Jonathan Swift & Dublin A new exhibition opens at Pearse Street Library

On Saturday, 7th January, 2017 at 2:00 p.m, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Rebecca Moynihan will launch a new exhibition ‘Jonathan Swift & Dublin’ in Dublin City Library and Archive, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2. 

This new exhibition, which marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift and it focuses on Swift’s interaction with his native city, will be held in the Dublin Room of Pearse Street Library for the month of January.  A smaller version of the exhibition will circulate through Dublin City Public Library branches for the rest of 2017.

Speaking about the exhibition, Deputy Lord Mayor Rebecca Moynihan said, “I am delighted to open this exhibition ‘Jonathan Swift & Dublin’ which is the start of the wider Dublin celebrations to mark Swift’s anniversary.  I commend Dublin Public Libraries for presenting such interesting exhibits including a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels’, a book which is familiar to so many of us.  I encourage people to come and visit Pearse Library and learn more about Swift, the author, satirist and iconic Dubliner.”   

During the launch there will be two short presentations by Swift experts: Dr Moyra Haslett, School of English, Queen’s University Belfast, and historian Brendan Twomey of Trinity College Dublin. 


Some images of the exhibits are available on request.

Notes to the Editor:


The exhibition will be open to public access from Saturday 7th January until 25th February.

Opening hours are Monday to Thursday 10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m, and Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m. 

The exhibition was developed by Dublin City Archives on behalf of Dublin City Public Libraries and Archives, and is funded by Dublin City Council Decade of Commemorations.

Key documents and artefacts displayed at the exhibition include:

  • A large vellum manuscript, an indenture dated 1726, bears Swift’s signature.
  • A halfpenny coin dated 1723 is an example of the copper coinage known as Wood’s halfpence.
  • Contemporary engraved portraits of Swift.
  • First edition of Gulliver’s travels, published in London in 1726.
  • Second edition of Gulliver’s travels, published in Dublin in 1727.
  • Various illustrated editions of Gulliver’s travels.
  • Copies of the Drapier’s Letters and other pamphlets.
  • Modern limited hand press editions of Swift’s works.

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin in 1667. His father, a lawyer, died before Jonathan’s birth.  He boarded at Kilkenny College between the ages of six and fourteen, receiving the foundations of the classical humanist education reserved for boys of his social class. In 1682, Swift entered what was then Ireland’s only university, Trinity College Dublin where he received a BA in 1686.

Due to political events in 1689, Swift left Ireland along with many other anxious Protestants, who feared reprisals from displaced and disadvantaged Catholics. He worked as a secretary to Sir William Temple, a notable diplomat in his day and a writer of some renown, at Temple’s English estate: Moor Park in Surrey.

After five years Swift returned to Ireland to take holy orders in the Church of Ireland. In January 1695 he was ordained as a priest in Christchurch Cathedral. 

He was appointed to the living of Kilroot near Belfast Lough, but remained there for a short time. Disenchanted, Swift left Kilroot and returned to Moor Park for a further three years to help Sir William prepare his writings for publication. Here he met and was tutor to Hester Johnson (Stella) who remained his friend and muse until her death in 1728.

Throughout the 1690s, Swift wrote poetry - the first of those works still widely read today: The Battle of the Books (written 1697; pub. 1704). 

Swift returned to Ireland in 1700 and served as chaplain to the earl of Berkeley, one of the lord justices who governed Ireland in the absence of the Viceroy. 

Swift was appointed Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1713.

He became renowned as a political satirist and activist especially through his published ‘Drapier Letters’ and political pamphlets.

He was honoured with the freedom of the City of Dublin and the title of ‘Hibernian Patriot’.

In 1726, he completed his most famous publication, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ which is still popular today.

Swift’s literary influence is immense and his reputation is worldwide. His works have been translated in hundreds of languages. The earliest foreign translation of Gulliver’s travels was Voyages du capitaine Lemuel Gulliver, printed in The Hague in 1730. Adopted by children at an early stage, Gulliver’s Travels has become a firm favourite throughout the three centuries since its publication.

Jonathan Swift died in 1745, at the age of 78, in the city where he was born. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In his will, Swift bequeathed twelve thousand pounds for the building of St. Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin, which was the first psychiatric hospital to be built in Ireland.