Dublin City Library & Archive

On the brink of nuclear war

Bás Beatha coverMid October 1962: the crisis began on 14 October when photographs of Soviet military installations in Cuba, taken by a U2 spy plane from the United States air force, showed that nuclear missile sites were being constructed. The United States government demanded that the missiles be withdrawn, and they put in place a naval blockade of Cuba with the intention of preventing any further military equipment being delivered. The crisis came to a head when a Soviet convoy approached some of the blockading ships. However at the last minute the Soviet ships halted and after a tense stand-off they eventually turned around.

News from Lisbon: November 1755

News boyI woke last Tuesday morning to the terrible news that my beloved city of Lisbon had been devastated by a natural disaster. The news crier in the street had the breaking news as a Portuguese ship had docked in the night. A massive earthquake shook the city; it was followed by a tidal wave which swept all before it. The tremors were followed by a series of fires which lasted most of the week and gutted the city. The ship coming from Porto had the news and it is believed that thousands have been killed. The captain and some of the officers have been in Dick’s Coffee House and the Globe telling their story to all interested customers; never have the Dublin coffee houses been so busy. Since then further reports have been coming in via London and Paris.

Botany in Dublin: 1796

Duncan Botanic GardensThe most exciting new attraction in Dublin is the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are situated in the northern suburbs of the city at Glasnevin, a pleasant carriage ride from town for a day’s excursion. After long years of campaigning the Dublin Society has achieved its goal of establishing this public garden to show off the best in new horticultural and agricultural practices.  Lord Charlemont has always been very generous in allowing the public to stroll on his estate at Marino, and I have done so many times. But it’s wonderful to have a place which belongs to us all where we can walk any day of the week and learn new things every time.

Re-Framing Disability

Self-portrait by disabled artist Matthew Buchinger (b. 1647)“Re-Framing Disability”, a major exhibition on loan from the Royal College of Physicians, London, is currently on display at Dublin City Library and Archive, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2 until 28 September 2012.

The exhibition consists of a series 17th-19th century portraits of disabled individuals. Some of the images are self-portraits such as one of artist Matthew Buchinger (see image right) . Others featured include the first Siamese twins ‘Chang and Eng Bunker’ (1811-74), an image of the ‘giant’ Chang Yu Sing (1847-93), a print of John Boby who had  vitiligo (skin disorder) titled ‘the wonderful spotted Indian’, and several portraits of parasitic twins.

Right: Self-portrait by disabled artist Matthew Buchinger (b. 1647). Image Copyright Royal College of Physicians, London

Music in Dublin: 1742

Rocque's map showing fishamble streetWe are so lucky in Dublin to have access to the world’s best music. Music in the churches can be sublime, and visiting companies perform French and Italian music in the city during the season. I notice that many of the wealthy, or aspiring families now engage music masters to teach their children to play the harpsichord or violin, to sing, and to appreciate the finer points of musical composition. I’m sure this can only have a civilizing effect, especially on the young men.

 Music Hall, Fishamble StreetThe new Music Hall in Fishamble Street has witnessed stunning events. Since its official opening last year this fine building hosts fashionable balls and assemblies. It has a wonderful vaulted roof which gives a great sound quality for musical evenings. It is decorated in the most elegant manner with fluted columns and pilasters and large mirrors to give extra light and to reflect the dancers. For concerts it holds about 600 people.

College Green Dublin: 1791

College Green building Parliament House The grandest public space in Dublin is College Green. Roughly triangular in shape, it has three of Dublin’s finest public buildings fronting onto it: Trinity College West Front, the Houses of Parliament, and the General Post Office. In the centre is the equestrian statue of William III. Leading off it from the three corners are the great shopping streets, Dame Street and Grafton Street, and leading towards the river, College Street. It’s a lovely drive by carriage, sweeping down Cork Hill to Dame Street and entering the Green from the west. It is very fashionable to take an evening promenade by the Parliament House, strolling in the arcade formed by the columns. Posters for new plays, and other public notices, are displayed on the pillars and you can catch up with all the latest news as well as getting information about upcoming events here.

Children's reading in Dublin: 1790

Goody Two Shoes 1766This week I must get a gift for my niece’s birthday. Of course it will be a book as nothing else will please her so much. She will be 13, quite a young lady now. She has a lovely reading voice and she often reads aloud to her little brother and sister, and sometimes to her mother and her fashionable friends.

Smock Alley Theatre 1775

Smock AlleyI love the theatre, I’m fascinated by the spectacle, the costumes, the music, and of course people watching. The heavy smell and flickering images of the wax candles create an atmosphere like no other: combining the formality of church with the excitement and anticipation of the performance to come. All the gentry turn up in their carriages, especially on benefit nights. When it gets really busy the drivers are only allowed to drive the carriages in one direction along the street, they drop their passengers at the door and keep moving.

Certificate in Local History 2012-2013

Certificate in Local HistoryThe Certificate in Local History, run by the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, will be offered at Dublin City Library and Archive beginning this autumn. The course runs from 4th September 2012 to 30th April 2013.

The course gives participants a formal and practical training in how to carry out research in local history and how to write up their findings in the form of a dissertation. The course carries 20 credits towards the NUI Maynooth B.A. in Local History.

The course consists of 100 hours part-time.

Dublin Bookbinding Styles

Ornate bookcoverWhat design features come to mind when we think of 18th-century Dublin? Terraces and squares of classical houses with individual fanlights over each hall door, ornate plasterwork ceilings created by Italian stucco workers, elaborately chased Dublin silverware? Certainly, but perhaps not so well known is one of the quintessential and recognizably “Dublin” elements of design, which can be seen in the fine bookbindings carried out by master craftsmen throughout the century.

Utilitarian sheep and calf bindings were surpassed as the century progressed and gilt ornamentation was given free rein. Fine morocco or goatskin was used in rich deep colours of dark red, crimson, green and sometimes, but more rarely, blue, often with cream leather inlays. However, it was the variety and sophistication of the gold tooling that was characteristic of the finest bindings.