1801, when the United Kingdom Copyright Act designated it as a legal deposit library. This act entitled the library to receive a copy of every book published in both Great Britain (i.e., England and Scotland) and Ireland, which from January 1, 1801, formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Interestingly, it is still a UK legal deposit library today, despite Ireland not being part of the union, as well as being a legal deposit library for items published in Ireland. The roof of the Long Room was raised in the late 1850s to accommodate twice the number of books.

The legal deposit system is similar to the one in the U.S., where the Copyright Office receives two copies of items published in the U.S. and these deposits may become part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Many other countries also have similar laws.

Another interesting feature of the library is the extensive collection of busts ranging down both sides of the Long Room. The subjects of these 38 busts include classical and early-modern figures, as well as prominent individuals associated with Trinity College. In 1743, Claudius Gilbert left a bequest for the purchase of 14 busts of men “eminent for learning to adorn the library”, as mentioned in the exhibition panels at the library. These figures include Homer, Shakespeare, James Ussher, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and others. The most famous bust currently on display is one of Jonathan Swift done by French sculptor Louis François Roubiliac.

When walking through the dim hallways of the Long Room, I noticed a figure that is also represented in the historic Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Plato was a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is immortalized by one of the statues in the Main Reading Room, honoring his contributions to the subject of philosophy.

Plato bust at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. [Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez]

Another important bust that caught my eye, due to its intricate detail, was that of English philosopher John Locke. He is most predominantly recognized for writing the Two Treatises of Government, which was originally published in 1689. This document heavily influenced the language used by Thomas Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. In their forms of government, they both believed in the people having the right to protest. They also both believed in the unalienable rights of life and liberty. John Locke, however, believed in the right to property  while Thomas Jefferson considered the third unalienable right to be the “pursuit of happiness.”

John Locke bust at Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. [Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez]

One Comment

  1. Lee Ann Potter
    August 10, 2018 at 11:15 am

    “Raising the roof” . . . to accommodate twice the number of books. Just fabulous!
    Thanks for sharing, Geraldine. Great post!

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